New ‘Run Wild!’ playground at Virginia Zoo encourages free play

Living Local

Freddy Chess, 6, and Julia Chess, 4, play on the Stump Jump at the zoo’s new “Run Wild!” playground.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A new playground at the Virginia Zoo is all about getting kids to use their imagination and take some risks. Calculated risks that is.

(Photo courtesy of Monika Chess)

The one-acre “Run Wild! Nature Discovery Zone” was just unveiled at the zoo’s Member Night. It features a bamboo maze, giant boulders, a “stump jump,” balance beams, a space for educational programs and more.

“Using natural elements, we encourage free play in this space – there is no ‘right’ way to play,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. This space is built to stimulate the imagination and allow children to take calculated risks, which help them to build critical decision-making skills.”

Julia Chess enters the Bamboo Maze. (Photo courtesy of Monika Chess)

It was funded through grants from multiple organizations, including $25,000 from Rotary District 7600, Norfolk Rotary Charities, Inc., Norfolk Sunrise Rotary and the Virginia Beach Rotary Foundation. Target and Wells Fargo also contributed donations.

Still have some energy to burn after that? A new “American Ninja Warrior” inspired obstacle course also recently opened at nearby Lafayette Park.

The zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For more info, visit

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