25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Weekend Getaway

There is a strong sense of commitment to protecting and preserving wild animals in the United States, and the need to involve people, especially children, in learning about the importance of all creatures for the health of our world. Zoos introduce animals to visitors, often allowing them to feed and touch animals, helping them develop a sense of responsibility for their well-being. Zoos play a crucial role in the protection and breeding of endangered and vulnerable species and are part of a worldwide network of zoos and wildlife preserves. Photo: Eric/Fotolia


»Riverbanks Zoo

Riverbanks Zoo


The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is located along Saluda River in Columbia, South Carolina. The lush 170-acre property has over 2,000 animals from 350 species living in spacious natural habitats. You’ll also find a magnificent botanic garden with formal gardens and dense woodlands overlooking the river, spectacular views of the valley, and several important historic landmarks. African Plains is a home to giraffe, ostrich and Grant's zebra. The Aquarium Reptile Complex has a 50,000-gallon tank for Pacific coral reef species, and exhibits for Komodo dragons, Galapagos tortoises, and false gharials. Ndoki Forest is home to African elephants, western lowland gorilla, De Brazza's monkey, meerkats, and many birds. The elephant enclosure has a huge pool.

500 Wildlife Pkwy, Columbia, SC 29210, Phone: 803-779-8717 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: dudlajzov/Fotolia

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»Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve

Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve


Woolaroc is a Museum & Wildlife Preserve in the Osage Hills about 12 miles southwest of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The zoo was established in 1925 on the Frank Phillips Ranch, a working ranch that has a goal of preserving the spirit of the American West. The 3,700-acre ranch is a wildlife preserve with more than 30 species of native as well as exotic animals, including elk, buffalo and longhorn cattle. Visitors can also see the Japanese Sika deer, water buffalo, North European fallow deer, llamas, Sardinian donkeys, ostriches, and pigmy goats. All animals roam freely through the vast space with open fields, woody hills, ponds, and lakes. Woolaroc is also a museum with a collection of American Indian and western art and artifacts.

1925 Woolaroc Ranch Rd, Bartlesville, OK 74003, Phone: 918-336-0307 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve

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»Alaska Zoo

Alaska Zoo


The Alaska Zoo, located on 25 acres in Anchorage, Alaska in the Anchorage Hillside, has been offering a home to and caring for injured, orphaned, and captive-born animals for more than four decades. The animals in the zoo are native to the Arctic, sub-Arctic, and other places with a similar climate. There are currently about 100 animals from 60 species of birds and mammals. Most are native Alaskan animals such as polar bears, gray wolfs, harbor seals, and some exotic animals such as Amur tigers, yaks, and Bactrian camels. Gravel trails take visitors past animal enclosures that replicate their natural settings as much as possible.

4731 O'Malley Rd, Anchorage, AK 99507, Phone: 907-346-2133 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: bigguns/Fotolia

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»Brandywine Zoo

Brandywine Zoo

Brandywine Zoo is a small zoo in Brandywine Park in Wilmington on the banks of the Brandywine River. Opened in 1905, the zoo has approximately 150 animals that live in 12 acres of natural enclosures and are mostly native to Asia and the Americas. Some of the animals in the zoo are river otters, Sandhill cranes, Andean condors, bobcats, South American llamas, capybaras, toucans, a two-toed sloth, and parrots,. There is also a small petting zoo for the kids. Brandywine Zoo is actively involved in worldwide conservation efforts to protect endangered animals such as Amur tigers, Andean condors, and lion tamarins. The zoo has also started a study of Delaware kestrel population.

1001 N Park Dr, Wilmington, DE 19802, Phone: 302-571-7747 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Vladimir Wrangel/Fotolia

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»Brevard Zoo

Brevard Zoo


Brevard Zoo is a small, 75-acre zoo in Melbourne, Florida. This incredibly naturalistic park provides home to over 650 animals from 165 species from all over the world. Visitors explore different habitats via raised boardwalks that cut through shady, lush greenery. They can also kayak through restored wetlands in the Wild Florida exhibit or through the Expedition Africa, watching animals graze on both banks. Kids can splash in the Indian River Play Lagoon and get close to various animals in the touch tank in the Paws on Play area. Or even better, you can zip above the zoo along Treetop Trek, through a South America exhibit. You can also get a giraffe to eat from your hand, invite a large, brightly colored parrot to land on your shoulder, or even pet a rhino.

8225 N Wickham Rd, Melbourne, FL 32940, Phone: 321-254-9453 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: tomswhitney/Fotolia

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»Cape May County Park & Zoo

Cape May County Park & Zoo


The Cape May Country Park & Zoo, a small 85-acre zoo in Cape May Court House, New Jersey that opened in 1978, is home to about 550 animals from 250 species. The zoo is part of the city’s Park Central and is a popular local attraction. Besides animals such as African lions, black bears, howler monkeys, cheetahs, tamarins, giraffes, zebras and many others, zoo visitors can also enjoy a trackless train that can take them all over the zoo. There is also a carousel for kids that has seats shaped like the zoo’s most popular animals.

707 Route 9 North, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210, Phone: 609-465-5271 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Michael Roush/Fotolia

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»Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo


Located on Cheyenne Mountain at 6,800 feet above sea level, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the only mountain zoo in the States. This highly respected conservation park near downtown Colorado Springs was opened in 1926. It has over 700 animals representing 170 species and is famous for the largest herd of giraffes in the world. It is also famous for its unique design that allows visitors to get very close to the animals They can feed the giraffes, watch massive grizzly bears swim with fish, enjoy the antics of red-necked Australian wallabies, ride a carousel, and go to the zoo’s summit via the Mountaineer Sky Ride.

4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906, Phone: 719-633-9925 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Richard/Fotolia

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»Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory


Como Zoo is a Saint Paul, Minnesota zoo established in 1897 with the generous donation of three deer. Today, Como has 25 animal habitats with orangutans, giraffes, gorillas, lions, tigers, and many other animals. The zoo operates together with Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in the heart of Como Park. Here, you’ll find huge anacondas, massive polar bears, zebras, amphibians living in various ponds, lemurs, and penguins. After visiting the animals, enjoy the fragrant display in the beautiful glass conservatory, or take the kids to ride the carousel or play mini golf.

1225 Estabrook Dr, St Paul, MN 55103, Phone: 651-487-8200 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Daniel Thornberg/Fotolia

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»Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Fort Wayne Children's Zoo


The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana and was opened in 1965 on 40 acres in the city’s Franke Park. The zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals organized in four distinct biomes that represent different world regions: African Journey, Australia Adventure, Central Zoo, and Indonesian Rain Forest. The zoo is world-famous for its unique and innovative animal habitats, exhibits, and beautiful grounds. The zoo’s various paths meander through misty jungles, over grassy hillsides with grazing giraffes, and through African savannahs. The zoo is also known for its community outreach and animal visits to kids’ playgrounds, various nursing homes, and the Children’s Ward at Parkview Hospital.

3411 Sherman Blvd, Fort Wayne, IN 46808, Phone: 260-427-6800 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

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»Fort Worth Zoo

Fort Worth Zoo


The Fort Worth Zoo was founded in 1909 with just one lion, an alligator, one coyote, one peacock, two bear cubs, and a few rabbits. Today the zoo is home to over 7,000 animals organized in themed habitats spread over 25 acres. The main zoo exhibits are World of Primates with a tropical jungle in the atrium, the Penguins exhibit, Asian Falls with a boardwalk from which visitors observe free moving animals, Flamingo Bay, Raptor Canyon, Meerkat Mounds, African Savannah, Australian Outback with Great Barrier Reef, Texas Wild!, Parrot Paradise (a free-flight aviary), and the Museum of Living Art.

1989 Colonial Pkwy, Fort Worth, TX 76110, Phone: 817-759-7555 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: balloondude/Fotolia

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»Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens


Located in Jacksonville, Florida on the Trout River, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is spread over 117 acres and provides home to over 2,000 animals and 1,000 plants. The zoo, called a “walking safari,” is famous for its innovative trail walk-through setup. The zoo’s main attractions are the award-winning Range of the Jaguar and the Land of the Tiger. The Land of the Tiger has two Sumatran and three Malayan tigers, babirusa pigs, Visayan warty pigs, wreathed and wrinkled hornbills, and Asian small-clawed otters. Other popular exhibits are the Plains of East Africa with animals from the African savannas; Great Apes of the World, with bonobos, gorillas, monkeys, and simians; the Australian Outback, with cassowaries, lorikeets, and kangaroos; and Wild Florida, with animals native to Florida.

370 Zoo Pkwy, Jacksonville, FL 32218, Phone: 904-757-4463 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Elsehsah/Fotolia

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»Little Rock Zoo

Little Rock Zoo


The Little Rock Zoo was founded in 1926 and started with only one retired circus bear and an abandoned wolf. It is located in Little Rock, Arkansas in the War Memorial Park. Today it stretches across 33 acres and is home to about 725 animals from 200 species. The animals are separated into areas according to their natural environment, diet, or species, and exhibits are designed to mimic animals’ natural habitats as much as possible. One of the most popular exhibits is Great Apes, a grassy, tree-shaded area in which visitors observe animals from a suspended walkway. In Lorikeet Landing, you can feed free-flying birds in a large space enclosed by a net. Arkansas Heritage Farm introduces life on a farm to children and has a barn, chicken yard, a barn house, and all kinds of animals that you would normally see on a farm.

1 Zoo Dr, Little Rock, AR 72205, Phone: 501-666-2406 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Little Rock Zoo

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»Living Desert Zoo

Living Desert Zoo


Living Desert Zoo & Gardens is located in Palm Desert, California. The 1000-acre gardens are part of the Sonoran Desert of the Coachella Valley, spread throughout the foothills of Santa Rosa Mountains. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is dedicated to the deserts of the world, and it provides environmental education, rehabilitation of the native wildlife, native plant propagation, habitat restoration, and captive breeding of the species native to the Sonoran Desert and African deserts. One of the iconic species they work with is the desert bighorn sheep. Some of the animals that can be observed in the zoo are kit foxes, tortoises, lizards, giraffes, Mexican wolves, Amur leopards, African wild dogs, and many others.

47900 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260, Phone: 760-346-5694 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Living Desert Zoo

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»Louisville Zoo

Louisville Zoo


The Louisville Zoological Gardens is a 134-acre facility in Louisville, Kentucky in the Poplar Level neighborhood. The zoo has about 1,700 animals that live in naturalistic habitats and exhibits that have mixed species representing different geographical areas as well as diverse habitats. The zoo has six zones: Africa, the Islands, Glacier Run, South America, Australia, and HerpAquarium. The most popular exhibit is award-winning Gorilla Forest, a four-acre circular sanctuary with eleven western lowland gorillas, two pygmy hippopotamus, and five patas monkeys. Visitors are separated from animals by glass only, allowing them to get very close. There are several vantage points that allow visitors to observe the gorillas playing.

1100 Trevilian Way, Louisville, KY 40213, Phone: 502-459-2181 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: nm737/Fotolia

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»Lowry Park Zoo

Lowry Park Zoo


Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is a 63-acre animal park with about 1,300 wild animals living in naturalistic, beautiful habitats that are as close to their native environments as possible. In recognition of the zoo’s efforts, the state of Florida has formally recognized the establishment as a center for wildlife conservation and biodiversity. The zoo’s Asian Gardens are home to Indian rhinoceros, clouded leopards, Malayan tigers, Komodo dragons, and other animals. The Florida Wildlife Center is home to North American and Central American species such as striped skunks, Orinoco crocodiles, black bears, red wolves, and West Indian manatees. Primates like chimpanzees, siamang gibbons, and Bornean orangutans live in lush habitats connected by waterways and rocky waterfalls. You can explore Safari Africa from a safari tram that provides unique view of animals such as reticulated giraffes, African elephants, zebras, and southern white rhinoceroses.

1101 W Sligh Ave, Tampa, FL 33604, Phone: 813-935-8552 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Lowry Park Zoo

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»Plumpton Park Zoo

Plumpton Park Zoo


The Plumpton Park Zoo is located in a small town of Rising Sun, Maryland just off Route 273, and it is part of the Mason and Dixon Scenic Byway. This small local zoo opened in 1985 and is privately owned. It is home to about 127 animals belonging to 60 different species. The property is also the location of the Mill Site and Jeremiah Brown House, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The zoo is popular among local school kids who come to see Jimmie the giraffe, Zoe the zebra, Louie the black bear, Alexis and Miracle the Siberian tigers, and a bunch of colorful peacocks showing off their lush plumage. The zoo has a nice snack bar and a shady rest area.

1416 Telegraph Rd, Rising Sun, MD 21911, Phone: 410-658-6850 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Plumpton Park Zoo

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»Roer's Zoofari

Roer's Zoofari


Roer's Zoofari is a family zoo in Reston, Virginia spread over 30 acres of lush parkland. It contains a number of wild animals as well as domestic animals in a petting barn. An open-air bus shuttles you around the zoo while a guide tells stories about animals such as ostriches, camels, lambs, monkeys, ducks, zebras, goats, horses, buffaloes, alligators, llamas, watsui, and emus. There is also a small reptile house and a free-flying aviary. Visitors can hand-feed camels and llamas, bottle-feed lambs, and take pony rides.

1228 Hunter Mill Rd, Vienna, VA 22182, Phone: 703-757-6222 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Roer’s Zoofari

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»Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo


What started in 1989 as Zooland Animal Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama is today a seven-acre home to over 500 animals such as lions, tigers, primates, bears, leopards, wolves, and many others. Visitors stroll along wide paths between the reptile house, aviary, a petting zoo, a shaded picnic area, and a gift shop. There are animal shows, keeper talks, and hands-on visits to kangaroos and other animals. Kids can cuddle baby red kangaroos, play with four red ruffed lemurs, touch giant boa constrictors, watch slow, sleepy sloths, and learn about other wild animals (many of them endangered and rare) in their natural environment. There is always something interesting happening in the Gulf Coast Zoo.

1204 Gulf Shores Pkwy, Gulf Shores, AL 36542, Phone: 251-968-5731 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: elvan74/Fotolia

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»Roosevelt Park Zoo

Roosevelt Park Zoo


The Roosevelt Park Zoo is located in Minot, North Dakota. It started modestly in 1920 featuring only the American Bison. Today the zoo is a 20-acre home to over 200 birds, mammals, and reptiles representing 80 species from all over the world. The zoo has the only reticulated giraffes and African Black Footed penguins in North Dakota. A favorite exhibit features the red panda, and visitors spend hours watching this charming animal climbing around its enclosure. The zoo also has a children's zoo, giraffes, an otter exhibit, the Japanese serow, and African penguins. Visitors can have a close encounter with giraffes and pelicans and hand-feed them.

1219 E Burdick Expy, Minot, ND 58701, Phone: 701-857-4166 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Roosevelt Park Zoo

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»Santa Barbara Zoo

Santa Barbara Zoo


The Santa Barbara Zoo is located on 30 acres near the ocean in Santa Barbara, California, and it is considered to be one of the best small zoos in the States. Opened in 1963, the zoo today has 600 animals representing 160 species living in natural habitats, including California condors, capybaras, and a giraffe with a crooked neck. The Cats of Africa exhibit features black-footed cats and African lions and can be observed from a raised platform. The Forest's Edge exhibit features two male western lowland gorillas. Visitors can observe them through a glass wall or an overlook designed to look like a ranger station. California Trails exhibits the Channel Island fox, California condors, bald eagles, and desert tortoises. African Veldt is home to Masai giraffes, Sulcata tortoises, East African crowned cranes, and slender-tailed meerkats.

500 Ninos Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, Phone: 805-962-5339 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: lightpoet/Fotolia

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»Sedgwick County Zoo

Sedgwick County Zoo


The Sedgwick County Zoo was opened in 1971 in Wichita, Kansas on 100 acres of land. Today the zoo has 2,500 animals representing almost 500 different species and is widely respected for its educational and conservation programs and breeding of endangered and rare species. Animals in the zoo are organized by their continents of origin. One of the most popular exhibits is Downing Gorilla Forest, with a replica of a small Congo village with De Brazza's and colobus monkeys and pink-backed and white pelicans. The main attraction, however, is a spacious gorilla exhibit. The Pride of the Plains exhibit is designed like a kopje with large boulders and a path that passes by exhibits of red river hogs, lions, and meerkats.

5555 W Zoo Blvd, Wichita, KS 67212, Phone: 316-660-9453 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Joe Montiel/Fotolia

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»Tautphaus Park Zoo

Tautphaus Park Zoo


Idaho Falls Zoo in Tautphaus Park was opened in 1935 and today has a collection of more than 330 animals representing 120 species from all over the world. The exhibits are organized by continents of the animals’ origin. Africa exhibit is home to lions, zebras, penguins, lemurs, and other animals. The Asian exhibit, called Asian Adventure, has a number of endangered animals such as sloth bears, snow leopards, and red-crowned cranes. The Australia and New Guinea exhibit has laughing kookaburra, singing dogs, and wallabies, while the North American exhibit has pelicans, golden eagles, otters, and many other animals. The South American exhibit has a wide range of animals, from macaws to flamingos. Kids can have fun in a petting zoo with pigs, sheep, and goats.

2725 Carnival Way, Idaho Falls, ID 83402, Phone: 208-612-8422 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: palino666/Fotolia

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»Toledo Zoo

Toledo Zoo


Toledo Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country, was established in 1900 as the Toledo Zoological Gardens with the donation of one woodchuck. Today, the zoo is one of the best in the country and provides a home to 4,800 animals representing 700 species. The zoo is known for its conservation efforts and its participation in more than 30 species survival plans. The zoo’s Africa exhibit has free-roaming animals such as the Grant's zebra, East African crowned cranes, helmeted guineafowl, Masai giraffe, ostrich, impala, watusi cattle, and wildebeest. Visitors can observe animals aboard of the Safari Railway or an observation deck. The Arctic Encounter includes two waterfalls and seven streams where visitors can observe wolves, gray and harbor seals and polar bears. The 178,000-gallon aquarium is home to over 3,000 aquatic animals, including sharks and stingrays.

2 Hippo Way, Toledo, OH 43609, Phone: 419-385-4040 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Sharon Keating/Fotolia

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»Blank Park Zoo

Blank Park Zoo


Blank Park Zoo is located on 25 acres on the south side of Des Moines near historic Fort Des Moines. Opened in 1966, Blank Park Zoo is the only Iowa accredited zoo and is home to 1,484 animals from 104 different species. The zoo is organized in zoogeographic areas and has naturally landscaped animal enclosures. The main zoo exhibits are the Meredith Alpine Exhibit with red pandas, the Cave with the zoo’s nocturnal animals and reptiles, the Free Range Aviary with tropical forest birds, and the African Boardwalk. Visitors can also enjoy train rides, a petting zoo, a carousel, and more.

7401 SW 9th St, Des Moines, IA 50315, Phone: 515-285-4722 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Jessica Blanc/Fotolia

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»Big Bear Alpine Zoo

Big Bear Alpine Zoo


The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is located in Big Bear Lake, California just across the street from Bear Mountain Ski Resort. The zoo rehabilitates orphaned, injured, and imprinted wild animals that stay in the zoo temporarily to heal and recover. They only stay permanently if they are not able to survive in the wild on their own. About 90 percent of the animals that come to the zoo for rehabilitation are eventually released into their native environment. The animals that visitors see on exhibit in the zoo are those that could not be released because they were too injured or have learned to depend on humans for their care. Besides big bears, the zoo takes care of mountain lions, mule deer, arctic foxes, and many other animals.

43285 Goldmine Dr, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, Phone: 909-584-1299 25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation - Photo: Vasil/Fotolia

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25 Best Zoos to Visit on Your Family Vacation