Florida is home to plenty of zoos, including at least one in nearly every major city.

While many of these are traditional zoos, you can also find some themed to mimic a safari and other destinations with plenty of character.

No matter what part of Florida you are in, you will be able to find an exciting zoo within driving distance.

1. Brevard Zoo

Brevard Zoo
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Brevard Zoo focuses on conservation via participation and education. The zoo opened in March 1994 following a great deal of community fundraising by a group of people dedicated to the goal of opening the establishment. If some of the members in your group do not feel up to walking around Brevard Zoo, you can take the train around to see everything.

There is also the opportunity to kayak while at the zoo for a unique experience. You can even feed animals, including giraffes and birds in the aviary. Those who want to get up close and personal with animals can also go on a Rhino Encounter or Lemur Rendezvous or a Wild Encounter Tour. Enjoy animals spread throughout Paws on Play, Wild Florida, Caribbean Trail, Expedition Africa, La Selva, and Lands of Change: Australia and Beyond.

There are also more adventurous options like Treetop Trek Aerial Adventures and keeper chats that teach you about various animals. There are many great things to do in Melbourne.

8225 North Wickham Road, Melbourne, FL, Phone: 321-254-9453, Map

2. Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary

Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary
© Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary

Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary is a non-profit animal sanctuary which was established in 2005 to provide a safe, loving and permanent home for local and exotic wildlife (primarily Big Cats) in Sarasota County. Many of the animals are former pets who outgrew their welcome and require a forever-home where they can comfortably live for the rest of their lives.

In order to take care of them the center encourages visitors to visit the sanctuary and to attend and support various events to raise funds for their upkeep. Animal ambassadors include tigers, foxes, sloths, lemurs and wolves. Visitors may book special one-on-one animal encounters with some of the animals. More info

There are many great things to do in Sarasota.

7101 Palmer Blvd, Sarasota, FL 34232, 941 371 6377, Map

3. Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens
© Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens

The Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens dates back to 1923, officially adding its botanical garden status in 2007. Today, there are more than 400 different animals in the zoo, representatives of more than 200 different species. The zoo also features a conservation facility that was designed to propagate the Eastern Indigo Snake.

The zoo itself features a vast range of species, including amphibians, invertebrates, birds, mammals, and reptiles. You will find scorpions, endangered Indian rhinos, Florida black bears, American alligators, and more. Those who want to enhance their animal experience at the zoo can visit the Barnyard Buddies Children’s Zoo where you interact with farm animals, including feeding them.

There are also daily keeper chats that teach you about various species and let you get up close with your favorite animals. Or attend Giraffe Feeding or Rhinoceros Encounters. When your feet need a break, ride the Miniature Train or take your kids to the Animal Carousel.

Have your kids cool off at the Wharton-Smith Tropical Splash Ground or show off your adventurous side at the Aerial Adventure Course. There is even a Bungee Bounce and Wow Balls. There are many great things to do in Sanford, FL.

3755 W. Seminole Blvd, Sanford, FL, Phone: 407-323-4450, (website link), Map

4. Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom
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Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of the Disney parks in Orlando and this one focuses on connecting with animals, with its own Disney twist. For the most unique experience, book a tour like Caring for the Giants which takes you behind the scenes or Savor the Savanna: Evening Safari Experience.

The Wild Africa Trek is also worth consideration, as is Up Close with the Rhinos. Throughout the Animal Kingdom, you will find a range of animals, including African animals like rhinos, elephants, hippos, lions, invertebrates, gorillas, African ungulates like giraffes and okapis, and birds. Or explore the Asian animals, animals on Discovery Island, horses, butterflies, and migratory birds.

Attend Animal Encounters: Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight or a show related to your favorite characters like Lion King and Finding Nemo. Of course, there is plenty of dining on-site as a Disney park. Animal Kingdom also includes a long list of shows and adventure like Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, Kilimanjaro Safaris, the Na’vi River Journey, and the Kali River Rapids.

If you want to see it all, consider the Wildlife Express Train. There is even a section of the Animal Kingdom dedicated to Avatar, known as Pandora. Explore the beaches near Orlando.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom, 2901 Osceola Pkwy, Orlando, FL, Phone: 407-939-5277

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5. Gatorland, Florida

Gatorland, Florida
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Those with a strong interest in alligators and similar reptiles will want to be sure to visit Gatorland while in Orlando. This is “The Alligator Capital of the World” and features alligators and crocodiles of all sizes. You will find the biggest collection of white leucistic alligators, which are extremely rare.

The list of animals at the park includes gators, birds, wild cats, crocodiles, snakes, and tortoises. Between early February and mid-June, birding enthusiasts and photographers can enter the park at off-peak hours to get photos and observe the Gatorland Bird Rookery.

In addition to its dedication to gators, Gatorland also has a free-flight aviary, a petting zoo, and animal shows that are one of a kind. You can get some thrills on the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line or accessible Gator Gauntlet or enjoy the Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure.

Adventure Hour lets you safely get within a few feet of the giant alligators, complete with the ability to pose for photos. Gatorland has a Gator Wrestlin’ Arena where you can pose for photos during the Gator Wrestlin’ Show. Sign up for the Trainer-for-a-Day program to see what it is like working at Gatorland and caring for all the critters there. If you visit at night, you can participate in the Gator Night Shine to see the alligators get excited for some treats. There are many great things to do in Orlando

Gatorland , 14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL, Phone: 407-855-5496

6. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
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Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has the only walking safari within Northeast Florida. This attraction lets you experience wildlife via educational and interactive experiences. The zoo opened in 2004 and now has over 2,000 exotic and rare animals along with more than 1,000 types of plants.

The animal exhibits are divided into Wild Florida, River Valley Aviary, Range of the Jaguar, Monsoon Asia, Plains of East Africa, Australian Adventure, Giraffe Overlook, Land of the Tiger, Save the Frogs!: Amphibian Conservation Center, African Forest, and Stingray Bay. Throughout these spaces, you will find amphibians, mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish.

When you get too warm, head to the Play Park and Splash Ground to cool off with some fun. Save time to explore the Botanical Gardens as well, which his currently in progress. It will be the first of its kind and integrated throughout the animal exhibits.

You can already find three major garden zones, including the Main Path or River of Color, Themed Pocket Gardens, and the Primary Gardens. Jacksonville Zoo also has educational programs for early childhood, including with and without family members, school programs, Adventures After Dark, conservation programs, scavenger hunts, guided tours, and more.

When you buy your ticket, keep in mind that a portion of all tickets goes directly to conservation efforts. There are many great things to do in Jacksonville.

370 Zoo Parkway, Jacksonville, FL, Phone: 904-757-4463, (website link), Map

7. Lion Country Safari, Florida

Lion Country Safari, Florida
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Lion Country Safari is the only drive-through safari park adventure in Florida, making it a great alternative to those who want to see animals but prefer not to see them locked up in enclosures at the zoo.

This is a drive-through safari as well as a walk-through amusement park and it features more than 1,000 animals. You will also find animal feeding experiences. Take your kids to the petting zoo to appreciate the sheep and goats. Overall, Lion Country Safari aims to be a leader in education, conservation, and animal care.

Take a Safari Queen boat ride to learn about spider monkeys and siamangs or use the paddleboats to navigate by yourself.

When you need a break from the animals, visit the water spray ground or go on one of the five rides. There is also a Safari Plunge water slide and Safari Splash with 23 different interactive water functions.

Other non-animal attractions include miniature golf, a carousel, a train, a maze, and a Flying Elephant Ride. You can also go shopping or enjoy some food. Every admission includes entry to the walk-through amusement park and drive-through safari plus most of the other amenities, including four to six shows or presentations every day. Browse our things to do in Florida guide for more ideas.

Lion Country Safari, 2003 Lion Country Safari Road, Loxahatchee, FL, Phone: 561-793-1084

8. Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
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Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is a nationally-accredited zoo and non-profit charitable institution. Walk along the paved paths that cover nearly a mile and take you by gorgeous animals surrounded by tropical plants. The exotic plants actually make up a historic garden that began planting in 1919.

As you walk around, admire the bears, pythons, monkeys, lions, giraffes, and more. The zoo reaches more than 350,000 guests annually with its mission of education and conservation. The zoo also gives back, caring for rare flora and fauna around the world, including planting more than 25,000 trees each year in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. The zoo has donated over a million dollars since 2015 to help with conservation efforts for animals worldwide.

In addition to walking around and admiring the various animals in the Naples Zoo, plan on attending the Giraffe Feeding experience. There are also daily shows and Keeper Talks. These are the perfect opportunity to see some animals that only make an appearance during these shows or come out of their shell when interacting with keepers.

The schedule includes things like Meet the Keeper, feeding, Reptile Rendezvous, Seated Safari, and more. Also look out for special events like ZOObilee, the Zoo Gala, and various festivals. More info

1590 Goodlette-Frank Rd, Naples, FL, Phone: 239-262-5409, Map

There are many fun attractions in Naples.

9. Palm Beach Zoo

Palm Beach Zoo
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The Palm Beach Zoo has a history over 50 years old, evolving from just a handful of barnyard animals into more than 500 animals that currently live at the zoo. The zoo’s mission is to inspire people to take action on behalf of the natural world and wildlife.

The zoo focuses on supporting conservation initiatives, education, and endangered species propagation, all while committing to sustainable business practices. During your visit, consider booking an up-close and personal experience, with the ability to buy a cup of nectar to feed the birds in the Lorikeet Loft experience. There are also experiences for sloths, Aldabra tortoises, capybaras, giant anteaters, koalas, and flamingos. Go on the Safari Train or Wildlife Carousel.

The zoo also has 11 daily shows and talks, such as Wings Over Water, Wild Things, and Howler Monkey Talks. You can also watch animal feedings and more. Spend some time at the Play Fountain and the Nature Play Pavilion, perfect for hot days when you want to cool off. There are many great things to do in West Palm Beach.

1301 Summit Boulevard, West Palm Beach, FL, Phone: 561-547-9453, (website link), Map

10. The Zoo Northwest Florida

The Zoo Northwest Florida
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The Zoo Northwest Florida, also known as the Golf Breeze Zoo, is open from 9 am to 4 pm or 5 pm depending on the time of the year. In addition to the chance to walk around and explore the exhibits, there are plenty of extra activities that let visitors interact with animals up close.

There is a farm area with hands-on animal opportunities, including petting and feeding llamas, sheep, pigs, goats, and more. You can also choose to participate in a giraffe feeding. Be sure to stop by the Budgiery Adventure Aviary, a free-flight aviary where you can appreciate the birds or buy feed sticks to give them.

When your feet need a break, take the Safari Line Limited Train Ride which is 15 minutes long and narrated as you go through the 30-acre preserve where you will spot zebras, antelope, deer, rhinos, and more roaming free. Or walk along the elevated boardwalk to admire those 30 acres of wildlife from the perfect vantage point for memories or photos.

Learn about the animals at Meet a Keeper Animal Talks or go on a Behind the Scenes Animal Tour to meet the giraffes. Head to the zoo for special events as well, such as Boo at the Zoo and Zoo Lights. Read about the best Florida weekend getaways for a relaxing vacation.

5701 Gulf Breeze Pkwy, Gulf Breeze, FL, Phone: 850-932-2229 , Map

11. Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami
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Zoo Miami also goes by the name Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens and is the biggest as well as oldest zoological garden within Florida. Additionally, this is the only sub-tropical zoo within the continental United States. Like many zoos, the Zoo Miami put animals from similar geographic areas together. They go a step above and instead of separating all animals, species that can peacefully live together in the wild share exhibits. The zoo was established in 1948 and has 750 acres of land with over 500 animal species, over 1,000 plant species, and over 100 special exhibits.

These animals include amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles divided among Florida: Mission Everglades, Dr. Wilde’s World, Wings of Asia Aviary, Critter Connection, and Amazon & Beyond.

Go on a special tour like a VIP tour or Behind-the-Scenes tour. Or enjoy Expedition: Wildlife, which is an in-depth five-hour tour. Some of the highlights in terms of plants include the Asian Trail, the Baobab tree, rainbow eucalyptus, the Hong Kong orchid tree, the silk floss tree, and the gumbo limbo tree.

Your kids will love meeting the Zoo Squad, the characters at the zoo that include a black rhino, giraffe, red-billed oxpecker, and crocodile. Other activities include rides, shows, feedings, and kid zones. There are many great things to do in Miami.

12400 SW 152 St., Miami, FL, Phone: 305-251-0400, Map

12. ZooTampa at Lowry Park

ZooTampa at Lowry Park
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ZooTampa at Lowry Park has more than one million visitors every year. It began in the 1930s with native Florida species and expanded over the years. The emphasis at ZooTampa is on threatened, vulnerable, and endangered species from climates that resemble the Tampa Bay region.

There are areas of the park dedicated to Florida, Australia, Africa, and Asia. There are more than 1,300 animals in the zoo and the zoo participates in wildlife conservation and education. Some of the endangered and threatened wildlife you will spot at ZooTampa include the African painted dog, Pygmy hippo, greater one-horned rhino, Aldabra giant tortoise, Florida panther, Bornean orangutan, African penguin, African elephant, Florida manatee, and southern white rhinoceros.

To make your trip to the zoo unforgettable, you can get up close and personal with some of these animals via backstage experiences or encounters or activities like an Indian rhino feeding. The zoo also regularly hosts events, including fundraisers, so be sure to check its calendar for both family-friendly and adult-only events.

There are also member-exclusive events such as Zoo University and Toddler Tuesdays. ZooTampa recently added Roaring Springs, a family water adventure to other options that include Expedition Africa, the Jungle Carousel, Boomer’s Flyin’ Bananas, and other rides. More info

There are many great things to do in Tampa and Tampa beaches are among the most beautiful in the state.

1101 W. Slight Avenue, Tampa, FL, Phone: 813-935-8552, Map

13. McCarthy’s Wildlife, Florida

McCarthy’s Wildlife, Florida
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So much more than just a place to see animals, McCarthy’ Wildlife is an education facility and a place of rehabilitation and sanctuary for all types of local wildlife, including animals, birds and reptiles.

Owner/director Mark McCarthy has an abiding passion for wildlife and has spent almost his entire life rescuing and re-habilitating animals and teaching children and adults about conservation. When you visit his “zoo” you will be taken on a guided tour to see a wide variety of rescued animals, and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your entrance fee contributes to make all of this possible.

Animal ambassadors you will meet include several big cats, snakes, tortoises, birds and more. Browse our best places to visit in Florida guide for more ideas.

McCarthy’s Wildlife, 12943 61st Street North, West Palm Beach, FL 33412, 561 790 2118

14. Busch Wildlife Sanctuary

Busch Wildlife Sanctuary
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Busch Wildlife Sanctuary exists to offer sanctuary and rehabilitation to all Florida wildlife, and to teach the public about the environment. Every year the sanctuary attends to the medical needs of more than 4000 injured or orphaned animals and birds, always endeavoring to return them to the wild.

When this is not possible, they become “inmates” of the sanctuary. Visitors are invited to come and see the sanctuary and meet some of the residents, which include beavers, alligators, wild cats, owls and many other animals.

There is a trail leading through the sanctuary and entrance is always free (however, donations are gratefully accepted to facilitate the essential work of the sanctuary). There are many great things to do in Jupiter.

Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, 17855 Rocky Pines Rd, Jupiter, FL 33478

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15. Busch Gardens Tampa, Florida

Busch Gardens Tampa, Florida
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Busch Gardens in Tampa is more than just a zoo; there are a long list of activities and attractions at this location. The park is open from 10 am to 6 pm every day with scheduled shows throughout the day.

This is actually among the largest zoos in North America with more than 12,000 animals living in the park’s habitats. Walk around to explore the various exhibits or take advantage of the animal feeding opportunities that let you hand-feed some critters throughout the zoo.

You can also observe first-hand animal care in the Animal Care Center or sign up for an Animal Connection to get up close and personal with an animal of your choice.

Those who want to appreciate animals in their natural environment can visit the Serengeti Plain to see animals roam the 65-acre natural habitat. Sign up for a Serengeti Safari to explore that area or go on a tour of another area, such as the Penguin Insider Tour or Elephant Insider Tour.

There is even a Keeper for a Day tour and insider tours for Aldabra, Heart of Africa, tigers, cheetahs, gorillas, and the animal care center. To supplement the animal-related attractions, Busch Gardens Tampa also has a large selection of rollercoasters, making it a great spot for thrill-seekers. There are also world-class shows designed to appeal to all ages, both with and without animals. Check out these fun day trips from Tampa to explore the nearby area.

10165 N McKinley Drive, Tampa, FL, Phone: 813-884-4386, (website link), Map

16. Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Sarasota Jungle Gardens
© Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Open almost every single day of the year (Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only exceptions) from 10am to 4pm, Sarasota Jungle Gardens have been thrilling adults and children with wonderful animal interactions since 1939.

The gardens cover more than 10 acres of exotic landscaping connected by winding trails, and is home to more than 200 animals and birds including exotic Florida flamingoes, lots of parrots and macaws and several small mammals.

The gardens present 4 animal shows every day, which are both fun and educational. Private animal encounters can also be booked, and the gardens are an ideal venue for children’s birthday parties. Check out our romantic weekend getaways guide for more ideas.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens, 3701 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, Fl 34234, 941 355 5305, Map

17. ZooWorld Zoological Park, Florida

ZooWorld Zoological Park, Florida
© ZooWorld Zoological Park

ZooWorld Zoological Park in Panama Beach gets rave reviews for its wonderful range of animal encounters which bring visitors into close proximity to many animals you would never usually encounter in Florida.

Imagine feeding a giraffe or cuddling a kangaroo – yes you can when you visit ZooWorld.

Visitor can enjoy walking through the enormous free-flight aviary, surrounded by colorful birds from all corners of the world, feeing the tallest animal on earth (special food is available for sale) and feeding ravenous alligators.

If you would like to get really up close and personal you can book a lemur, sloth, kangaroo or alligator experience.

ZooWorld, 9008 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32407, 844 966 4968, Map

More ideas: Best Shelling Beaches in Florida

18. Zoological Wildlife Foundation, Florida

Zoological Wildlife Foundation, Florida
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The Zoological Wildlife Foundation in Miami is dedicated to educating the general public about rare and endangered animals in captivity or in the wilds, with the intension of aiding conservation and halting habitat destruction.

The foundation is home to a large variety of animals including tigers, lions, chimpanzees, anteaters, monkeys, lemurs and many more. The foundation offers guided tours and hands-on interactions daily but you do have to make a reservation online – no walk-ins can be accommodated.

Some of the animals will allow you to hand-feed them and sometimes special private baby animal interactions can be booked. You can check the website to see what is available.

Zoological Wildlife Foundation, 16225 SW 172 Ave, Miami, FL 33187, 305 969 3696

More ideas: Best Florida state parks

19. Emerald Coast Zoo, Florida

Emerald Coast Zoo, Florida
© Emerald Coast Zoo

Rick the Reptile Guy (you must have seen him on TV or attended one of his shows) is at the helm of the Emerald Coast Zoo, where he and his family take care of a wide variety of wild animals and endeavor to educate the public about their unique habits and needs.

Visitors get to see some very interesting creatures including tigers, black bears, lions, kangaroos and dozens of colorful birds in the walk-in Aviary.

If you would like to get even closer to these fascinating animals you can book a private animal encounter where you could play with the kangaroos and wallabies, feed a bear some honey or feed a friendly giraffe. There are many cool things to do in Crestview.

Emerald Coast Zoo, 5262 Deer Springs Drive, Crestview, FL 32539, 850 682 3949

20. Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, Florida

Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, Florida
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Located in Gainesville, this 10-acre teaching zoo is unique since it is the only zoo located on a college campus. The zoo is home to more than 70 species of birds and animals which are tended by 10 staff members and more than 100 students in the Zoo Animal Technology program.

Although this zoo is primarily an education facility the animals love it when they have visitors and the zoo is open to the public 7 days a week.

A very modest entrance fee is charged to ensure that as many people as possible have access to this gem. In addition, their animal encounters are also very reasonably priced to encourage everyone to join in and learn about their many residents. There are many great things to do in Gainesville.

3000 NW 83rd Street, Gainesville, FL 32606, 352 395 5601, (website link) , Map

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