The World's Largest Penguin Facility Just Reopened in Detroit

See more than 75 penguins living their best lives.

Penguins at the Polk Penguin Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo
Photo: Courtesy of Detroit Zoological Society

The world's largest penguin facility just happens to be at the Detroit Zoo and has reopened to the public after more than two years of renovations.

"Millions of visitors, from all over the world, have flocked to this conservation center since it opened in April 2016, and we are so thrilled to open the doors again," Dr. Hayley Murphy, Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) executive director and CEO, said in a statement.

The zoo's Polk Penguin Conservation Center (PPCC) reopened earlier this month, after closing in September 2019 for waterproofing repairs.

Exterior of Polk Penguin Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo
Courtesy of Detroit Zoological Society

Visitors to the PPCC can see more than 75 different types of penguins in a new icy habitat that encourages natural behaviors like diving, nesting, and rearing young.

"The chinstrap [penguins] settled right in and became avid swimmers," DZS Curator of Birds Bonnie Van Dam said in a statement. "Penguins thrive within larger colonies, and they are just exceptional at mingling."

The facility features a 326,000-gallon aquatic area that reaches depths of 25 feet. It also features an underwater gallery with an acrylic window and tunnels so visitors can watch as penguins dive and swim underwater. There's even a section of glass flooring so visitors can watch as penguins swim beneath their feet.

A group looking at the penguins inside the Polk Penguin Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo
Joshua Hanford/Courtesy of Detroit Zoological Society

The PPCC underwent a $32 million repair, focusing on waterproofing the area. During the two years of repairs, five new chicks joined the flock. One of the new chicks was a king penguin, the first hatched at the zoo in 20 years.

Entrance to the PPCC is included with admission to the Detroit Zoo, however, time entry passes are required before visiting. The zoo will make at least 2,000 passes available each day (with a maximum capacity of 100 people in the center at a time). Visitors can pick up PPCC passes on a first-come, first-served basis at the admissions desk.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at

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