50 Best Zoos in the U.S., Ranked
Who doesn't love the zoo? Americans, for one, absolutely love the zoo — so much so that there are more than 2,400 zoos in the United States.
50 Best Zoos in the U.S., Ranked
Who doesn't love the zoo? Americans, for one, absolutely love the zoo — so much so that there are more than 2,400 zoos in the United States. And what's not to love? Zoos and animal parks offer unique learning experiences to encounter magnificent creatures from all over the world. Plus, zoos often are integral in raising money and awareness on animal issues, including conservation and care.
When it comes to visiting the best zoos in America, it can be daunting to know where to start. Of course, there are the obvious heavy-hitters, from the San Diego Zoo in California to the Bronx Zoo in New York. But while these zoos might be some of the best known in the country, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the "best," according to reviews on Tripadvisor.
So what exactly are the best zoos or animal parks in the country? Read on to see where your favorites rank and which ones are close to where you live.
50. Roger Williams Park Zoo
Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Bottom Line: Roger Williams Park Zoo
The third oldest zoo in the U.S. opened with a small collection of animal exhibits at a time when conservation and environmental education weren't a thing.
Today, the zoo sits amid 40 acres of woodlands that are home to more than 160 species of animals.
What to Expect: Roger Williams Park Zoo
Visitors can check out a rare Komodo dragon as well as red pandas, Masai giraffes and African elephants. They’ll even get the opportunity to feed giraffes and harbor seals.
Even more exhilarating is the Explore and Soar area, which features a zip ride as well as a train excursion through the nature settings.
49. Rosamond Gifford Zoo
Location: Syracuse, New York
Bottom Line: Rosamond Gifford Zoo
Opened more than a century ago, Rosamond Gifford Zoo is now home to more than 700 animals that represent 275 species.
The zoo has several endangered species that staff prides itself in meeting high standards of animal care and conservation expertise.
What to Expect: Rosamond Gifford Zoo
One of the coolest things this zoo offers is the option to “Adopt an Animal,” with proceeds going to support important zoo projects.
The zoo’s conservation education programs are also great for everything from kids’ zoo camps to corporate events.
48. Cameron Park Zoo
Location: Waco, Texas
Bottom Line: Cameron Park Zoo
Cameron Park Zoo is a 52-acre natural habitat located right next to the Brazos River.
Its native vegetation features waterfalls, a lake and ponds that the zoo’s more than 1,700 animals can enjoy.
What to Expect: Cameron Park Zoo
There are a variety of habitats to explore at Cameron Park Zoo, but one of the most interesting is the South American Exhibit, where you’ll encounter three Galapagos Tortoises, squirrel monkeys and even a capybara.
The 50,000-gallon saltwater aquarium is also interesting, as it highlights some of the animals that are indigenous to the area.
47. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
Location: Tacoma, Washington
Bottom Line: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
Located in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park, this 29-acre zoo and aquarium house more than 9,000 specimens.
The zoo was founded in 1905, with the aquarium opening 30 years later. The two make up the only combined zoo and aquarium in the Pacific Northwest.
What to Expect: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
One of the don’t-miss exhibits at this zoo is the Cats of the Canopy exhibit, which opened in 2011 and features clouded leopards that climb and jump throughout the trees.
The Asian Forest Sanctuary is equally cool, as it mimics the forests of southeast Asia with a waterfall and native plants. This is where you’ll find Sumatran tigers, Malayan tigers and an Asian elephant.
46. McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary
Location: West Palm Beach, Florida
Bottom Line: McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary
More of a wildlife rescue facility than a zoo, McCarthy’s has more than 200 animals, featuring mainly big cats like white tigers and African lions.
The wildlife sanctuary features a clinic and recovery room for animals that have been rescued.
What to Expect: McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary
Visitors must book a tour to visit the sanctuary, in which they will have the opportunity to interact with some of the smaller animals, ranging from tortoises to parrots to even an alligator.
45. Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana
Bottom Line: Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Most zoos have an area dedicated to children, but Fort Wayne Children's Zoo dedicated all of its 40 acres to them.
Designed especially with kids in mind, the zoo is interactive and educational, with its stated mission being to connects kids with animals. Its fun ecosystem-centered areas include an Indonesian Rain Forest area, a safari-like African journey area and an Australian Adventure area.
What to Expect: Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
The children's zoo opened in 1965 and touts itself as Fort Wayne's best summer activity for families.
It is operated as a nonprofit by the Fort Wayne Zoological Society and cares for about 1,000 animals like wildebeests, lynxes, clouded leopards and dingos.
44. Promised Land Zoo
Location: Branson, Missouri
Bottom Line: Promised Land Zoo
If you want a variety of choices on how to interact with zoo animals, Promised Land is a good place to go. You can see animals in a traditional zoo setting, opt for a more interactive excursion where you can pet certain species and even do a foot or drive-thru safari.
The zoo offers general admission, VIP Tram Feeding Tour and Ultimate Excursion tickets to match the experience you are most interested in taking.
What to Expect: Promised Land Zoo
The park is organized by geographical areas, putting together animals that have similar natural habitats. This is also optimal for visitors, which get to see animals acting naturally.
Some of the most exciting areas include Gorilla Forest, Penguin Cove and Tiger Trek.
43. Sedgwick County Zoo
Location: Wichita, Kansas
Bottom Line: Sedgwick County Zoo
The Sedgwick County Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which shows its commitment to the well-being of the 3,000 animals in its care.
The zoo places importance on interactive experiences that are educational and is involved in various conservation efforts for species around the world. It also has one of the largest aviaries in the entire country!
What to Expect: Sedgwick County Zoo
Promised Land Zoo has a variety of animals in its keep, including giraffes, tigers, camels and sloths. One of the most popular features is its Parakeet Paradise, a large cage where kids can go in for a more genuine interaction with the colorful birds.
Children also enjoy feeding and petting the baby animals that are being nursed in the zoo.
42. Toledo Zoo
Location: Toledo, Ohio
Bottom Line: Toledo Zoo
Part of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Toledo Zoo is active in conservation efforts both within the U.S. and in several other countries.
The zoo has around 10,000 animals that represent more than 700 species, so you are definitely guaranteed to see some of the world's coolest and most interesting animals, like hippos, red pandas and orangutans.
What to Expect: Toledo Zoo
The park has expansive botanical gardens, a children's area and even an aerial obstacle course experience.
It's also the only zoo in the world where you can see hippos as they are underwater. This alone makes a visit to the Toledo Zoo worth it.
41. Cape May County Park & Zoo
Location: Cape May Court House, New Jersey
Bottom Line: Cape May County Park & Zoo
While not the largest zoo in this ranking, Cape May County Park & Zoo still manages to pack a punch. The park has 85 acres and more than 500 animals, including bison, lemurs and zebras as well as several species of monkeys.
The park is ranked as the No. 1 thing to do in Cape May Court House on Tripadvisor. It is loved by locals, who often take days off as an opportunity to visit their favorite animals.
What to Expect: Cape May County Park & Zoo
Cape May County Park & Zoo is open every day of the year except Christmas, so if you're ever visiting, you won't have to worry about it being closed during your stay.
The zoo is also free to the general public. While it relies completely on donations, it has managed to stay open and accessible since 1978.
40. Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota
Bottom Line: Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
Owned by the city of Saint Paul, Como Park Zoo & Conservatory is free and open to the public. This ensures that education about animals and environmental conservation is available to families of all incomes.
The zoo is located in historic Como Park and is considered one of the best attractions in Saint Paul.
What to Expect: Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
The Como Park Zoo & Conservatory is particularly known for its wonderful California sea lion exhibit — a rare sight for those who live in Minnesota.
Another notable feature of the zoo are its great cats, which include snow leopards as well as tigers and lions. The zoo also has other species like gorillas, giraffes and penguins.
39. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Location: Powell, Ohio
Bottom Line: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Operating since 1927, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium brings people from all over Ohio to the city of Powell.
The zoo is the only in the country to have a waterpark attached and also has an 18-hole golf course that is safari-themed. Because of its unique additions, visitors love Columbus Zoo and tend to rate it as having high value for its price.
What to Expect: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Besides providing visitors with fun experiences, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is also serious about helping animals. A large part of the profits earned from its waterpark, Zoombezi Bay, is used to bring its animals quality care.
The is a nonprofit organization and fundraises around $4 million each year to be donated for conservation projects around the world.
38. Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden
Location: Columbia, South Carolina
Bottom Line: Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden
This South Carolina zoo is home to 2,000 animals from more than 350 species and is one of the state capital's most beloved attractions.
The gardens are touted as a "living classroom" where visitors of all ages can enjoy the natural beauty of native and exotic plants in fun and interactive ways.
What to Expect: Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden
The Riverbanks Zoo has been set up to represent different areas. You can visit a mini Australian outback and meet a friendly flock of lorikeets, or you can go on an African safari to see lions, rhinos and more.
Parents with small children will appreciate Waterfall Junction, a three-acre garden built with kids in mind. Another great place for families is the interactive farm animal section.
37. Jacksonville Zoo
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Bottom Line: Jacksonville Zoo
Part of the AZA, the Jacksonville Zoo is also one of only seven zoos in the country that has an animal wellness team. They are committed to providing their resident animals with the best treatment possible.
A portion of each ticket is also donated to conservation efforts, with the zoo supporting more than 45 programs around the world.
What to Expect: Jacksonville Zoo
The Jacksonville Zoo boasts having the only walking safari in Northeast Florida, providing the region with a truly unique experience.
The zoo has more than 2,000 animals and 1,000 plants from all over the world, including boas, bald eagles, lemurs, bonobos and cheetahs.
Location: Tampa, Florida
Bottom Line: ZooTampa
Taking advantage of Tampa's tropical climate, ZooTampa brings in local and exotic species for visitors to see. The zoo tries to differentiate itself by offering hands-on experiences like feeding giraffes and rhinos, touching manta rays in a tank and getting up-close and personal with a giant tortoise.
ZooTampa also takes care of its local environment at its Manatee Hospital, where the gentle giants are treated and rehabilitated before being returned to the wild. Visitors can see these noble animals year-round.
What to Expect: ZooTampa
Given Tampa's year-round warm climate, the zoo has plenty of water areas where you can play or simply sit and cool down. The areas are particularly popular with kids, who love splashing around after a fun day.
There are also educational shows that seek to teach visitors about the animals that they are seeing as well as raise awareness about the importance of conservation.
35. Pittsburgh Zoo
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Bottom Line: Pittsburgh Zoo
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is one of a handful of zoo-aquarium combos in the U.S. It was founded more than 100 years ago and opened its doors in 1898.
Since then, it has been renovated and expanded to include amazing exhibits like its African Savanna, Asian Forest, Tropical Forest and much more. The $17.4 million aquarium opened in 2000.
What to Expect: Pittsburgh Zoo
The zoo and aquarium have been in a constant state of evolution. The most recent additions were The Islands, which came in 2015. The 22,000-square-foot exhibit offers an immersive experience with waterfalls, ponds, crocodiles, siamangs, clouded leopards and even a beach area.
In 2017, the zoo opened Jungle Odyssey, which brought five new animal exhibits, including ocelots, a pygmy hippo, anteaters, fossas and capybaras.
34. Phoenix Zoo
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Bottom Line: Phoenix Zoo
The Phoenix Zoo was the brainchild of Robert E. Maytag, grandson of the founder of the Maytag appliance empire. And while his sudden, untimely death nearly quashed the zoo's plans, his wife, Nancy, stepped forward to bring the dream to fruition.
The zoo opened in 1962 and has since welcomed more than 43 million visitors. It is known for its conservation initiatives, involving the repopulation of Arabian oryx, Black-footed ferrets, Chiricahua leopard frogs, narrow-headed garter snakes, thick-billed parrots, Mexican wolves and more.
What to Expect: Phoenix Zoo
Today, the zoo has more than 3,000 animals with nearly 400 species represented. Some of the most popular are the African lions, zebras, jaguars, Asian elephants and cheetahs.
The zoo offers a program for visitors to sponsor a zoo animal as well. You can adopt anything from a Sumatran tiger to a Bornean orangutan, Andean bear and flamingo, among many other animals.
33. Indianapolis Zoo
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Bottom Line: Indianapolis Zoo
What started as a 20-acre children's zoo back in the 1960s has transformed into one of the great zoos in America.
Over the years, it has gone through many transformations, and today, its most popular attractions include a world-class elephant exhibit, Dolphin Adventure Dome, Deserts Dome and an Oceans exhibit.
What to Expect: Indianapolis Zoo
Roam from exhibits featuring the plains and deserts to forests and oceans.
And don't miss the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center, which is one of the most important zoo exhibits in the world. It is a center for research into the cognitive abilities of great apes, a truly memorable experience.
32. Oakland Zoo
Location: Oakland, California
Bottom Line: Oakland Zoo
The Oakland Zoo is home to more than 850 animals — and many are rescues. Founded in 1922, the zoo is committed to conservation and education. It is made up of several regions, including the African Savanna, Tropical Rainforest, Wild Australia and the California Trail, among others.
In 1991, the zoo was a pioneer in the "protected contract" method, which places barriers between zookeepers and elephants and uses persuasion through reward, rather than discipline. This is now a method that is used all over the world.
What to Expect: Oakland Zoo
The newest addition to the zoo is the California Trail, and it is one of the zoo's crown jewels. Take the gondola up to the top of the trail to view the expansive habitat that was created for animals indigenous to California.
There is even a campground for a unique type of overnight with grizzly bears.
31. Alaska Zoo
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Bottom Line: Alaska Zoo
For more than 50 years, the Alaska Zoo has been committed to the conservation of Arctic and sub-Arctic species. Here, you'll be able to view different species that you'd never find naturally in the Lower 48.
Get up close and personal with Dall sheep and mountain goats, wolverine and river otters, flying squirrels and much more. You'll also be able to see beloved international species like Bactrian camels and Alpacas, Tibetan yaks, Muskoxes, harbor seals and red foxes.
What to Expect: Alaska Zoo
One of the more unique opportunities at the Alaska Zoo is the animal encounters, which allows visitors to go behind the scenes with zookeepers for a meet-and-greet with animals.
Meet animals like polar bears, moose and mountain goats.
30. Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley, Minnesota
Location: Apple Valley, Minnesota
Bottom Line: Minnesota Zoo
The Minnesota Zoo opened its doors in 1978. The expansive property sits on more than 485 acres in Apple Valley, Minnesota, not far from Minneapolis. The zoo today is home to more than 4,500 animals and 505 species. With an annual attendance of almost 1.3 million, it is one of the most popular zoos in the Midwest.
The Minnesota Zoo is committed to conservation and has partnered with groups to help preserve animals and resources like butterflies, bison, native mussels, tigers and Asian wild horses, among others.
What to Expect: Minnesota Zoo
With more than 500 species of animals, you can expect a diverse experience at the Minnesota Zoo.
You can expect to get up close and personal with African penguins, tigers, leopards, camels, bears, caribou and lynx.
29. Kansas City Zoo
Location: Kansas City, Missouri
Bottom Line: Kansas City Zoo
Opened in 1909, the Kansas City Zoo is home to more than 1,300 animals. It is spread over 202 acres, 95 of which are dedicated to African animals.
Other exhibits include Australia, the Tiger Trail, The Valley and the KidZone. The zoo even has a wonderful Orangutan Canopy exhibit where you can learn all about the lives and care of orangutans.
What to Expect: Kansas City Zoo
One of the coolest things at the Kansas City Zoo is its animal encounters. These experiences allow visitors to get up close to interact with animals and learn from the zookeepers who care for them.
Visitors will learn specifically about Aldabra tortoises, camels, penguins and rhinos.
28. Denver Zoo
Location: Denver, Colorado
Bottom Line: Denver Zoo
It all started with a black bear in 1896. Seriously. The Denver Zoo was founded at the end of the 19th century with the donation of a single American black bear. Today, the park is an 80-acre zoo with more than 4,000 animals across 613 species.
Discover exhibits like Bear Mountain and Primate Panorama. The zoo was also one of the first in America to use landscaped natural habitats rather than cages.
What to Expect: Denver Zoo
The zoo is heavy on research and conservation and supports more than 600 projects across 60 countries. It also has really interesting and unique exhibits, like the Stingray Cove Experience. Marvel at the 15,000-gallon tank that features 40 animals.
The Elephant Passage is also a wildly popular exhibit, as it is one of the most complex elephant habitats in North America across 10 acres of terrain.
27. Philadelphia Zoo
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Bottom Line: Philadelphia Zoo
The Philadelphia Zoo is one of the oldest in America. It was founded in the 1870s and had nearly 1,000 animals at that time.
Today, the zoo is known for its breeding programs for animals that are typically difficult to breed in captivity, like orangutans, chimpanzees and cheetahs.
What to Expect: Philadelphia Zoo
The zoo sits on 42 acres and is now home to more than 1,300 animals. Other features of the zoo include a paddleboat lake, a children's zoo, a carousel and more.
Be sure to check out the lemurs, gorillas and gibbons.
26. Virginia Zoo
Location: Norfolk, Virginia
Bottom Line: Virginia Zoo
More than a century old, the Virginia Zoo opened in 1901 as the Lafayette Zoological Park. Today, the park sits on 53 acres and has more than 700 animals across 150 species.
Its main exhibits include the Africa-Okavango Delta, Asia-Trail of the Tiger, Australia Walkabout, North America and World of Reptiles.
What to Expect: Virginia Zoo
Get your fix of tigers, wallabies and red pandas. The zoo even has a Zoo Train that zips past the exhibits, so you can make the most of your time.
One of the zoo’s main attractions is the Animal Wellness Campus, where visitors can learn about caring for animals and rehabilitating them.
25. Dallas Zoo
Location: Dallas, Texas
Bottom Line: Dallas Zoo
Spread across more than 100 acres, the Dallas Zoo is located about three miles from downtown Dallas in Marsalis Park.
Established in 1888 with just a couple of deer and some mountain lions, the zoo has grown today to have more than 2,000 animals from more than 400 species.
What to Expect: Dallas Zoo
The major attractions at the Dallas Zoo include the Gorilla Research Center, Chimpanzee Forest, Koala Walkabout, Penguin Cove and a two-acre Endangered Tiger Habitat, where visitors can observe Malayan tigers.
While visiting the zoo, guests can hop aboard the monorail for a guided Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari, which sails past five exhibits that can only be seen from this vantage point.
24. Houston Zoo
Location: Houston, Texas
Bottom Line: Houston Zoo
Spanning more than 50 acres, the Houston Zoo is home to more than 6,000 animals across 900 species.
But more than just a wide diversity of wildlife, the Houston Zoo is known for supporting many conservation projects, both in Texas, and around the world. The zoo supports 49 wildlife conservation projects in 27 countries and is one of the most visited zoos in the U.S.
What to Expect: Houston Zoo
The zoo works with a number of endangered species, from the Texas sea turtle to the Galapagos tortoise, African lion and Bornean orangutan.
The zoo is adjoined to the Kip Aquarium, which has more than 200 marine species as well.
23. Smithsonian National Zoo
Location: Washington, D.C.
Bottom Line: Smithsonian National Zoo
Just a few miles north of downtown Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute dates back to 1889 when it was founded by former President Grover Cleveland.
Today, it remains admission-free and is heralded for its more than 2,000 animals across 400 species. In fact, about 40 of these species are on the endangered list.
What to Expect: Smithsonian National Zoo
The zoo is most famous for the giant pandas that were gifted to the U.S. from China in the 1970s. The indoor-outdoor panda habitat features multimedia learning stations about pandas and conservation initiatives.
If you can't make it in person, the zoo prides itself on its many webcams within habitats around the park. From the comfort of your couch, you can take a journey to visit pandas, lions, cheetahs, elephants and even naked mole-rats.
22. Woodland Park Zoo
Location: Seattle, Washington
Bottom Line: Woodland Park Zoo
If ever there were a zoo dreamed up by millennials, Woodland Park Zoo would be it.
Sure, the zoo has plenty of animals to see, with more than 1,100 across 300 species. But the zoo has also tailored its activities to attract kids and their hip parents, with events like the annual Brew at the Zoo beer tasting.
What to Expect: Woodland Park Zoo
The Woodland Park Zoo was founded in 1899 and attracts more than 1 million visitors each year.
During the holidays the zoo puts on its WildLights event. The summer months bring ZooTunes, a music festival and fundraiser for the zoo to support educational programs, conservation programs and animal care.
21. The Bronx Zoo
Location: Bronx, New York
Bottom Line: The Bronx Zoo
Located in the northernmost borough of New York City, the Bronx Zoo is one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the world at 265 acres.
The zoo opened in 1899 with just 22 exhibits, but today, visitors will get to experience wildlife from all seven continents, visiting more than 4,000 animals from more than 600 species.
What to Expect: The Bronx Zoo
Its most important exhibits today are the Congo Gorilla Forest, Wild Asia Monorail, Madagascar! and Tiger Mountain. The Zoo Center has Komodo dragons as well.
Families love the Nature Trek, which has a web of bridges, balancing beams and obstacles. For adults, there is also an aerial ropes course and a zipline.
20. Brookfield Zoo
Location: Brookfield, Illinois
Bottom Line: Brookfield Zoo
Brookfield Zoo is the Chicago area's largest zoo, home to 2,300 animals from 450 species across 216 acres.
The zoo first opened in 1934 and was the first zoo in America to host giant pandas. It was also the first zoo to open an indoor rainforest habitat.
What to Expect: Brookfield Zoo
Today, the zoo is famous for its penguin experience that features a talk with zookeepers. Its other notable exhibits include Big Cats, the Australia House and Fragile Desert.
During the holidays, the zoo comes alive with a splash of celebration. The Holiday Magic event includes a Community Tree Trim.
19. Fort Worth Zoo
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Bottom Line: Fort Worth Zoo
The Fort Worth Zoo has been welcoming visitors since 1909. Today, the zoo has more than 540 species across several iconic exhibits.
Travel from the African Savanna to the majestic tigers of Asia, or jump into the Australian Outback or experience Flamingo Bay.
What to Expect: Fort Worth Zoo
The zoo includes a Museum Living Art (MOLA), which takes visitors up close to the most exotic and endangered species in the world. The facility spans 30,000 square feet of space with more than 5,700 animals, including North America's largest saltwater crocodile.
For families, there is also the Texas Wild! Petting Corral, a carousel and a laser target gallery.
18. Zoo Miami
Location: Miami, Florida
Bottom Line: Zoo Miami
Its official name is the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, but everyone in the Sunshine State knows it as Zoo Miami. It's the oldest and largest zoo in Florida, having been founded in 1948 and spanning 750 acres.
Today, it has more than 3,000 animals across more than 100 exhibits.
What to Expect: Zoo Miami
What's really special about this zoo is that there are more than 3 miles of trails between each exhibit.
It's also the only subtropical zoo in the continental U.S., which means animals from Asia, Australia and Africa can comfortably live in outdoor exhibits.
17. Oklahoma City Zoo
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Bottom Line: Oklahoma City Zoo
Located in the Adventure District of Oklahoma City (could you imagine a better neighborhood for a wildlife experience?), Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden spans 119 acres and is home to more than 1,99 animals across 512 species.
What to Expect: Oklahoma City Zoo
One of its most popular exhibits is the Great EscApe exhibit, home to three outdoor yards, a waterfall, pools and a barn. These provide the playground for gorillas, orangutans and several chimpanzees. A Cat Forest/Lion Overlook contains African lions, snow leopards and tigers.
The zoo is great for families, thanks to its Children's Zoo, which offers a playscape for kids to meet goats, monkeys and flamingos.
16. Lion Country Safari
Location: Loxahatchee, Florida
Bottom Line: Lion Country Safari
Anyone who has ever dreamed of a safari drive through the African savanna is in for a real treat at Lion Country Safari in Florida. This is the only park in Florida where visitors can see more than 1,000 animals from a vehicle.
Embark on the 4-mile-long journey past animals from six continents. Highlights include lions (of course), zebras and rhinos.
What to Expect: Lion Country Safari
The 600-acre park also includes a separate walk-through Safari World, which adds an amusement park, animal presentations, a petting zoo, waterpark and more.
Guests can also sign up for Exclusive Animal Encounters, such as a painting experience with giraffes or one that involves feeding flamingos.
15. Lincoln Park Zoo
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Bottom Line: Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in America. It opened in 1868 and has changed, grown and flourished with the city around it.
The 35-acre zoo is one of the only free zoos in the country, home to more than 1,100 animals across nearly 200 species.
What to Expect: Lincoln Park Zoo
Popular animals at this zoo include polar bears, big cats, reptiles and primates, highlighted in exhibits such as the Kovler Lion House, Nature Boardwalk, Kovler Sea Lion Pool, Regenstein Center for African Apes and more.
In addition to animal exhibits, the zoo has more than 1,200 plant species, which provide habitat for birds, frogs, fish and turtles. The zoo even has a Burr Oak tree that is actually older than the city.
14. Bear Country USA
Location: Rapid City, South Dakota
Bottom Line: Bear Country USA
Tourists visit Rapid City for Mount Rushmore, but what they discover is so much more. Case in point: Bear Country USA.
This drive-through wildlife park is open from April through November and offers visitors the opportunity to encounter black bears, mountain lions, elk and reindeer, to name a few.
What to Expect: Bear Country USA
Bear Country USA has 20 species of North American mammals that freely roam the 250 acres.
A wildlife walk area has other activities as well, including everything from a gift shop and educational exhibits to face painting for kids.
13. Memphis Zoo
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Bottom Line: Memphis Zoo
In the heart of Memphis' Midtown neighborhood sits a petite-sized zoo packed with wildlife. The 70-acre zoo is teeming with primates, cats and pandas. In fact, there are more than 3,500 animals across 500 species.
The zoo was opened in April 1906 with 19 major exhibits, including Primate Canyon, Cat Country, Dragon's Lair, Zambezi River Hippo Camp and Northwest Passage. A tram makes it easy for visitors to see as many exhibits as you want across the miles of exhibits.
What to Expect: Memphis Zoo
In addition to exhibits the zoo has a long list of activities, like Wine for Rhinos and Beer for Bears.
Families love the Breakfast with the Keepers, which features talks and activities to help educate families about the lives of orangutans and gorillas.
12. Audubon Zoo
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Bottom Line: Audubon Zoo
New Orleans is known for its world-famous sites and attractions, one of which is none other than the Audubon Zoo.
One of 10 Audubon Nature Institutes in America, the Audubon Zoo has a variety of animals across many natural habitats. The zoo spans more than 58 acres and has more than 2,000 animals.
What to Expect: Audubon Zoo
One such habitat is the Louisiana Swamp exhibit. Here visitors will learn about Native American conservation techniques that were adopted by the regional Cajuns. Animals that live here include black bears, river otters, raccoons, copperheads and, of course, alligators.
Other exhibits include the Asia Exhibit, which has elephants, orangutans and a tiger, while the Jaguar Jungle has a rainforest habitat with jaguars, sloths, macaws and anteaters.
11. Cincinnati Zoo
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Bottom Line: Cincinnati Zoo
The Cincinnati Zoo has been delighting visitors since 1875. It started on just over 65 acres and has expanded to include 75.
Today, animal lovers come from all over the world to see its nearly 2,000 animals.
What to Expect: Cincinnati Zoo
The Cincinnati Zoo is one of the first zoos to develop a successful breeding program, which was the first to breed California sea lions, in addition to other endangered animals like Sumatran rhinos, Malayan tigers, Masai giraffes and South African cheetahs.
Other top activities include a Penguin Parade and a children's zoo.
10. San Diego Zoo
Location: San Diego, California
Bottom Line: San Diego Zoo
If you've heard of only one zoo in the United States, it is likely the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. Spanning 100 acres in Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo is home to more than 3,700 animals across 650 species.
What's special about the San Diego Zoo is that it was the first zoo to introduce the idea of open-air enclosures that resemble species' natural habitats.
What to Expect: San Diego Zoo
The zoo is massive, so the best way to get the full picture is to ride a guided tour bus or by taking the Skyfari gondola that offers an aerial view over most exhibits. The top attractions are Monkey Trails and Forest Tales as well as the Panda Trek, which has three giant pandas.
The San Diego Zoo also has a Safari Park, located north of the city and spanning 1,800 acres. Ride the Africa Tram or take a tour of Walkabout Australia.
9. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Bottom Line: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
What started as a private animal collection for philanthropist Spencer Penrose has evolved into the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, an animal park located just outside of Colorado Springs.
The animal park enjoys a unique location on the side of a mountain and is home to more than 30 species of endangered animals. In fact, guests can get up close and personal with many of them through activities like the giraffe-feeding experience.
What to Expect: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Visitors would be remiss to skip the Mountaineer Sky Ride, a gondola-type experience that soars over exhibits, offering a unique, bird's eye perspective.
In addition to animals, travelers can explore artifacts like the engine of the Mountaineer Train that used to shuttle guests of the historic The Broadmoor to and from the zoo.
8. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
Location: Palm Springs, California
Bottom Line: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens has been a top attraction of Palm Springs for more than five decades.
Here, visitors will find native Californian desert plants as they meander hiking trails that weave around Eisenhower Peak and the Coachella Valley.
What to Expect: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
The zoo is home to a wide variety of animals that thrive within a harsh, desert environment. Think African wild dogs, Amur leopards, wallabies, bobcats and cheetahs.
Visitors can also take part in the many attractions, like giraffe-feeding, demonstrations, private tours and a petting zoo.
7. The Wilds, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Location: Cumberland, Ohio
Bottom Line: The Wilds, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
One of the newer zoos in America, The Wilds is probably one of the most impressive. It was founded in 1984 when the Central Ohio Coal Company gave 10,000 acres of land to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Not only that, TV host Jack Hanna helped develop the land into the sprawling preserve it is today, which is an addition to the already existing zoo and aquarium.
What to Expect: The Wilds, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Today, the adults-only preserve is home to an amazing array of animals, from Banteng cows to African Painted Dogs, Bactrian camels, cheetahs, zebras, rhinos and wild horses. Visitors can book a horseback ride or a zipline safari.
For those who really want to embrace their wild side, though, adults can reserve private yurts at the Nomad Ridge camp.
6. Brevard Zoo
Location: Melbourne, Florida
Bottom Line: Brevard Zoo
About 60 miles from Orlando's world-famous theme parks is the Brevard Zoo, a family-fun animal and wildlife preserve that spreads across 75 acres.
There are more than 900 animals who call the zoo home, and the staff prides itself on animal wellness.
What to Expect: Brevard Zoo
In addition to viewing the animals, visitors can participate in educational seminars to take their knowledge deeper. Unique experiences include train rides, ziplining and giraffe feedings.
Guests can also sign up for kayak tours to see Expedition Africa's rhinoceros and lemurs.
5. Out of Africa Wildlife Park
Location: Camp Verde, Arizona
Bottom Line: Out of Africa Wildlife Park
Sedona, Arizona, has been drawing affluent and spiritual travelers for decades. But wildlife lovers have a reason to camp out in this tourism capital as well.
About 30 miles south is a 104-acre wildlife park inspired by epic African safaris.
What to Expect: Out of Africa Wildlife Park
Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Cape Verde gives visitors an animal map that helps them navigate the park's dirt roads, whether on foot or via the complimentary shuttle.
Along the way, visitors will be delighted by various experiences, from the Tiger Splash exhibit to the Predator Feed, Giant Snake Show and the African Bush Safari.
4. Safari West
Location: Santa Rosa, California
Bottom Line: Safari West
Come to Santa Rosa for the wine, but stay for the wildlife.
Santa Rosa's Safari West natural preserve brings visitors to explore the 1,000 animals from more than 90 species.
What to Expect: Safari West
Guests can sign up for a three-hour guided safari, or visitors can really immerse themselves in the experience by booking a fixed canvas tent for an overnight campout in the park.
The best part? The experience is completed with several wines from the Sonoma County region.
3. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Bottom Line: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
So much more than a zoo, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum also includes a botanical garden, natural history museum, aquarium and an art gallery.
It is a multi-disciplinary, multipurpose wildlife and culture experience and one that is not to be missed when visiting the Tucson area.
What to Expect: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The 100-acre park is known for its endangered species, like the Mexican gray wolves and thick-billed parrots, but it is also known for being nearly entirely outdoors. Eighty-five percent of the facility is outdoors, and animal habitats feature invisible fencing to give a truly seamless experience. Popular exhibits also include the Raptor Free Flight demonstration and hummingbird exhibit.
Pack comfortable shoes to walk the 2 miles of walking trails that weave in and out of 56,000 different types of plants.
2. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Location: Omaha, Nebraska
Bottom Line: Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
One of the foremost zoos for animal research and conservation, the Henry Doorly Zoo is home to an impressive 17,000 animals from 962 species.
It's praised for having the largest cat complex in North America as well as its Kingdom of the Night swamp — the largest indoor swamp in the world.
What to Expect: Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Add to those an impressive indoor rainforest and a Desert Dome, and it's possible to roam the entire world within this one Midwestern zoo.
There is even an aquarium, where visitors can get a unique perspective on marine life from the 70-foot shark tunnel. Other activities include rope bridges, a steam-powered train and a Skyfari that soars over the 160-acre park.
1. St. Louis Zoo
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Bottom Line: St. Louis Zoo
Spread over 90 acres in St. Louis' Forest Park, the Saint Louis Zoo is one of the leaders in conservation, research and education.
The zoo is teeming with wildlife, home to more than 18,700 animals that represent around 600 species. That’s why it is rated the No. 1 zoo in America from Tripadvisor users.
What to Expect: St. Louis Zoo
The zoo opened as part of the World's Fair in 1904, after which the city purchased it in order to expand it as part of the city's attractions. Some of the more popular animals include red pandas, primates, hippos and penguins. Plus, there is a 4D movie theater and railroad.
Other popular exhibits include its Caribbean Cove, which has rays, stingrays, bamboo sharks and bonehead sharks. A children's zoo has educational sections, a transparent slide through the otter pool and many other animals.