A record number of visitors passed through the N.C. Zoo's gates during its 2016-17 fiscal year, which ended June 30.
The grand total reached 870,882 guests - nearly 75,000 more than last year and second only to the attendance record set during the zoo's 1994-95 fiscal year when it opened its North American region.
The numbers got a little help from a new accounting practice. For the first time, the zoo counted children younger than two years of age. Still, the total number of very young children to toddle through the gates reached less than 41,000. Even when that's subtracted from the year's total, the zoo still posted the second highest attendance number in its history and the highest attendance number in more than two decades, according to a press release.
Mild winter temperatures helped to boost attendance, according to the release. So did a number of nature-based, educational experiences.
Last year, the zoo opened Zoofari, an open-air safari bus ride inside its 40-acre grassland habitat where visitors can see a rhinoceros and antelope, among other animals, up close. For 2017, the zoo expanded the popular Zoofari experience with tours at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon, Thursday through Sunday.
This year, the zoo also introduced Dragonfly paddle boats on the North America Lake, along with a Dino bus ride, which takes visitors past some large robotic dinosaurs
The zoo also opened Air Hike, a ropes course, last year.
The zoo is in Asheboro about 90 minutes from the Triangle.