Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sunset Zoo

Sunset Zoological Park, founded in 1933 by the Manhattan Parks and Recreation Board, has been a cultural and education asset to the community for over 80 years. Dr. EJ Frick, Zoo founder and former head of surgery and medicine at the Kansas State University School of Veterinary Medicine, volunteered to acquire, provide care for and display animals for 43 years. 

The city obtained much of its original funding from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) for initial construction of animal exhibits, buildings and walkways.  Much of this original native limestone work has been preserved, serving as educational examples of zoo and social history, and remains part of the zoo’s Master Plan.

Modernizing the Zoo
In 1980, citizens of Manhattan encouraged the City Commission to build a modern zoo. This led to the development of a Zoo Master Plan, and city approval to charge a small admission fee. All revenue generated from admissions is used for on-going zoo improvements and maintenance. This additional source of income allowed Sunset Zoo to increase its level of commitment to animal care, education and conservation. Sunset Zoo applied for, and received, accreditation by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) in 1989.  The Zoo has maintained commitment to upholding those high standards, and has been reaccredited every five years since. 

Current Operations
Today, Sunset Zoo operates in 26 of it’s 48 available acres. Employing nearly 20 full-time employees and a variety of part-time and seasonal staff, the Zoo is open seven days a week, 360 days a year. Zoo operations are overseen by a range of departments including Administration, Animal Care, Education, Guest Services, Horticulture/Maintenance and Marketing/Development. In addition to funding from the City of Manhattan, Sunset is supported by two 501c3 not-for-profit organizations: the Friends of Sunset Zoo and the Sunset Zoological Park and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

In 2014, the Zoo hopes to open Phase II of the John Woodard Memorial Gibbons Exhibit featuring an outdoor exhibit yard and a historic limestone viewing plaza. Additionally, in the next few years, the Zoo’s tiger exhibit will undergo a major renovation through the generosity of a local Manhattanite. Community members will also have a chance to envision Sunset’s future as the Zoo undergoes a Master Planning process in the coming years.


  • August 2 9:30 am Water Safari & Kids Free Day

    Cool off in the wild. Family- friendly activities from noon-4:30 p.m.

    Kids visit free with a paid adult admission.

  • August 22 6:00 pm Brew at the Zoo

    Enjoy hand-crafted samples at this annual fundraiser benefitting Sunset Zoo and its wildlife conservation efforts. Relax in the wild of Sunset Zoo while enjoying samples of cold brews, yummy appetizers, great entertainment, live encounters with Sunset Zoo’s animal ambassadors and more.

  • April 11 2:00 pm Kappa Alpha Theta and Pi Kappa Alpha present Cravings for CASA

    An afternoon of animals and desserts to raise money for the local Sunflower CASA.

    Tickets: $5 in advance, $6 at the door.

  • April 18 12:30 pm Earth Day celebration

    Join a Party of the Planet, and its amazing animals. Richard Renner and his Recycle Cycle will entertain guests of all ages with energy-filled performances throughout the afternoon. Games, activities and fun for all including Conservation Central in the Nature Exploration Center, Zoo-wide scavenger hunt with prizes, a children’s storytime with Manhattan Public Library and more!

    For all the details, visit

  • July 4 9:00 am Kids Fitness Challenge

    Weekly activities designed to get kids active. Enjoy half price admission for the entire family after the activity.

  • August 21 6:30 pm Brew at the Zoo

    Enjoy hand-crafted brews and food samples on Aug. 21. Mingle with animal residents at this annual fundraiser benefiting the Friends of Sunset Zoo’s Conservation Team.

    For information and tickets, visit

  • September 3 8:00 pm K-State Movies on the Grass: “Project Wile Thing"

    A hilarious real-life story about one man’s determination to get children out and into nature. From 5 to 8 p.m., guests will enjoy free Zoo admission.

  • September 5 9:30 am Grandparents’ and Enrichment Day

    Grandparents admitted free this day with a paid child’s admission. Tour the animal exhibits to see firsthand how keepers use enrichment to ensure our animal collection stays active and healthy.

  • September 6 9:30 am Grandparents’ and Enrichment Day

    Grandparents admitted free this day with a paid child’s admission. Tour the animal exhibits to see firsthand how keepers use enrichment to ensure our animal collection stays active and healthy.

  • September 11 5:00 pm K-State After Hours: A Night at the Zoo
  • September 25 10:00 am ZOOfari Tails Storytime: Turtles at Sunset Zoo

    Free admission to Sunset Zoo for families attending storytime. Children listen to animal stories, move and dance like animals, and explore interesting bioartitifacts such as furs and feathers.

  • October 12 7:30 pm Adventure Day Camps

    Art from the Landscape is for grades K-2 at the Flint Hills Discovery Center. Adapting for Behavior is for grades 3-6 at the Sunzet Zoo. 
    For information, visit

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