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Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 Fort Worth Reporter
Thousands of people packed into the Fort Worth Zoo for half-price Wednesday, the crowds swelled thanks to spring break.
Historically, coupling Spring Break with half-price Wednesdays has added up to a lot of traffic near the Fort Worth Zoo and this year is no exception.
As of 11 a.m., traffic was bumper to bumper on University Drive south of Interstate 30. Vehicles exiting the freeway to head to the zoo faced backups of about three miles, nearly back to Interstate 35 W. With nearby TCU hosting a baseball game in the afternoon, traffic was expected to be a problem for drivers all afternoon.
The zoo estimated that more than 20,000 people attended the zoo on Wednesday. That number is well short of the record of 25,800 several years back.
Parking lots and park space were full of cars as vehicles poured into the University Drive area all day long. Inside the zoo walkways were packed at times, but zoo officials say the zoo absorbs the large crowds well.
For those who came out on the busiest day of the year, they mostly knew what they were getting themselves into.
"We knew it was going to be busy, but I didn’t think we expected it to be quite this crazy," said Justin Beatty of Denton. "It's kind of a zoo out here."
"I think there’s more people than we were expecting, but it's still really cool," said Sara Peterson of Houston.
"Definitely worth it," said Kelsey Gunderson. "It's a busy day, middle of spring break, but first nice day of the week to really come out here."
Zoo officials say when the economy began to drop and "stay-cations" became a fad, the zoo on spring break became a destination place.
"For about five years running now, the Fort Worth Zoo has been a huge attraction and a great draw to the area for visitors, not only locally, but visitors around the state and even across the nation," Alexis Wilson, director of communications for the zoo.
For those who don't want to scour the parking lot, the Safari Shuttle runs every 30 minutes between the zoo and Bus Bay A at the Trinity Railway Express platform at the T's downtown Intermodal Transportation Center. Rides are $3.50 for adults, $1.75 for seniors 65 and older and for kids between ages 5 and 18. Those are under 5-years-old can ride for free.
Those who don't ride public transportation to the The T's ITC can park in a paid lot across the street and ride the Safari Shuttle to the zoo.
The zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. Admission is $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and children ages 3-12 and toddlers 2 and under are free. On Wednesday, admission is half-price.