The 10 Best Zoos In The US That You Should Visit

Best zoos in the us

You are outdoors all day, admiring what nature has to offer, and you are somehow managing to keep the kids off the electronics while they check out all the animals.

Zoos offer so much more than a chance to see exotic wildlife and animals that you wouldn’t normally be able to see. They provide you with exercise from all the walking, beautiful scenery, an opportunity to try new food, and a chance to learn something new.

And depending on where you are traveling from in the country, you can make an entire vacation out of a trip to a zoo in another city.

Whether you visited one of these zoos in the past or have never been, this is a great time to re-discover the best zoos that the US has to offer.

Zoos

Details


Ratings


San Diego Zoo

Live shows and lots of entertainment options, besides the actual animals

St. Louis Zoo

Has stingray exhibition where you can actually touch the stingrays as they swim by

Bronz Zoo

The programs range from a Butterfly Garden, to a Baboon Reserve and everything in between

Cincinnati Zoo And Botanical Gardens

Patrons love the rare animals you can see, the beautiful gardens, and even the new Africa exhibit

Denver Zoo

You will find everything from penguins to polar bears, to giraffes and elephants.

Memphis Zoo

It is very family friendly and perfect for an all-day adventure.

Henry Doorly Zoo And Aquarium

Features amazing educational programs as well as unique exhibits and experiences

Houston Zoo

Has a very impressive bird collection – one of the largest in the United States

Woodland Park Zoo Seattle

You can see a rhino, a mountain goat and a red panda all in one place

National Zoological Park

There are numerous exhibits featuring cheetahs, elephants, bison, reptiles, and primates

HOW WE CHOSE OUR RATINGS

Most major metropolitan areas have a zoo, but you will soon discover when you are trying to find the best zoos in the US that not all are created equal.

Our ratings are based on reviews from the patrons, the number of activities and exhibits available. We also notated if there were any special programs or exhibits that make it noteworthy.

Price was also taken into account, especially if it was perceived to be either really expensive or a great value for the family.

THE LIST OF THE 10 BEST ZOOS IN THE US

Even with such an extensive number of options for zoos in the United States, there were 10 zoos that really stood out for their offerings. Take a look at what we think and see how many you have been able to cross off your list too!

The San Diego Zoo has been a beloved addition to the city of San Diego since 1916. For over 100 years, families have traveled from around the world to visit this iconic zoo. One inside, you will be treated to many exotic animals and a variety of species.

The zoo is incredibly large and spread out, so good shoes are a must!

There are bus tours available as well as a shuttle bus with 4 different stops within the zoo. There are even live shows and lots of entertainment options, besides the actual animals. This is a must for the entire family to visit when you are in San Diego.

If you have more than a day, you can spread this out over a few days too.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The St. Louis Zoo is one of the country’s most loved zoos. Not only does it still have free admission (a certain number of exhibits and attractions cost extra) but there is quite a variety of species. Visitors remark on how clean the park is and knowledge the staff are about the animals.

The zoo consistently ranks as one of the “must do” activities while visiting St. Louis.

This is a great place to take the kids and the entire family is welcome at the St. Louis Zoo. There is even a stingray exhibition where you can actually touch the stingrays as they swim by (don’t worry, their stingers have been clipped).

The zoo is so large that you can plan on spending an entire day or even two if you have the time.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It’s hard to believe that in the midst of one of the most populated places on the planet, you can find 265 acres of animals and exhibitions at the Bronx Zoo.

The Bronx Zoo has been delighting patrons for well over a hundred years. It is anything but old fashioned though. The Zoo has done an amazing job of creating a variety of programs, exhibitions and events for young and old alike.

The programs range from a Butterfly Garden, to a Baboon Reserve and everything in between. You and your entire family will love spending all day at this American institution. Visitors love that they are surrounded by trees and wildlife right in the middle of such a big city.

An added bonus is that admission is free on Wednesdays, it would certainly be worth adding a trip to the zoo into your mid-week travel plans.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Cincinnati Zoo may be on the smaller side when it comes to zoos, but it packs a big punch in terms of variety and exhibitions.

Patrons love the rare animals you can see, the beautiful gardens, and even the new Africa exhibit. You can even feed the giraffes and camels while you are there! There are literally hundreds of species of both animals and plants.

The zoo also features many seasonal attractions, so you can make it a different experience no matter what time of year you plan a visit.

Another zoo favorite is riding on the train around the zoo so you can see a great overview of all the attractions.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Denver Zoo is home to several thousand animals within its 80 acres. You will find everything from penguins to polar bears, to giraffes and elephants. This zoo is spread out but easy to cover in a day. There is also a viper and snake collection that are considered quite extraordinary.

The Denver Zoo is highly focused on conservation and many of the exhibitions are focused on this mission. There are multiple programs and exhibitions throughout the year that change depending on the season. You can experience something different entirely throughout the year.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out 5 stars

If Giant Pandas are on your must-see list then the Memphis Zoo is one of only four zoos in the United States where you can make that happen.

Patrons love this zoo for the variety of species (over 500) as well as how nicely laid out the zoo is. It is very family friendly and perfect for an all-day adventure.

Founded in 1906, this zoo has been featuring amazing and unique exhibits for over a hundred years. This zoo wins high praise for being extremely clean, thoughtfully laid out and easy to observe all of the animals.

This makes it a perfect family destination.

Overall Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

Located in Omaha, Nebraska, features amazing educational programs as well as unique exhibits and experiences.

You can travel to a rain forest or a desert all within the walls of the Omaha Zoo. With over 160 acres, there are thousands of unique species of animals, plants, and sea life.

You can even experience the adventure of the world’s largest indoor swamp as you venture through all the caves located on the property.

If that’s not exciting enough, you can visit the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit.

There is no shortage of unique and memorable experiences to be found at the Hendry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Houston Zoo is relatively new to the Zoo scene. Having opened in 2010, it’s now a very popular destination. And it’s not just for animal lovers either, the Houston Zoo houses a very impressive bird collection – one of the largest in the United States!

The zoo is on the smaller side compared to other zoos – only coming in at 65 acres. But with over 6,000 animals, you will have no problem seeing numerous species.

There are several exhibits you will want to check out, including the new Big Bear Habitat. The giraffe feeding is a very popular exhibit if that is something you have been wanting to try.

Visitors to the zoo remark how clean it is and worth spending an entire day there.

A trip to the Houston Zoo will be a hit with the entire family.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

If you have been dying for your chance to see a rhino, a mountain goat and a red panda all in one place then the Woodland Park Zoo is must to visit. This zoo features multiple exhibits and programs which highlight the work they are doing for endangered species.

If you have seen all the animals you want to see, you can also check out the 2.5 acre rose garden with over 200 varieties of roses.

This beautiful garden has been open since 1924, and in 2006, it transitioned to a pesticide-free practice.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Also known as the Smithsonian Zoo, the National Zoological Park is highly regarded for many reasons. Not only is this one of the oldest zoos in the country, but the admission is also free every day of the year.

There are numerous exhibits featuring cheetahs, elephants, bison, reptiles, and primates. There are also lots of fun activities such as a carousel, a train, playground and pool. You can even take
a 100-foot slide on the ZooTube during the summertime.

This is great for the entire family and will provide enormous and affordable entertainment for everyone in your group.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

CHOOSING THE BEST ZOOS IN THE US FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP

With so many choices, how do you even narrow down your list of favorites among zoos? Each one has a unique personality, just like the city you are visiting.

Whether you are planning a visit to our list of the 10 best zoos in the US, or a smaller, lesser-known zoo, here are the items you want to double check before you visit:

  • Hours and Special Openings/Closings

Most zoos are open throughout the year and closed on a small number of holidays. Double check the hours before you go so you don’t have any surprises when you show up.

  • Price

If you are on a budget or have a large number of family members to pay for, definitely research the price for admission. Also, many zoos offer one day a week for free admission and some are free all year round. Do keep in mind that you will have to pay for extra rides, special exhibits, food, etc.

  • Special Exhibits

Make sure to pay attention to any special shows or exhibits that the zoo can be featuring. While this may increase the crowd size, it may be something with a limited amount of time. Be sure to check it out while you are there if it’s something you really want to see. It could be gone on your next visit!

The zoos in the United States are plentiful and thriving. Hopefully this list of the top 10 best zoos in the US has helped you narrow down your choice from such an expansive list.

The only thing left for you to decide is which one are you and your family going to enjoy next?