Nothing gets our kids more excited than a trip to the zoo, and we’re lucky to have amazing institutions like the San Diego Zoo, the Bronx Zoo and the National Zoo right here in America. We’ve rounded up a list of the best zoos in the US, perfect for your next day off or vacation. Besides offering amazing photo ops, a zoo day is also a great jumping off point to teach the little ones about wildlife conservation and endangered species—and that’s a win in our book!
photo: Daiga Ellaby via Unsplash
1. Alabama: Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, Gulf Shores
Get up close and personal with more than 500 exotic animals at the Alabama Coast Zoo. Cuddle up with a baby red kangaroo, play with young lemurs and meet a 50-year-old tortoise, then book it over to the shaded picnic area to relax and refuel.
1204 Gulf Shores Pkwy
Gulf Shores, AL
2. Alaska: Alaska Zoo, Anchorage
The Alaska Zoo has cared for orphaned and injured wildlife since 1969. The only zoo in Alaska, today you can visit their black and brown bears, otters, owls, seals and other critters, and you can even “adopt” an animal with a donation to the zoo.
4731 O’Malley Rd.
photo: Missy B. via Yelp
3. Arizona: Phoenix Zoo, Phoenix
As one of the nation’s largest non-profit zoos, this Arizona gem has enough features to keep your crew coming back again and again. In addition to animal encounters and safari adventures, there are also shops, cafes and gardens for you to explore.
455 N. Galvin Pkwy
4. Arkansas: Little Rock Zoo, Little Rock
You’ll find more than 725 animals on over 33 acres at the Little Rock Zoo, from zebras to otters to chimpanzees. You can hop aboard the train, feed fish, go for a spin on the carousel and interact with friendly lorikeets—in short, you definitely won’t run out of things to do.
1 Zoo Dr.
Little Rock, AR
5. California: San Diego Zoo, San Diego
Although we’re big fans of the San Francisco Zoo and the LA Zoo, our top pick in the Golden State is the San Diego Zoo, a world-famous spot that’s totally worth the trip. The zoo is home to more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals, along with more than 700,000 exotic plants. Click here to see our guide to getting the most out of your visit.
2920 Zoo Dr.
San Diego, CA
photo: Amber C. via Yelp
6. Colorado: Denver Zoo, Denver
We love the broad range of exhibits at the Denver Zoo—kids can learn about and feed animals in the Be a Zookeeper Zone, splash around in the Explore the Shore play area and get up close and personal with tigers, rhinos and other critters in special animal encounters.
2300 Steele St.
7. Connecticut: Beardsley Zoo, Bridgeport
Spend your day at the Beardsley Zoo learning about endangered and threatened species, including tigers, wolves, anteaters and condors. Check out their event lineup, offering everything from Earth Day parties to educational programs for toddlers.
1875 Noble Ave.
8. Delaware: Brandywine Zoo, Wilmington
Located in a scenic spot on the Brandywine River, this gem of a zoo is guaranteed to be a family favorite. You’ll have the chance to see red pandas, geckos and herons, plus the zoo offers special reptile shows and day camps.
1001 N. Park Dr.
photo: Adam S. via Yelp
9. Florida: Zoo Miami, Miami
Make a day of it at Zoo Miami—after you’ve seen the exotic animals (and fed a giraffe!), kids can run and explore in the playground and water play areas, go for a ride on the wildlife carousel and chill out in a pedal boat.
12400 SW 152nd St.
10. Georgia: Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta
In the course of an afternoon at Zoo Atlanta, you can take a stroll through an African rainforest, have an up-close encounter with a giant panda and watch the animals chow down on their afternoon snacks. Sign us up!
800 Cherokee Ave. SE
11. Hawaii: Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens, Hilo
As the only naturally occurring tropical rainforest zoo in the United States, this 12-acre zoo is a must-visit the next time you’re on the Big Island. You’ll have the chance to see anteaters, alligators and an orange Bengal tiger named Sriracha as you stroll through the lush plants and trees.
800 Stainback Hwy
12. Idaho: Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park, Idaho Falls
Kids will have a blast seeing snow leopards, zebras, wallabies and more critters at the Idaho Falls Zoo. Don’t forget to visit the Children’s Zoo, where they can pet sheep and goats, watch pigs play in the mud and explore what it’s like to be a bird.
2725 Carnival Way
Idaho Falls, ID
photo: Effie D. via Yelp
13. Illinois: Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield
Get an up-close look at bottlenose dolphins, gentle giraffes, sea lions and lots of other animals at the Brookfield Zoo. Kids will also have the chance to touch and feed parakeets and goats, ride the carousel and join in on a motor safari.
8400 W. 31st St.
14. Indiana: Indianapolis Zoo, Indianapolis
The Indianapolis Zoo was the first in the United States to be accredited as a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and today your crew will love seeing some of their 1,400 animals. From desert lizards to ocean-dwelling penguins, there’s so much to experience.
1200 W. Washington St.
15. Iowa: Blank Park Zoo, Des Moines
Whether you’re an Iowa native or just visiting, Blank Park Zoo is totally worth a visit. In addition to seeing flamingos, bald eagles and lion cubs, you can feed giraffes and ostriches, go for a ride on the carousel and hop aboard the zoo’s train.
7401 SW 9th St.
Des Moines, IA
16. Kansas: Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita
With a world-class tiger exhibit, a gorilla forest and a penguin cove, just to name a few, this fantastic zoo really has something for everyone. Check out the learning programs for kids of all ages, including overnight Creature Campouts for adventurous animal lovers.
5555 W. Zoo Blvd.
photo: Michelle W. via Yelp
17. Kentucky: Louisville Zoo, Louisville
Make a trip to the Louisville Zoo to get a close-up look at rhinos, wallabies, grizzly bears and more animals. Stroll through an aviary to interact with and feed lorikeets, take on a ropes course and burn off some energy in the kids’ play area.
1100 Trevilian Way
18. Louisiana: Audubon Zoo, New Orleans
Enter the Jaguar Jungle, take a stroll through a Louisiana Swamp and explore an African Savanna at this fantastic zoo that’s devoted to saving endangered wildlife. If it’s a hot day, bring your swimsuits along and head over to the Splash Park to cool off.
6500 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA
19. Maine: DEW Haven, Mount Vernon
DEW Haven is a nonprofit zoo and rescue that’s home to more than 200 domestic, wild and exotic animals from around the world. You’ll have the chance to see camels, bears, tigers and more critters.
918 Pond Rd.
Mount Vernon, ME
photo: Bob T. via Yelp
20. Maryland: Maryland Zoo, Baltimore
From lemurs to flamingos, the Maryland Zoo has plenty of animals to observe. Check out their Penguin Encounter, where you’ll get a private tour with a zookeeper and special photo ops with the penguins. Before you leave, go for a ride on the Zephyr, the zoo’s train.
1 Safari Pl.
21. Massachusetts: Southwick’s Zoo, Mendon
At Southwick’s Zoo, you’ll have the chance to see and learn about all your favorite animals, like giraffes, chimpanzees, kangaroos and rhinos. Take a stroll through the 35-acre deer forest and ride the Woodlands Express train through the North American Elk habitat and wetlands.
2 Southwick St.
22. Michigan: Detroit Zoo, Royal Oak
With more than 2,000 animals over 125 acres, animal lovers will be in heaven at the Detroit Zoo. Check out all the amphibians, mammals, birds and reptiles, then explore the zoo’s playgrounds, go for a spin on the carousel and snap photos in front of the historic fountain.
8450 W. 10 Mile Rd.
Royal Oak, MI
23. Minnesota: Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley
At the Minnesota Zoo, your crew can get a close look at bears at Russia’s Grizzly Coast, walk along a beaver pond, peek into a coyote den and wander through a rainforest with lemurs and kangaroos. Plus, don’t forget to check out their daily activities, from shark feedings to hands-on animal encounters.
13000 Zoo Blvd.
Apple Valley, MN
24. Mississippi: Hattiesburg Zoo, Hattiesburg
Discover animals from around the world as you trek through the Hattiesburg Zoo, from ostriches to alligators to porcupines. Don’t miss the Sloth Experience, where you’ll get a behind-the-scenes tour of the animal kitchen and a chance to help prepare snacks for sloths and even feed the animals.
107 S. 17th Ave.
photo: Helen P. via Yelp
25. Missouri: St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis
An adventure is always just around the corner at this wow-worthy zoo. Whether you’re into snakes or tortoises, apes or antelopes, you’ll find something to get excited about here. The best part? Admission is free!
St. Louis, MO
26. Montana: Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone
It’s not strictly a zoo, but this educational spot is perfect for anyone eager to learn about animals. It’s a nonprofit wildlife park where you’ll have the chance to see grizzlies and wolves in their natural habitat. The grizzly bears are brought to the center when they’re unable to survive in the wild, while the wolves come from captive-born, unplanned litters.
201 S. Canyon St.
West Yellowstone, MT
photo: Lianna N. via Yelp
27. Nebraska: Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha
In a single day at Henry Doorly Zoo, you can see giraffes and elephants in the African Grasslands, meet meerkats and rattlesnakes under the Desert Dome and explore the Lied Jungle alongside monkeys and macaws, then cool off on an Alaskan-themed splash pad (And that’s just scratching the surface.).
3701 S. 10th St.
28. Nevada: Lion Habitat Ranch, Henderson
Next time you’re in Las Vegas, take a detour to the Lion Habitat Ranch. At this hidden gem spot, you’ll have the chance to see a giraffe (who also happens to be an artist) and lions. For an additional fee, you can even feed the animals yourself.
382 Bruner Ave.
29. New Hampshire: Charmingfare Farm, Candia
Your whole crew will love spending the day at Charmingfare Farm, home to many traditional agricultural animals you would expect to see on a farm. You’ll find alpacas, goats, sheep, owls and more. In addition to exploring the petting zoo area, little ones can go on pony and tractor rides.
774 High St.
30. New Jersey: Cape May County Park & Zoo, Cape May Court House
From cheetahs to red pandas to river otters, there are lots of cool animals to watch out for at this kid-approved spot. After you’ve seen the critters, fuel up at the Safari Cafe, scale the rock climbing wall and ride a replica mini train. This Jersey gem is free, but donations are accepted to help keep it running.
707 Rte. 9 N.
Cape May Court House, NJ
photo: Jodi R. via Yelp
31. New Mexico: Albuquerque Biological Park Zoo, Albuquerque
Located next to the Rio Grande, the Albuquerque Biological Park Zoo offers 64 acres of exotic and native animals, including snow leopards, giraffes, cheetahs and orangutans. You’ll have the chance to touch alpacas and llamas, watch crocodile feedings and zoom down the zoo’s zip line.
903 10th St. SW
32. New York: Bronx Zoo, New York
Make a day of it at the Bronx Zoo, where you’ll be able to see sea lions, baboons, lions and lots more interesting animals. You can also catch a 4-D movie, watch penguin feedings, take a ride on the monorail and get a giraffe’s-eye view via a cool climbing structure.
2300 Southern Blvd.
photo: North Carolina Zoo via Yelp
33. North Carolina: North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro
Animal lovers will have a blast exploring the North Carolina Zoo, from the zebras and elephants in the African exhibits to the aviary filled with more than 3,000 tropical plants and dozens of exotic birds. After you’ve seen the animals, you can hop aboard a paddle boat or take on the ropes course.
4401 Zoo Pkwy
34. North Dakota: Dakota Zoo, Bismarck
At the Dakota Zoo, you’ll have the chance to see animals from around the world, including grizzly bears, alligators, monkeys and porcupines. But that’s not all—be sure to check out their special events, from educational day camps to wine tastings.
600 Riverside Park Rd.
photo: Joe E. via Yelp
35. Ohio: Columbus Zoo, Columbus
The Columbus Zoo will take you on a trip around the world, minus the passport. Go on a quest to Asia and learn about animals facing the threat of extinction, see kangaroos and lorikeets from the land down under and hop over to Africa to hang out with zebras and gazelles.
4850 W. Powell Rd.
36. Oklahoma: Oklahoma City Zoo, Oklahoma City
During your visit to the Oklahoma City Zoo, you can watch a pygmy hippo swim in his pond, feed colorful lorikeets and explore a forest filled with snow leopards, tigers and bobcats. Once you’ve gotten your fill of the animals, take a stroll through the lush botanical gardens.
2101 NE 50th St.
Oklahoma City, OK
photo: Lauren C. via Yelp
37. Oregon: Oregon Zoo, Portland
At the Oregon Zoo, you’ll get to see black bears climbing Douglas fir trees, river otters frolicking in a mountain stream and cheetahs on the prowl. There’s also a family farm where you can get close to goats and chickens, plus outdoor concerts during the summer. And that’s not all—click here for our ultimate guide to getting the most out of your visit.
4001 SW Canyon Rd.
38. Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia
Home to nearly 1,300 animals, many of which are rare or endangered, the Philadelphia Zoo is all about educating visitors on animal and environmental conservation. You’ll be wowed by the Zoo360 Animal Exploration Trails, which allow critters to roam around and even above the zoo’s grounds.
3400 W. Girard Ave.
photo: Melissa K. via Yelp
39. Rhode Island: Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence
At this family-favorite spot, you’ll have the opportunity to follow in Marco Polo’s footsteps (and see red pandas and snow leopards along the way), go on “safari” to see zebras and red river hogs and see native wildlife as you stroll through Rhode Island’s most endangered habitat, the wetlands.
1000 Elmwood Ave.
40. South Carolina: Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, Columbia
Your day at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden will be anything but boring—to start, you’ll get to see baboons, ostriches, koalas, Komodo dragons and lots more animals. Bring your swimsuits along and take a detour in Waterfall Junction, a new area with lots of space to splash around and play.
500 Wildlife Pkwy
41. South Dakota: Reptile Gardens, Rapid City
Founded in 1937, Reptile Gardens is now the largest reptile zoo in the world. You’ll find snakes, crocodiles, turtles and lizards, along with amphibians and bugs—so it’s perfect for kids who love learning about creepy-crawlies.
Rapid City, SD
photo: David M. via Yelp
42. Tennessee: Memphis Zoo, Memphis
At the Memphis Zoo, you can explore a (Komodo) dragon’s lair, watch pelicans splash around in a pool, watch lemurs play and more. Be sure to check out their daily schedule to catch zookeeper chats, elephant feedings and animal shows.
2000 Prentiss Pl.
43. Texas: Houston Zoo, Houston
With over 6,000 animal residents, there’s no shortage of critters to see and interact with at the Houston Zoo. In addition to seeing sea lions, elephants and jaguars, you can feed piranhas, join keepers on a dingo walk and get up close and personal with red pandas. Wondering what else there is to do in Houston? Check out our guide to the city.
6200 Hermann Park Dr.
photo: Mike N. via Yelp
44. Utah: Tracy Aviary, Salt Lake City
Bird watchers will have a field day at this small but mighty aviary in Salt Lake City. You’ll see pelicans, bald eagles, cranes, parakeets and lots more feathered friends. The aviary also offers cool events, from family yoga sessions to up-close bird encounters.
589 E. 1300 S.
Salt Lake City, UT
45. Vermont: Vermont Institute of Natural Science Nature Center, Quechee
At this kid-friendly spot, you’ll find 117 state-of-the-art raptor enclosures that house hawks, eagles, falcons, owls and other birds of prey. Before your visit is over, venture into the woods on one of the institute’s nature trails.
149 Natures Way
photo: Carissa K. via Yelp
46. Virginia: Virginia Zoo, Norfolk
Become a world traveler for the day at the Virginia Zoo. Follow the Trail of the Tiger through Asia to see red pandas and tiger cubs, hop over to Australia to get a look at kangaroos and wallabies and visit Africa to discover rhinos, tortoises and cheetahs.
3500 Granby St.
47. Washington: Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle
At the Woodland Park Zoo, you’ll have the chance to get close to more than 1,100 animals and 300 species, including some of the world’s most critically endangered. See penguins, meerkats, sloths and lots more critters, and learn important steps you can take to help fight animal extinction. Click here to check out more of our favorite petting farms and zoos in the Seattle area.
5500 Phinney Ave. N.
photo: Amy N. via Yelp
48. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Washington D.C.
Always free of charge and open 364 days a year, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is a must-visit whether you’re a local or just in D.C. for vacation. In addition to sightings of giant pandas, elephants and lions, you can watch animal feedings, meet zookeepers and dip your toes in the tide pool. Get the inside scoop on how to get the most out of your visit by clicking here.
3001 Connecticut Ave., NW
49. West Virginia: Oglebay Good Zoo, Wheeling
Make a day of it at the Oglebay Good Zoo, where you can explore the Outback Exhibit and Lorikeet Landing, and observe a cheetah, lemurs, red pandas, river otters and more animals. Rest your legs by taking the C.P. Huntington Train Ride on a one and a half mile journey through the zoo.
465 Lodge Dr.
photo: Rebecca M. via Yelp
50. Wisconsin: Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison
You’ll have a wildly fun time at the Henry Vilas Zoo, a free-admission spot that your whole crew will love. Walk through a rainforest aviary filled with tropical birds and fish, ooh and ahh at lions and tigers and watch super smart orangutans monkey around.
702 S. Randall Ave.
51. Wyoming: Kindness Ranch Animal Sanctuary, Hartville
Kindness Ranch is a 1000-acre ranch that takes in and rehabilitates animals that have previously been used in laboratory research, including dogs, cats, horses, pigs and sheep. Be sure to make an appointment in advance to visit the ranch; there are also overnight stays and volunteer opportunities available.
854 State Hwy 270
What’s your favorite zoo in the US? Let us know in the comments below!