The Knoxville Zoo is often regarded as one of the premiere zoos in the entire southeast. Located in Knoxville, Tennessee, the Knoxville Zoo is known for their expansive habitats, exhibits, and educational opportunities. Photo: Francisco Rama/Fotolia



The Knoxville Zoo was created in an unusual and unlikely way. The Zoo’s history starts in 1923 when an initiative began to create a park for the lower income children in Knoxville. This initiative as boosted by a Birthday Fund that was collected by children of various ages. Although progress was initially slow, a small plot was purchased in Chilhowee Park in 1935. Originally known as the Birthday Park, the four acres of land was used as a small playground that had a stone shelter and a small wading pool. The Birthday Park eventually became neglected and was even vandalized. This caused the Birthday Park to eventually close in 1946.

Two years after the Birthday Park closed, the News Sentinel created an initiative to reopen the Birthday Park, but this time as a zoo. The News Sentinel utilized a small amount of funds that was from the 1923 fund, and eventually opened the Birthday Park Zoo. A few years after the Birthday Park Zoo opened, the City of Knoxville acquired the zoo and changed the name to the simple Municipal Zoo.

Since the Municipal Zoo was in fact a zoo, the city had to acquire animals. The first attraction at the Municipal Zoo was Al the alligator. Al was donated by a local family, the Hauk family, who brought him back from a vacation in Florida. The 4,000 guests who visited Al on his first day at the Zoo proved to the city the Zoo would be a success.

After acquiring various animals throughout the years, the Municipal Zoo ran into a conflict when they acquired a seven-ton bull elephant known as Old Diamond. Old Diamond, also known as Louie, was originally owned by the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, but was donated to the Municipal Zoo in 1963. The Zoo was obviously unprepared to take care of an animal as large and dependent as Old Diamond, as on his arrival, he tore up his habitat.

The unprecedented damage from Old Diamond proved to be a wakeup call for the Municipal Zoo, as they realize they needed a better facility. But, the Zoo lacked the proper funds to build a new facility. Just when the Zoo was about to close down, Guy Lincoln Smith III created a plan to save it. Smith and his wife Patty purchased Joshua, a lion cub. They raised Joshua until they acquired enough money that would provide the Zoo with enough money to build Joshua a proper facility. As the Smith’s carried out this plan, Dr. Bill Patterson simultaneously created the Appalachian Zoological Society. Together, both of these efforts created the Knoxville Zoo, which opened in 1971. Things to Do in Knoxville, Tennessee: Knoxville Zoo - Photo: Ganesh Namasivayam/Fotolia

Weekend Getaways, Attractions, Beaches and Free things to do near me: CA, NY, From NYC, LA, SF, Romantic Getaways in Ohio, TX, FL, PA, Weekend Getaways in Florida, CO, SC, TX, Tennessee Vacations, NC, Romantic, NJ, Anniversary, Weekend Getaways in California, DC, Seattle, San Diego, Sanibel Island, AZ, Denver, SC, Dallas, Seattle, Poconos Vacations, NC, New Orleans, NJ



The Knoxville Zoo has approximately 800 animals spread across its 53 acres of land. Below is a list of the habitats within the Knoxville Zoo:

• Black Bear Falls

• Central American Birds

• Chimp Ridge

• Clayton Family Kids Cove

• Gorilla Valley

• Grasslands Africa

• Reptiles

• River Otter

• The Boyd Family Red Panda Village

• Valley of the Kings Things to Do in Knoxville, Tennessee: Knoxville Zoo - Photo: Alexander/Fotolia

Romantic Getaway, Places to Visit, things to do with kids near me & beaches near me: OC, Tampa, FL beaches, Orlando, Montauk, FL, GA, PA, LA, LA, OK, IA, AZ, WA, NC, HI, From Boston, UT, TX, WV, MS, FL, Williamsburg, OH, SF, Romantic Getaways in Michigan, Weekend Getaways from San Diego, San Antonio, East Coast Beaches, Places, Weekend Getaways for Couples, Nashville, PA Must See, WI, MD, TN, MI, Atlanta

»Educational Opportunities

Educational Opportunities

Education is extremely important at the Knoxville Zoo. The Knoxville Zoo’s educational opportunities range from family friendly workshops and activities to opportunities for schools and teachers, including an extensive internship program.

One of the most popular educational programs at the Knoxville Zoo is the Scouts program. Through the Scouts program, the Knoxville Zoo works alongside the Boy and Girl Scouts. The programs at the Knoxville Zoo cater to every level of Boy and Girl Scouts, and corresponds with the curriculum being taught at each level. Through the Scouts program, active members of Boy and Girl Scouts have the opportunity to work alongside zoo employees, explore various aspects of the zoo, and learn about the zoo in an exclusive and in-depth way. One of the featured aspects of the Scouts program is Bedtime with the Beasts. Bedtime with the Beasts allows participants to spend a night at the zoo and explore the various animals, specifically nocturnal animals.

Another popular educational opportunity at the Knoxville Zoo is the internship program. Internships are offered to any undergraduate student who is interested in pursuing a career within a zoological facility. Through the internship program, participants will get hands-on field experience through animal care, and will also have the opportunity to utilize the Knoxville Zoo’s research and conservation facilities and resources.

Back to: Best Things to do in Knoxville Address: 3500 Knoxville Zoo Drive, Knoxville, TN 37914, Phone: 865-637-5331 Things to Do in Knoxville, Tennessee: Knoxville Zoo - Photo: earlwilkerson/Fotolia

Fun Romantic Weekend Getaways, Beach Resorts, Wedding Venues & Free things to do near me: All Inclusive, UT, MD, GA, HI, WI, Chicago Must Do, VA, IL, AL Vacation, VA, OR, Couples, IN, Atlanta, NM, MO, NJ, ME Miami points of interest, Birthday, Chicago, NYC, CA, VT, Newport Beach, Scottsdale, NYC, Pink Sand, CO, Houston, ME, From Houston, Cleveland, East Coast, CA

Things to Do in Knoxville, Tennessee: Knoxville Zoo

  • History, Photo: Courtesy of Ganesh Namasivayam -
  • Attractions, Photo: Courtesy of Alexander -
  • Educational Opportunities, Photo: Courtesy of earlwilkerson -
  • Cover Photo: Courtesy of Francisco Rama -