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Zoo Atlanta Panda Encounter Review

Wondering if the Giant Panda Wild Encounter at Zoo Atlanta is worth it? Check out my Zoo Atlanta Panda Encounter review to see why I highly recommend this activity!

If there’s one thing you take away from this blog, it’s that I love bears. For my birthday one year, I got to meet the panda bears of Zoo Atlanta up close and personal, and you can too!

Giant pandas are an incredibly rare species, and Zoo Atlanta is home to four of them! The zoo’s remarkable Wild Encounter program lets you get a glimpse into the lives of Zoo Atlanta’s incredible panda bears. You’ll go behind the scenes to discover what it takes to house and care for these amazing bears, learn about the zoo’s conservation efforts, and feed a panda yourself.

Read on to learn about the Zoo Atlanta Panda Encounter and how it’s an experience you won’t soon forget!

Zoo Atlanta Panda Feeding, Atlanta, Georgia

Zoo Atlanta’s Giant Panda Bear Wild Encounter

Zoo Atlanta offers many “Wild Encounters” that let you get a behind-the-scenes look at some of the zoo’s animals.

At $240 plus admission ($216 for zoo members), the Giant Panda Wild Encounter is the most expensive encounter but is well worth it for bear lovers. The Giant Panda Wild Encounter takes place Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at 10:30 a.m. You just need to be at the panda bear habitat 15 minutes beforehand to sign a waiver so you can get started.

All participants are required to submit a digital waiver before their encounter date. All participants, including children, are required to wear a KN95 face mask. If you do not have a KN95 face mask, the Zoo will provide one for you. (This is a new requirement since COVID. I didn’t have to do this when I visited, which is why all my photos are mask-free).

Zoo Atlanta Panda Encounter Review: What to Expect

Panda Bears, Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia

The encounter began at the panda habitat where, after signing our waivers, an Exhibit Interpreter told us about Lun Lun and Yang Yang and their twin girls Ya Lun and Xi Lun.

Some of the pandas are usually out at this time, so we got to watch them nap, eat, and play while we learned panda facts (like that all they do is eat and sleep all day).

Since these are 200 pound bears, we didn’t get to touch the pandas during the encounter. But the Interpreter did have some panda fur brushed from one of the pandas that they passed around for us to feel, and I’ll tell you it’s not as fluffy and soft as it looks on the pandas!

Now that we’ve seen all that we can of the day rooms and outdoor exhibits from the front end, it’s time to go behind the scenes!

Behind the Scenes: Take a Walk Down Panda Trail

Panda Trail, Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia

Behind the scenes, we walked down Panda Trail to the back of the panda habitat building: the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center. The panda building is quarantined, so once the panda keepers go in for the day, they’re there all day long.

We had to go through some quarantine measures ourselves and get our safety gear on before entering the building. As you can see in the picture above, it was pouring down rain during our encounter, so this was a tricky and messy situation.

First, we had to lock our loose items away. Then we had to throw off our raincoats and put on white lab coats. Next came washing off the bottoms of our shoes in a diluted bleach solution and covering our shoes with booties. And lastly we donned our gloves.

I’m guessing this is also the point when you’ll put on your KN95 face mask. As I stated above, this is a new regulation and wasn’t required when I visited.

Zoo Atlanta Panda Bear Encounter Feeding, Atlanta, Georgia

Inside the Panda Bear Building

Inside the panda building, we got to see the Panda Cam central and the pee refrigerator, where they store the pandas’ urine for monitoring the bears’ health and mostly for monitoring Lun Lun’s ovulation.

Through a set of double doors, we passed by Lun Lun who was eagerly waiting to be fed, and went into a separate section to see the huge bamboo refrigerator holding hundreds of pounds of bamboo and a shelf of the bears’ enrichment toys.

Each bear has certain scents that they like, so the enrichment shelf holds a strange assortment of household items that the bears just like the smell of (Yang Yang, for instance, likes the smell of Tabasco sauce).

Bamboo, Zoo Atlanta Panda Bear Encounter Feeding, Atlanta, Georgia

In here, we got the safety rundown before going out to properly greet Lun Lun, who we would be feeding.

The Panda Keepers said the bears have learned that the people in white lab coats bring treats, so they have to give the safety instructions in a separate room or else the bears will get impatient wondering why they haven’t been fed yet.

Zoo Atlanta Panda Encounter: Feeding the Panda Bear

Zoo Atlanta Panda Bear Encounter Feeding, Atlanta, Georgia

Lun Lun is the zoo’s adult female panda. She has been the mother of seven panda cubs at Zoo Atlanta, including the twins. Her round face and fluffy cheeks make her a beautiful panda by Chinese standards, as Chinese values round faces above all.

During the encounter, you get to feed the panda one of their favorite treats: a nutritious biscuit.

To feed the panda, you put this biscuit in a feeding stick that looks like bamboo. This is so that no one has to put a finger inside the enclosure and have the bear mistake a finger for a biscuit.

We stood about a foot away from the barrier and held the biscuit out to Lun Lun using the bamboo stick, and Lun Lun munched the biscuit right off the stick. We fed her two biscuits each this way, and I wish it could have lasted longer. I would happily have fed that bear for hours.

Zoo Atlanta Panda Bear Encounter Feeding, Atlanta, Georgia

Panda Bear Behavior Demonstration

After we all finished feeding Lun Lun, she had more treats coming her way. The Keepers then showed us some of her learned behaviors that help them do routine check ups all without having to put the bears under or step into the enclosure with them.

The adult bears know how to put their ears, eyes, and bellies to the barrier so the keepers can get a good look, poke and prod, and even give the bears their vaccines. This is also how Lun Lun gets her ultrasounds when she’s pregnant. The twins can do many of the behaviors but still have some learning to do.

The keeper rewarded Lun Lun with apple slices for showing off her behaviors.

Zoo Atlanta Panda Bear Encounter Feeding, Atlanta, Georgia

When she finished showing off, Lun Lun munched some bamboo while we asked the Keeper questions.

After a while though, Lun Lun realized that the people in white lab coats were still there but weren’t giving her treats, so she decided to change that. So Lun Lun started begging, which consisted of her putting her ears, eyes, and belly to the barrier in an attempt to get more treats.

While her begging is adorable, the keepers don’t want to reward that behavior. So we shuffled out of the panda building and left Lun Lun with her hundreds of pounds of bamboo to tide her over.

Panda Encounter Final Thoughts

Whether you love bears as much as I do or not, the Giant Panda Wild Encounter at Zoo Atlanta is a unique activity you can’t get anywhere else! Seriously, all the pandas in the U.S. are going back to China, including the ones a Zoo Atlanta.

So if you want to feed a panda bear, you don’t have much time left!

Plus, the experience is way more than just a quick feeding. You get to see behind-the-scenes and learn a lot about the bears.

Overall, I highly recommend the Zoo Atlanta Panda Encounter!

Giant Panda Encounter at Zoo Atlanta: Imporatnt Info

Location: the Giant Panda habitat at Zoo Atlanta. 800 Cherokee Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30315

Cost: $240 per person + Zoo admission (admission to the Zoo is not included in the price!)

Zoo Member Cost: $216 per person

Age range: Children must be 6 years old to participate. Anyone under 16 must be accompanied by a ticketed Wild Encounter adult. You must have 1 ticketed adult for every 2 ticketed children.

What to Wear: Closed-toe shoes and closed-heel shoes.

Regulations: Anyone who has been outside of the U.S. or Canada within 10 days of the encounter is not allowed to participate. Strollers and wagons are not allowed in behind-the-scenes areas.

Where to Stay in Atlanta

More Things Happening at Zoo Atlanta

Ready to visit Atlanta, Georgia? Plan your trip with these tips.

  • Get Familiar With the City: Check out my Ultimate Guide to Atlanta to help plan your trip!
  • Book Your Flight: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
  • Find Accommodation: You can find top hotels in Atlanta using
  • Save on Attractions: Save 42% on admission to Atlanta’s top attractions using the Atlanta CityPASS.



I Fed a Panda Bear at Zoo Atlanta and It Was the Best Birthday Ever!

Have you done a Zoo Atlanta Panda Bear Encounter? Did you find this Zoo Atlanta Panda Encounter review helpful? Let me know in the comments!

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