25 Best Big City Zoos

Almost every large American metropolitan center has a zoo. Some are massive like Bronx Zoo and others are small like Cincinnati Zoo; some are private like Phoenix Zoo while others are public; some are free like Lincoln Park Zoo and others charge admission. All of them bear witness to America's love of animals, both native and exotic. Photo: iBird/Fotolia


»Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo


Located in Bronx Park in New York City, with the Bronx River flowing through it, Bronx Zoo is the biggest metropolitan zoo in the world. Densely forested with savannas, the river, and parks in addition to the sounds of wild animals, it is easy to forget that you are in the heart of New York City. The zoo occupies 265 acres of land in which over 4,000 animals from more than 600 species live in spacious and naturalistic habitats. The zoo opened its doors in 1899 with 843 animals spread over 22 exhibits and is today managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Some of the most important exhibits today are the Congo Gorilla Forest, Wild Asia Monorail, JungleWorld, Madagascar!, African Plains, and Tiger Mountain. Kids will love the daily sea lion and penguin feedings.

2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10460, Phone: 718-220-5100 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: viii/Fotolia

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»Denver Zoo

Denver Zoo


Denver Zoo was established in 1896 with the donation of one American black bear. This 80-acre facility is located in Denver's City Park and today provides home to 4,125 animals from 613 species. It was the first American zoo to have naturalistic habitats for animals instead of cages and bars. The first zoo bear triggered the construction of Bear Mountain, which was followed by Primate Panorama, consisting of enormous open tents made of mesh where animals can move freely. The zoo supports over 600 research and conservation projects in around 60 countries. One of the most popular activities is Close Animal Encounters – visitors get to go backstage and meet animals such as elephants, gorillas, birds, snakes, and many others and learn stories about their lives from their keepers.

2300 Steele St, Denver, CO 80205, Phone: 720-337-1400 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: FrederickRM/Fotolia

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»Best Zoos in America: Cincinnati Zoo

Best Zoos in America: Cincinnati Zoo


Opened in 1875 in Cincinnati's Avondale neighborhood, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is one of the oldest zoos in the States. It started with 65.4 acres in the heart of the city and has since been extended to 75 acres. It offers a home to 1,896 animals from 500 species. The zoo has a successful breeding program and was the first to breed California sea lions, but it also breeds a number of other endangered animals such as South African cheetahs, Sumatran rhinoceros, western lowland gorillas, Malayan tigers, Masai giraffes, and pottos. The last living passenger pigeon, named Martha, spent her last days in Cincinnati Zoo. The latest zoo attraction is a baby hippo named Fiona, born in January 2017, the first hippo born at Cincinnati Zoo in 75 years. What is the best zoo in the U.S.? Keep reading to see the full list.

3400 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH 45220, Phone: 513-281-4700 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: halbrindley4/Fotolia

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»Pittsburgh Zoo

Pittsburgh Zoo

Pittsburgh Zoo is a 77-acre zoo and aquarium located in Pittsburgh's Highland Park. It is one of very few zoo/aquarium combinations in the country. The zoo is home to over 4,000 animals from 475 species, whereby 20 of them are listed as threatened. The Pittsburgh Zoo is separated into seven thematic sections. Kid's Kingdom contains a number of interactive and participative exhibits, such as the meerkat exhibit – kids crawl through tunnels to get a feel of what it is like to be a meerkat or any other burrowing animal. The Asian Forest contains species from Eastern and Southeast Asia, such as Amur leopards, snow leopards, Amur tigers, Komodo dragons, and red pandas. PPG Aquarium is a two-story 45,000-square-foot aquarium with several aquatic habitats. The Tropical Forest is an indoor rainforest mostly hosting primates, with 16 species of monkeys, lemurs, gibbons, gorillas, and orangutans.

1 Wild Pl, Pittsburgh, PA 15206-1176, Phone: 412-665-3640 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: jamie/Fotolia

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»Dallas Zoo

Dallas Zoo


Dallas Zoo is a 106-acre zoo located about 3 miles from downtown Dallas in Marsalis Park. The zoo was established in 1888 with two deer and two mountain lions and is the largest and oldest zoo in Texas. It provides home to more than 2,000 animals from 406 species. The major exhibits are the Gorilla Research Center, Chimpanzee Forest, Koala Walkabout, Penguin Cove, Giants of the Savanna, and the Endangered Tiger Habitat, a 2-acre habitat that has been designed to look like a re-growing logged forest. Visitors can observe Malayan tigers and Sumatran tigers through a glass viewing area and there are numerous pathways through the sunny and shaded areas with shallow pools, deep channels, running streams, rocks, and climbing trees.

650 S R.L. Thornton Fwy, Dallas, TX 75203, Phone: 469-554-7500 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Morgan/Fotolia

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»Best Zoos in the U.S.: Brookfield Zoo

Best Zoos in the U.S.: Brookfield Zoo


Brookfield Zoo, Chicago's largest zoo, opened its doors in 1934 and today offers a home to 2,300 animals from 450 species that enjoy naturalistic habitats spread over 216 acres. The zoo is famous for using ditches and moats instead of cages to protect both animals and visitors. It is the first American zoo to have giant pandas and the first to offer an indoor dolphin exhibit. In 1980, Brookfield Zoo opened the first indoor rainforest habitat as well as the world's largest indoor exhibit. The most famous exhibits are Australia House, Feathers and Scales, Big Cats, Fragile Desert, Clouded Leopard Rainforest, among many others. The zoo offers many activities, such as zoo camps and backstage adventures.

8400 W 31st St, Brookfield, IL 60513, Phone: 708-688-8000 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: David Smith/Fotolia

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»Henry Doorly Zoo

Henry Doorly Zoo


Omaha's a href="http://vacationidea.com/attractions/henry-doorly-zoo-and-aquarium.html">Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is a zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, proclaimed by TripAdvisor as the "world's best zoo." The zoo is renowned for its work in animal research and conservation. Established in 1894, today the zoo provides home to over 17,000 animals from 962 species. The zoo has the biggest cat complex in North America. Kingdom of the Night is the largest indoor swamp and nocturnal exhibit in the world, while the Lied Jungle is one of the largest world's indoor rainforests. Desert Dome, located under a giant glazed geodesic dome, is one of the biggest indoor deserts in the world. The zoo's newest resident is a baby giraffe, born in May 2017.

3701 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68108, Phone: 402-733-8401 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Henry Doorly Zoo

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»Top zoos in the US: Houston Zoo

Top zoos in the US: Houston Zoo


The Houston Zoo is a 55-acre zoo located in Hermann Park in Houston, and is home to more than 6,000 animals representing more than 900 species. The zoo is famous for supporting a number of conservation projects that work towards the survival of endangered wildlife and threatened habitats, in Texas and all over the world. Some of the endangered species the zoo works with are the Texas sea turtle, gorilla, Attwater's prairie chicken, Galapagos tortoise, elephant, African lion, Bornean orangutan, clouded leopard, and many others. Stroll through the incredibly realistic African Forest and see chimpanzees, rhinos, Masai giraffes, ostriches, and zebras, separated only by a glass wall. Visit the massive Kip Aquarium with more than 200 marine species, including rescued sea turtles. The Carnivores exhibit is home to African lions, African painted dogs, Malayan tigers, jaguar, and the rare maned wolf.

6200 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, TX 77030, Phone: 713-533-6500 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Paul Wolf/Fotolia

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»Kansas City Zoo

Kansas City Zoo


Founded in 1909, Kansas City Zoo is a 202-acre zoo located in Swope Park in Kansas City, Missouri. The zoo provides a home to over 1,300 animals and is considered one of the best zoos in America, due in particular to its 95-acre African animals exhibits, Australian animals exhibits, the exhibit titled Pachyderms: Elephants, Rhinos, Hippos as well as the kangaroo and chimpanzee exhibits. The zoo is divided into five zones: Australia, Africa, Tiger Trail, The Valley, and the KidZone. Stroll through the incredibly realistic Orangutan Canopy and learn from the keepers about the lives of orangutans and how they keep them busy and healthy, or visit fascinating Helzberg Penguin Plaza and watch these playful penguins above and under water.

6800 Zoo Dr, Kansas City, MO 64132, Phone: 816-595-1234 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Melanie Hoffman/Fotolia

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»Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo


Founded in 1868, Lincoln Park Zoo is one the oldest North American zoos. This 35-acre zoo in Chicago's Lincoln Park is one of very few American zoos with free admission. The zoo is home to over 1,100 animals representing almost 200 species. The zoo's realistic exhibits include polar bears, big cats, gorillas, penguins, reptiles, monkeys, and many other wild animals. In the heart of the zoo is a burr oak tree that is older than Chicago itself. Some of the most popular exhibits are Farm-in-the-Zoo, Kovler Lion House, Helen Brach Primate House, Nature Boardwalk, Kovler Sea Lion Pool, Pritzker Family Children's Zoo, McCormick Bird House, Regenstein Center for African Apes, Regenstein African Journey, and Regenstein Small Mammal–Reptile House. Some of the babies born recently at the zoo are a Grévy's zebra, three baby snow monkeys, and a baby Bactrian camel.

2001 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614-4757, Phone: 312-742-2000 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: colleen7/Fotolia

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»Best Zoos in the U.S.: Memphis Zoo

Best Zoos in the U.S.: Memphis Zoo


Memphis Zoo, located in Overton Park in the heart of Memphis, provides home to more than 3,500 animals from over 500 species. The zoo was established in April 1906 on 76 acres, but only about 55 acres have been developed so far. The zoo is divided into three zones and has 19 major exhibits. The zoo's animals live in enclosures that mimic their natural habitats. Some of the most popular exhibits are Once Upon A Farm, Primate Canyon, Cat Country, Dragon's Lair, Tropical Bird House, Animals of the Night, Herpetarium, African Veldt, Aquarium, China, Zambezi River Hippo Camp, Teton Trek, and Northwest Passage. To see all the exhibits, visitors could walk for miles but there is also a tram that provides guided tours. The latest addition to the zoo is Winnie the baby hippo, born in March 2017.

2000 Prentiss Pl, Memphis, TN 38112, Phone: 901-333-6500 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Memphis Zoo

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»Top zoos in the US: Minnesota Zoo

Top zoos in the US: Minnesota Zoo


Minnesota Zoo is located in Apple Valley, Minnesota, and was opened in 1978. The zoo was one of the first world zoos organized by habitat, where different animals live together instead of separating them by species. In 2012 the zoo had 2,351 animals belonging to 447 species. The zoo is divided into six thematic areas with three walking trails that are 1 to 2 miles long. Trails are thematic and include the Medtronic Minnesota Trail, which features Minnesota's native animals, the Northern Trail, with animals that live above the 45th parallel, the Tropics Trail, with animals from the tropics, Discovery Bay, a marine activity area, Russia's Grizzly Coast, featuring wild animals from the Kamchatka Peninsula and Russia's Far East, and the Wells Fargo Family Farm.

13000 Zoo Blvd, Apple Valley, MN 55124-8199, Phone: 952-432-9000 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: stevengaertner/Fotolia

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»National Zoo

National Zoo


The National Zoological Park, or the National Zoo, was founded in 1889 and is one of the oldest American zoos. Located in Washington, D.C., the zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institution and is one of the few zoos that have free admission. The zoo is home to about 2,000 animals that represent 400 species. About 40 of them are on the endangered list. Besides the Washington, D.C., campus, the zoo has a second campus in Front Royal, Virginia. The most charismatic zoo residents are the giant pandas, but the zoo also provides a home for great apes, birds, big cats, insects, Asian elephants, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, aquatic animals, and others. Some of the major habitats are Giant Panda, Elephant Trail, Asia Trail, Lemur Island, the Great Ape House, Think Tank, and others.

3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, Phone: 202-633-4888 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: pzphotos/Fotolia

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»Oakland Zoo

Oakland Zoo


Oakland Zoo is a 100-acre zoo located in Oakland, California, where most of the 660 animals live in habitats that mimic those in nature. One great example is the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children's Zoo, which provides state-of-the-art enclosures for animals as well as interactive exhibits and play areas for children. The kids have the opportunity to see and learn about ring-tailed lemurs, Aldabra tortoises, goats, sheep, river otters, American alligators, pot-bellied pigs, bats, and Old World rabbits and a lot of bugs in the Bug Room. Visitors can reach one of the zoo's major exhibits, California Trail, by riding a new aerial gondola from the old part of the zoo. California Trail is home to bald eagles, California condors, grizzly bears, mountain lions, grey wolves, black bears, jaguars, and American bison.

9777 Golf Links Rd, Oakland, CA 94605, Phone: 510-632-9525 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Richard/Fotolia

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»Oklahoma City Zoo

Oklahoma City Zoo


Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is a zoo in the Adventure District in northeast Oklahoma City, spread over 119 acres and providing home to over 1,900 animals belonging to 512 species. The animals are divided into habitats and are not separated by species. The Great EscApe exhibit, a tropical paradise with three outdoor yards, a waterfall, pools, and a barn, is home to two troops of gorillas, a family of orangutans, and a large community of chimps. The 4-acre Cat Forest/Lion Overlook is home to African lions, snow leopards, and tigers. Oklahoma Trails houses animals that live in Oklahoma, such alligators, black bears, beavers, snakes, bats, owls, and skunks. The Aquaticus exhibit features over 1,500 aquatic animals, including California sea lions. The Children's Zoo is a place for kids to play, explore, and meet animals such as goats, monkeys, and flamingos.

2000 Remington Pl, Oklahoma City, OK 73111, Phone: 405-424-33 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Oklahoma City Zoo

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»Oregon Zoo

Oregon Zoo


Opened in 1888, Oregon Zoo is a 64-acre zoo located in Portland's Washington Park, in the heart of the city. It is home to 1,800 animals that represent 232 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and invertebrates. Nine of them belong to endangered species and a further nine are threatened. The zoo is actively participating in 63 Species Survival Plans. The zoo is also a botanical garden featuring native plants of the temperate rainforests of the American Pacific Northwest. There are also over 1,000 exotic plants, such as firebird heliconia, ground orchid, and pelican flower. The Great Northwest exhibit is home to animals from the western part of the Pacific Northwest and includes individual habitats such as Black Bear Ridge, Cascade Stream and Pond, Eagle Canyon, Cougar Crossing, Trillium Creek Family Farm, Cascade Crest, and Steller Cove.

4001 Southwest Canyon Road, Portland, OR 97221, Phone: 503-226-1561 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: pngstudio/Fotolia

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»Best Zoos in the U.S.: Philadelphia Zoo

Best Zoos in the U.S.: Philadelphia Zoo


Philadelphia Zoo is one of the oldest real zoos in America, established in 1874 with almost 1,000 animals on the banks of the Schuylkill River, in Philadelphia's Centennial District. The zoo is world renowned for its breeding program of animals normally difficult to breed in captivity. The first orangutan, chimpanzee, and cheetah born in captivity were born here. The zoo is spread over 42 acres and provides a home to over 1,300 animals, many rare and endangered. The zoo has a large number of exhibits with diverse animal habitats as well as a children's zoo, a rainforest-themed carousel, a paddleboat lake, and many other educational and interactive exhibits. Some of the new babies born at the zoo are the western lowland gorilla, ring-tailed lemur, white-handed gibbon, and aye-aye.

3400 W Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19104-1196, Phone: 215-243-1100 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Oleg Fedorkin/Fotolia

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»Phoenix Zoo

Phoenix Zoo


Founded by Robert Maytag in 1962, Phoenix Zoo is the biggest non-profit privately owned zoo in the States. Located in Papago Park, the zoo has more than 1,400 animals and contains 2.5 miles of walking trails that stretch between four thematic areas: The Arizona Trail with plants and animals from the American Southwest, the Africa Trail with African habitats and animals, the Tropics Trail, which is a rainforest with its associated species, and the Children's Trail with a petting zoo. One of the zoo's most successful conservation projects was Operation Oryx, which eventually permitted the reintroduction of the Arabian oryx into the wild after they had been on the brink of extinction.

455 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008-3431, Phone: 602-286-3800 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Bob/Fotolia

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»Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium


The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a 234-hectare zoo located near Powell, north of Columbus, Ohio, on the banks of the Scioto River's O'Shaughnessy Reservoir. Considered one of the best zoos in the country, Columbus Zoo provides home to over 7,000 animals from more than 800 species. The exhibits are organized by the world regions. There are currently eight regions, the 18-hole Safari Golf Club, Zoombezi Bay, and Jungle Jack's Landing. The most popular exhibits are North America, Asia Quest, Heart of Africa, Polar Frontier, Shores & Aquarium, Congo Expedition, and Australia and the Islands. The latest additions to the zoo are three polar bear cubs, born in November 2016.

4850 Powell Rd, Powell, OH 43065, Phone: 614-645-3400 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Oksana Ariskina/Fotolia

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»Saint Louis Zoo

Saint Louis Zoo


Saint Louis Zoological Park or St. Louis Zoo is located on 90 acres in Forest Park in St. Louis. The zoo is highly respected for its leadership in animal management, conservation, research, and education. The zoo is home to 18,700 animals representing about 600 species. The zoo's first exhibit was a walk-through bird cage that the Smithsonian Institution built for the World's Fair held in Saint Louis in 1904. Instead of dismantling it after the fair, the City of Saint Louis purchased it and used it as a core exhibit for the future zoo. The zoo has a number of thematic exhibits, such as Caribbean Cove, a shallow pool with cownose rays, stingrays, bamboo sharks, and bonnethead sharks. River's Edge exhibits animals that live on the edge of rivers on four continents. The Children's Zoo offers a combination of play and educational features, such as the transparent slide through the otter pool, with many birds, frogs, snakes, and other animals.

1 Government Dr, Saint Louis, MO 63110-1332, Phone: 314-781-0900 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Alfred/Fotolia

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»San Antonio Zoo

San Antonio Zoo


San Antonio Zoo is located in the heart of San Antonio, in the city's Brackenridge Park. The zoo spreads over 35 acres and is home to more than 3,500 animals belonging to 750 species. The Richard Friedrich Aquarium, opened in 1948, was the city's only aquarium until SeaWorld San Antonio opened its doors in 1988. The zoo is actively involved in breeding a range of endangered species, such as the leopard, black rhino, golden lion tamarin, African lion, Komodo dragon, and others. One of the zoo's main exhibits is Africa Live!, which includes hippopotamus, Nile crocodile, Angola colobus, okapi, rock hyrax, African wild dog, Wolf's mona monkey, and many species of birds. Cat Grotto is a cave-like area with a fishing cat, clouded leopards, black-footed cats, and a caracal.

3903 N. Saint Marys St, San Antonio, TX78212-3199, Phone: 210-734-7184 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Justin/Fotolia

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»Best Zoos in America: San Diego Zoo

Best Zoos in America: San Diego Zoo


San Diego Zoo is a 100-acre zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego, and is home to more than 3,700 wild animals belonging to over 650 species. The zoo was the first zoo to introduce the concept of cageless, open-air animal enclosures that mimic animals' native habitats. It is also one of the very few zoos in the world to successfully breed giant pandas. The best way to see this large zoo is by riding a guided tour bus or by taking a Skyfari, an overhead gondola that offers spectacular views of the zoo. The major zoo exhibits are Monkey Trails and Forest Tales, with monkeys and other animals from the rainforests of Africa and Asia; the Owens Rain Forest Aviary, with more than 200 tropical birds; and Panda Trek, with three giant pandas: Bai Yun, Gao Gao, and Xiao Liwu, who are on loan from China. Six baby pandas were born in San Diego Zoo and now live in their natural habitat in China.

2929 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-231-0249 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: Reset728/Fotolia

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»San Francisco Zoo

San Francisco Zoo

The San Francisco Zoo is a 100-acre zoo located in San Francisco between Lake Merced and the Pacific Ocean. The zoo was established in 1929 and today provides a home to over 1,000 wild animals belonging to 250 species. The zoo's most famous animals are Koko the gorilla, who was born in the zoo, and Elly, the oldest black rhinoceros in North America. The major exhibits are African Savannah with reticulated giraffes, Grant's zebras, ostriches, greater kudus, and others; the Primate Discovery Center with black howler monkeys, chimpanzees, macaques, mandrills, siamangs, black lemurs, and others; Cat Kingdom with Indian rhinoceros, hippopotamus, African lions, snow leopards, Sumatran tigers, anacondas, and others. Peafowl can be seen all over the zoo as they are allowed to roam freely.

Sloat Boulevard at 45th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132, Phone: 415-753-7080 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: hakoar/Fotolia

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»Audubon Zoo

Audubon Zoo

Audubon Zoo is located in New Orleans in Audubon Park on the bank of the Mississippi River. It is part of the Audubon Nature Institute and was founded in 1914. It spreads over 58 acres and provides a home to more than 2,000 animals. Some of the major exhibits are: The Swamp Exhibit, an outdoor habitat with animals native to Louisiana such as black bears, river otters, raccoons, cottonmouth, colubrids, copperheads, and alligators; Reptile Encounter, which is home to the Komodo dragon, the beaded lizard, green anaconda, Gila monster, rattlesnake, reticulated python, Gaboon viper, caiman, and others; the Asia Exhibit features elephants, orangutans, and a tiger; Jaguar Jungle recreates the rainforests of South America with Mayan ruins, jaguars, sloths, spider monkeys, macaws, and anteaters.

6500 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70118-4848, Phone: 504-581-4629 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: vit fotography/Fotolia

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»Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami

The Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, better known as Zoo Miami, is the oldest and largest zoological garden in Florida. The750-acre zoo was established in 1948 at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne and relocated to the former Richmond Naval Air Station in southwest Miami in 1980. It is the only tropical zoo in the continental United States and is home to more than 3,000 animals spread across more than 100 exhibits. There are over 3 miles of trails and paths between the exhibits. The major exhibits are Florida: Mission Everglades, with native fauna and flora of the Everglades region; Asian Riverlife Experience, home to an Indian rhinoceros; and Amazon and Beyond, which has several habitats with animals from South and Central America.

12400 SW 152nd St, Miami, FL 33177, Phone: 305-251-0400 25 Best Zoos in the United States - Photo: PCW/Fotolia

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25 Best Zoos in the United States