Looking for the ultimate stress reliever that also makes a really unique Christmas gift? Look no further than the Utica Zoo and their red panda encounters. They're booking for 2021.

If there's anything we learned from 2020, its that experiences are more important than things - and we can all use a smile. The best way to get both of those is a red panda encounter at the Utica Zoo. Not only the does the encounter make a great Christmas gift, it's a great way to support the Utica Zoo - which is currently facing a $1 million budget shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The encounters are being booked for 2021, although not all the dates are available for booking at once because of the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Each encounter lasts about 30 minutes, depending on the weather and the mood of the pandas. Encounters cost $225 for up to 2 people, ages 12 and up.

During that 30 minutes, you'll have the opportunity to hand-feed the zoo's world famous Red Panda couple, Ming Yu and Muse, while learning about panda conservation efforts around the world.

The encounters always sell out and need to be booked months in advance. Other things to know about the encounters:

• General Admission is included
• This is an opportunity to feed the red pandas, not to pet or hold them
• Must be 12 years old or older
• Closed-toed shoes required
• Two red panda encounters are offered per week (Wednesday through Saturday) based on recommendations via the Species Survival Plan.

You can book your encounter on the zoo's website: uticazoo.org/encounters


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