The idea for a Zoo started in 1955 when a duck pond was built in Thompson park, located on the north side of Amarillo. Shortly afterwards in 1957, other barnyard exhibits were added utilizing a storybook theme for exhibit construction. It was called "Children's Story Land Zoo." It was comprised of about 25 barnyard animals and occupied an area of 2.5 acres. The exhibit themes included Willie the Whale, Mouse Town, Indian Teepee and Three Men in a Tub. The "Mountain" was the original main entrance and featured the Seven Dwarfs Mine.
The population and variety of animals was expanded over the years to include coyotes, monkeys, bears, and other species of native and exotic wildlife. A children's playground petting zoo, and other features were added as various groups became interested and demand increased.
In 1989, the land area was expanded to 14 acres. Major exhibits were created and included a Plains Animal exhibit, Spider Monkey exhibit, and in the area of the original duck pond the North American Black Bear exhibit was built. The theme and name "Children's Story Land Zoo" was dropped and the new name, "Amarillo Zoo," was adopted.
The Zoo has continued to expand and improve. In 2006, the Cat Management Building was constructed and houses four cat species. The Herpetarium opened in 2009 and houses 26 exhibits with indigenous and exotic reptiles and amphibians. In 2013, the Zoo's 3600 square foot multipurpose Education Center opened. In addition to classroom space, the Education Center also houses the Zoo's education animal collection as well as exhibits and office space.
With over 200,000 visitors annually the Zoo continues to grow and provide visitors and residents of the Panhandle a family destination where they can learn and experience the animal world.