Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo (JMZ) FAQ

Here are some of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo's most frequently asked questions.

When is the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo (JMZ) reopening?

The Palo Alto JMZ reopened on November 12, 2021. Tickets and annual memberships are now on sale.

Get tickets and plan your visit

Will the facility be open daily?

The JMZ is open Tuesday - Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Was the original building renovated or is it a new build?

The old facility, parts of which dated back to 1941, was badly in need of repair and upgrading, both for the sake of visitors and for the animals. The rebuild addresses the environmental, safety and comfort constraints of the old facility in addition to providing more opportunities for STEM and biosciences education, expanded programming for economically disadvantaged schools and improved facilities and programs for children with physical and developmental disabilities.

Because we outgrew our space over the years, we needed to rethink the layout in our original location to expand our footprint. This was a complete rebuild and redesign of our facility and visitor experience. At 34,000 total square feet, the new JMZ footprint is nearly double that of the old (19,000 sq. ft.), with much needed visitor amenities, fully accessible exhibits, and additional program space. The new facility is still located at 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

The Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo, which works to support and enhance the JMZ, raised $25 million for the rebuild, thanks to a $15 million matching grant from the Peery Family and $10 million in other private donations from local donors. The City contributed over $8 million to the build as well for a total construction investment of $33 million.

How much does it cost to buy a ticket, and do you offer memberships?

Tickets cost $10 per person over 12 months of age. The discounted school field trip rate is $5 per person. There are also discounted family memberships and need-based discounts available. Free passes will also be available at Palo Alto Libraries on a first come first served basis. More details on how passes will be made available is coming soon! These accessible ways to enjoy the new facility are made possible by heavy subsidies by the City of Palo Alto.

Some residents have asked why the JMZ is no longer donation based. Under our old model of suggested donations of $5, very few visitors ended up donating that amount - in fact, over the course of a year, the average donation was less than $1 per visit. Since the approach of suggested donations alone was not sustainable to continue serving the expanding needs of the zoo and the community, we’re charging a similar rate to comparable children’s museums and zoos in the area.

The reduced ticket price for those who need financial assistance will be $3. We will participate in a national program called Museums for All, which sets standards for admissions based on if a family is receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits). We will also offer reduced admission for families who have children with disabilities.

We have four membership plans available to make the JMZ as accessible to all members of the community as possible:

Family Membership (Resident, $125; Non-resident, $144)

Family Plus Membership (Resident, $150; Non-resident, $173)

Supporting Family Membership (Resident, $250; Non-resident, $288)

Are there parts of the facility that are free?

Exhibits that are always free and available at opening include a nature play area with animals sculptures, boulder hop in the bioswale, and Charles Sowers’ public art piece “Sway” where children can ride four pendulums. We are working on two more exhibits that will be free including a kaleidoscope tunnel and a 10 billionth scaled model of the Solar System in Rinconada Park. These exhibits will open in Spring 2022.

What’s new at the Palo Alto JMZ?

Inspired by the best of the former JMZ, we have developed new, richer experiences for visitors, including:

• The lushly landscaped Zoo is now a fully enclosed aviary with birds flying overhead with lots of child-sized play spaces.

• The new zoo is a beautiful, tranquil landscape with new homes for our animals that meet accreditation standards and provide best practices in animal welfare.

• The museum hall has been expanded by 40 percent, and all new hands-on exhibits were developed There is a large outdoor courtyard and deck with outdoor exhibits, including a wheelchair accessible Tree House where children will have the extraordinary experience of safely climbing and exploring up among birds and branches out over the zoo.

• The new and larger Ball Machine area has taken the very popular, former machine space to the next level and has been a hit with testers.

• There is a larger Baby’s area, a block building area, and a collections exhibit.

What are some of the highlights people can experience in the new facility?

• Free outdoor exhibit spaces such as the bolder hop in the bioswale, Nature Play, and “sway” an interactive art piece under the portico.

• The exhibit hall contains a variety of new interactive and kinesthetic exhibits in which children can play and learn. Acrawl-into-log allows children to crawl from the museum directly into the center of the meerkat exhibit creating an immersive experience that is nose to nose the animals.

• The entire zoo is designed as a large aviary, allowing a wide range of birds to interact with children with animal care staff. Connecting the zoo spaces, the tree house runs through the center of the zoo with rope bridges, ladders, net tubes, and platforms to create a vibrant and exciting play-based experience for children.

• Studio Hanson Roberts has shaped a new, one-of-a-kind experience for children and adults alike that will encourage imaginative exploration at an intimate level. They championed the MicroZoo as a model for accessibility and sustainability, by maximizing the programing within the existing footprint. The zoo landscape design engages visitors as part of the educational experience.

• Resident animals include Edward the African spurred tortoise, slender-tailed meerkat, ring-tailed lemur, raccoon, domestic European rabbit, American flamingo, scarlet ibis, red and blue macaw, fulvous whistling duck, Von der decken hornbill, Hamerkop, Koi fish, African cichlid fish and more.

What are some of the animals we can find at the new zoo?

The Zoo is home to more than 50 species of animals—about 200 specimens in all. Many of them are brought to schools as part of our Science Outreach program. Some of our animals include, rabbits, raccoons, meerkats, flamingos, parrots, freshwater fish, invertebrates, and a giant tortoise!

Do you offer classes and camps?

In an addition to an amazing zoo, the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo offers numerous science programs for schools, community groups, children and families, including summer camps, and birthday parties.

Is the new facility eco-friendly?

The new facility is more eco-friendly, including improved energy and water efficiency, additional trees, bioswales for stormwater, and EV charging for electric cars.

What COVID-19 safety protocols are in place for visitors?

For the time being, we will continue to follow CDC guidelines to ensure visitors are as safe as possible, so they can feel free to enjoy the space. This means we require everyone to be masked while indoors, even if vaccinated. We will not be checking vaccination cards. We will close briefly 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the days we’re open to sanitize the facility and ensure safety for afternoon visitors.

Some of the protocols we will use include:

  • Increased cleaning
    • Frequent and rigorous cleaning of high-touch surfaces and exhibits.
    • Upholstery is a hospital-grade material with a moisture barrier that can be sanitized.
    • Hand sanitizers are installed throughout the facility, and there is a hand washing station in the zoo in addition to five restrooms.
    • Baskets will be installed for used exhibit pieces that have been in a child’s mouth. The JMZ will explore other similar options as needed.
  • Limit attendance
    • Adjust attendance levels to allow social distancing of 6 feet
    • Institute lower occupancy criteria daily
    • Pre-sell tickets to limit ticket sales interaction and to control number of attendees
    • Institute timed ticketing & potentially close between timed groups for cleaning
  • The building’s new heating and ventilation system enables the following improvements to air quality and air flow: ○ Air in the building is replaced three times per hour.
    • At least 60% of recirculated air is from outside.
    • The system operates with MERV-13 air filters that are changed frequently.
    • The air is purged from the Museum before it opens and after is closes each day.
    • Portable HEPA filtration units operate throughout the facility to provide additional air filtration.
  • Other Safety Items
    • Individuals exhibiting flu-like symptoms, including a cough or fever, will be asked to reschedule their visit.
    • 50% of our experiences are already outdoors.
    • Staff will adjust circulation spaces inside the JMZ, as needed
  • Sharing of equipment and supplies are limited.
  • Maintaining consistent cohorts of students and educators, where possible.
  • Substituting in-person programs with virtual options, as needed.
  • Using outdoor classroom or spaces for programming, where possible.
  • Animal care protocols have been redesigned to lower risk for staff and animals:
    • Staggered schedules to reduce staff to staff contact
    • Enhanced cleaning protocols
    • Gloves and masks are used

What are you doing to make the new facility accessible and inclusive?

The JMZ strives to be as welcoming as possible for children of all abilities and their caregivers. It was built from the ground up with accessible and inclusive experiences, that were informed by feedback from the local families who have children with physical and developmental disabilities and the organizations that support them. Examples include:

  • 27 new permanent exhibits that were universally designed with accessible elements, including a wheelchair accessible tree house;
  • Two respite spaces (Calming Nooks) for visitors with sensory issues;
  • Resources for visitors with disabilities will include tactile maps, signage with braille and hyper-legible fonts, life-size sculptures of the animals, assisted listening devices, downloadable audio tours; and
  • All exhibits were developed and prototyped with people who have disabilities and many are sensory-rich interactives that include tactile, sound, and smell experiences.

To be more inclusive, the JMZ also now has bilingual labels in English and Spanish, as well as audio labels in both languages.

Who are the Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo and what do they do?

The Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo are a non-profit benefit corporation whose mission is to support and enhance the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo, . They raised the funds to design and reconstruct the Junior Musuem & Zoo, they support the development of new exhibits and are committed to reducing inequity in science education. For over 20 years The Friends have funded the Science Outreach Program through which JMZ Educators provide hands-on STEM instruction (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to at-risk schools in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park and in Santa Clara County. During the 2020-21 academic year, the JMZ delivered science materials kits and nearly 500 virtual lessons to more than 2,000 underserved students.

Who owns the JMZ?

The JMZ is owned and operated by the City of Palo Alto.

Where may I find out more information?

Go to www.cityofpaloalto.org/jmz for more details.