Outdoor venues offer limited capacity, timed ticket sales

After a year of being cooped up indoors, families will want to head outside this spring while also remaining safe.

The Denver Zoo, the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Butterfly Pavilion have reopened with limited capacity and restrictions in place to maintain that safety for staff and guests.

The 84-acre campus at the Denver Zoo, 2300 N. Steele St., is limiting the number of visitors per day and requires online tickets, even for its members, to visit the more than 3,000 wild animals from all over the world. The tickets are timed and are staggered every 15 minutes 9am to 5pm seven days a week (to reserve a ticket, visit denverzoo.org or call 720-337-1400).

The zoo, which reopened in June 2020, created a one-way path around the entire park, the Denver Zoo Parkway, to provide a view of the majority of the animal habitats and gardens. The buildings have capacity limits, and animal demonstrations and encounters are on a more limited schedule. Most exhibits are open, but some attractions and play areas, such as Explore the Shore, are temporarily closed.

“It doesn’t feel as packed and crowded, and families are enjoying that,” says Carlie McGuire, public relations coordinator for the Denver Zoo. “Seeing animals outside enjoying themselves brings people a lot of joy.”

The Butterfly Pavilion invertebrate zoo, 6252 W. 104th Ave. in Westminster, is operating at a limited capacity with timed-entry tickets reserved in advance and 20 guests admitted every 20 minutes 9am to 4pm seven days a week (visit butterflies.org).

The pavilion’s five exhibit areas feature live animals, outdoor gardens and nature trails. Guests can visit the 1,600 free-flying tropical butterflies in Wings of the Tropics, view Rosie the tarantula (but touching is not allowed at this time) and touch the aquatic animals at Water’s Edge that has coral reefs and ocean invertebrates. Guests will not be able to dig for worms in the Dugout.

The Denver Botanic Gardens at York Street, 1007 York Street, in cooperation with the city and county of Denver, also is operating at limited capacity with timed tickets purchased in advance (visit botanicgardens.org). Summer hours began April 2 from 9am to 8pm seven days a week.

Several of the botanic gardens’ buildings are closed, including The Science Pyramid, which is scheduled to reopen in July, and the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory that likely will remain closed all summer. The Marnie’s Pavilion, the Orangery and the Freyer-Newman Center art gallery reopened through summer and fall 2020.

The gardens and collections on 24 acres showcase a variety of plants from all over the world. The gardens are many and include Gardens of the West, 18 arid gardens that showcase plants suitable for Colorado’s climate, as well as the Internationally Inspired Gardens, Ornamental Gardens, Shady Gardens and Water Gardens.

“Spending time outside with plants, with nature, provides many healing and wellness benefits,” says Erin Bird, communications manager for Denver Botanic Gardens. “There will be more and more color as we move from March into summer. … There are so many sensory connections with colors, textures and heights that are good conversation starters.”

The Mordecai Children’s Garden, a 3-acre garden across the street from the main garden, is expected to open in June. It features plants of the Rocky Mountain region and several hands-on elements, though they may be limited.

“It’s just a place for kids to run around and interact in a more kid-like way than at the main garden,” Bird says.