America's Top Zoos
Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, Florida
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to feed a giraffe or ride a llama? Well your kids will have a chance to do just that when you take a visit to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. One of the unique features of this zoo is the presence of a preschool and kindergarten right on site. Because early childhood education is so important here, you know the zoo is sure to stimulate guests by allowing them to get up close and personal with the animals at the 4 ½ acre Australian themed children’s area. Imagine walking alongside kangaroos and wallabys or riding camels! There is even a playground and mini-amusement park featuring a mini-rollercoaster and other rides. This zoo has amazing exhibits outside the children’s area as well including a primate exhibit featuring colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, lemurs, orangutans, gibbons and more. Other favorites include the Asian Gardens, Florida Boardwalk (featuring native Floridian animals) and Safari Africa where you’ll delight in viewing the elephants, zebras, hippos, and cheetahs, to name just a few.
They are open from 9:30 am until 5:00 pm daily. Children under 3 are always free and other ticket prices range from $20.95 to $27.95 depending upon your age. Parking is free.
Readers of Parents Magazine have voted this the Number 1 Family Friendly Zoo in America.
St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO
If you love penguins, you won’t want to miss the Peguin & Puffin Coast exhibit at the St. Louis Zoo in St. Louis, MO. The habitat is a spectacular replica of the Peruvian coastline and features a 22 foot high waterfall. There are several species of penguins in this exhibit that can be viewed on land and from underwater.
With several other exhibits to enjoy, you won’t want to miss the 20 minute, narrated Zooline Railroad trip. The train navigates 1 ½ miles through tunnels and gives passengers an overview of the various exhibits. It is handicapped accessible and rides are available daily. Tickets are $5.00 each.
If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, you may enjoy a 30 minute walking tour with one of the zoo’s interpretive guides. Tours wind through the African Safari, Extreme Zoo Safari and River’s Edge Safari. Tickets are $5.00 each and children under 2 are free.
Favorite exhibits include the Fragile Forest, which is home to Gorillas, Orangutans and Chimpanzees; Bear Bluffs, which feartures cascading waterfalls and pools and grottos that were fashioned from limestone excavated from along the Mississippi River; Big Cat Country, in which you’ll spot lions, tigers, jaguars and snow leopards; and the tranquil and colorful Bird House which traverses 2 acres that have been transformed into a spectacular tropical rainforest. There are so many exhibits at this sprawling zoo that you’ll need an entire day to enjoy them all, but it’s worth it!
San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA
Open from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, there is plenty of time to explore and enjoy the amazing exhibits at the San Diego Zoo. The area is known for it’s near-perfect year round climate, making almost any day a great day to visit.
Don’t miss the Giant Pandas, on permanent loan from China. These rare beauties lounge about their authentic habitat, climb on specially made structures and enjoy the shade of the many trees. These lucky pandas also get to enjoy air conditioned sleeping facilities at night!
If large, lumbering animals are just your speed, don’t miss the Galapagos Tortoises, These incredible animals are the oldest living species at the zoo, with many having been there since 1928! If you’re lucky enough to be there are feeding time, you’ll see them eating right out of the zookeepers’ hands or enjoying some hands-on time with their caretakers.
If big cats are more your speed, you’ll revel in the majesty of the Malayan tigers as they roam about their natural jungle habitat. With plenty of room to wander, these beauties stay lean and happy. Kids will enjoy the interactive feature that allows them to listen to the various tiger sounds and learn about how tigers communicate in the wild.
The San Diego Zoo is lucky enough to have both African and Asian elephants. Learn about the different characteristics of these species and visit the elephant care center to observe these gentle giants interacting with their trainers or getting a refreshing foot scrub.
With several varieties of big cats, birds, reptiles and mammals to see, you’ll need to spend the entire day here. View animals in person or via animal cameras installed in various exhibits. This makes viewing possible from remote locations if you can’t get there in person! To check out the animal cams, visit their website at www.zoo.sandiegozoo.org.
San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX
Like San Diego, San Antonio, Texas is a great place to visit for so many reasons. One of the best reasons is the family-friendly zoo and aquarium. With an interactive children’s exhibit that puts most to shame, this zoo is a must-see for families with kids of all ages. Whether splashing in a cool stream, playing on the lily pads, and feeding carrots to guinea pigs, there is plenty to do and see at the Tiny Tot Nature Spot.
Ever wonder what makes flamingos pink? Why, shrimp, of course! And every day at 2:00 pm you can watch these colorful, elegant birds feast on these delectable treats.
If you’ve always wanted to travel to Africa, but fear you’ll never get the chance, the zoo’s Africa Live! Exhibit will take guests on an amazing safari adventure where you’ll view a variety of native plants and animals, learn about various African cultures and conservation. Hippos and crocodiles can actually be viewed from underwater!
If you’re looking for an Amazonian adventure, check out Amazonia! This tropical paradise features colorful orchids and other plants, spider monkeys swinging overhead and sleek jaguars, mop-topped tamarins, capuchin monkeys and colorful macaws, among so many other species.
Mammalian life abounds, so you’re in luck if you’re aching to see tigers, rhinos, gazelles, ocelots, gibbons, wallabies, hyenas and more! Avaian life is abundant. See if you can spot the pink flamingos, black necked swans, congo peacocks, green winged macaws, American white pelicans and dozens of other birds throughout the zoo. If you’re really into birds, you’ll love the Cranes of the World habitat where you’ll enjoy whooping cranes, blue cranes, Manchurian and hooded cranes and learn about their rapidly shrinking natural habitats.
Vote for Your Favorite Zoo
Which zoo is your favorite?
Nashville Zoo, Nashville, TN
From recognizable species like African elephants and lions to more obscure creatures like Elands, Springboks, Bonteboks and Yellow-Backed Duikers, the Nashville Zoo will satisfy your love of the familiar and your curiosity about new species! Not only does Nashville boast some of the best restaurants and music anywhere, but their zoo offers another level of vibrant, diverse life for the true animal lover. See your favorites in their near-native habitats and learn about conservation efforts. The zoo supports the National Elephant Foundation as well at 96 Elephants, and is home to several species that have been on the brink of extinction. Their aquarium is home to over 27,000 species of fish. The park is also bursting with colorful avian life such as Caribbean flamingos, lorikeets, Mandarin ducks and rhinoceros hornbills.
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Best of the Best
Best Zoo Exhibit
Best Elephant Exhibit
Best Gorilla/ Monkey Exhibits
Best Bear Exhibit
Big Cat Crossing, Philadelphia Zoo
African Elephant Crossing, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Congo Gorilla Forest, Bronx Zoo
Russia's Grizzly Coast, Minnesota Zoo
Arctic Ring of Life, Detroit Zoo
African Plains, San Diego Zoo
Elephant Odyssey, San Diego Zoo
Monkey Village, Phoenix Zoo
Polar Frontier, Columbus Zoo
Giants of the Savannah, Dallas Zoo
Cat Canyon Exhibit, Cincinnati Zoo
African Elephant Exhibit, Nashville Zoo
Gorilla Forest, Louisville Zoo
Museum of Living Art, Fort Worth Zoo
African Elephant Exhibit, Indianapolis Zoo
Great Apes and Other Primates, Smithsonian National Zoo
Sea Lion Sound, St. Louis Zoo
Indianapolis Zoo, Indianapolis, IN
One of the things that makes this zoo special is Animal Art Adventures! If you're planning a vacation for animal and art lovers alike, why not combine the two? Guests are taken behind the scenes with the artists. And we're not talking just any artist here. We're talking animal artists! That's right, with the help with their handlers, animals such as dolphins, elephants, penguins, reptiles and more will create a one of a kind work of art just for you! It is a bit pricy, but it is guaranteed that no two works of art are the same anywhere in the world.
If you've always wanted to "swim with the dolphins," you'll not want to miss the Dolphin In-Water Adventure. Each participant will have a backstage session in which they learn about dolphin behaviors and training. They also get 30 minutes of time in the water and poolside with the trainers and dolphins! A souvenir towel and polaroid of you with the dolphins is also included.
Whether you're into sea creatures, forest animals or the hearty breeds that survive the desert heat, you'll find just what you're looking for in Indianapolis!
More Fun Family Destinations
- Wisconsin Dells Water Parks
If you're looking for a fun place to cool off this summer, you must visit the Water Park Capital of the World, Wisconsin Dells!
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