A List Of The Best Zoos In The United States

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Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! If you’re a fan of wildlife and animals, you may be wondering what zoos to add to your bucket list.

The San Diego Zoo

Planning a trip to California in the near future? Make sure you take a day to visit the infamous San Diego Zoo. Founded in 1916 and nestled between beautiful hills and canyons, this zoo covers a whopping 100-acre site in the city’s Balboa Park. One of the best parts of this zoo (besides the animals, of course) is its gorgeous landscaping. There are more than 6,500 species of exotic plants on the premises, offering animals a natural diet and visitors an unforgettable backdrop.

The zoo has about 4,000 animals, but is most known for its breeding of koalas (the largest breeder outside of Australia). The San Diego zoo grows a plethora of eucalyptus, which is a food that koalas love to munch on. In addition to koala breeding, the zoo also breeds gorillas, tigers, and giraffes. Some other fun facts about the zoo are listed below.

  • The San Diego Zoo has the biggest population of endangered giant pandas in North America. According to recent statistics, there are only 1,600 giant pandas in the world.
  • In 1925, the San Diego Zoo received two koalas named Snugglepot and Cuddlepie from Australia.
  • When the zoo opened its doors in 1916, zoo officials would obtain animals any way they could. Local residents were known to bring in rattlesnakes and opossums.
  • One of the first animals gifted to the zoo was a brown bear by the name of Caesar.
  • In 1951, the zoo’s annual attendance passed one million visitors.
  • The San Diego Zoo was home to the very first panda born in the United States. The panda was born on August 21, 1991 and was named Hua Mei.
  • Admission to the zoo is free for all students in San Diego County during the normal school year.

The Indianapolis Zoo

The original concept for the Indianapolis Zoo started in the 1940s when a man by the name of Lowell Nussbaum spoke of his dream to open a zoo in Indianapolis. It wasn’t until 1944 that Nussbaum and the other founders started looking for locations to build the zoo. The original zoo wasn’t called the Indianapolis Zoo; it was called the Washington Park Children’s Zoo. At the time, it was known for its Asian elephants, camels, penguins, and buffalos, and in its inaugural year, the zoo welcomed 270,000 visitors. Over time, the zoo was gifted with the donations of personal “pets” like monkeys, big cats, alligators, and wallabies. The collection of animals at the Indianapolis Zoo practically doubled in size by its 20th anniversary.

The zoo is currently situated in White River State Park on a 64-acre plot of land, including an aquarium and botanical garden. It currently hosts more than one million visitors annually, and is home to roughly 2,000 animals and 2,000 varieties of plants.

  • The zoo’s largest animal is a female African elephant named Sophi. She weighs over 9,500 lbs!
  • The White River Garden includes a 5,000 square foot conservatory and three acres of a gorgeous outdoor garden.
  • The zoo has an “Animal Arts Adventure Show” that allows visitors to collaborate with animal artists to make paintings. Some animals that you can collaborate with include dolphins, elephants, and seals.

The Saint Louis Zoo

The Saint Louis Zoological Park, also known as the Saint Louis Zoo, is located in Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri. The zoo is a leader in animal management, research, conservation, and education, making it a top spot for visitors. Since its opening in 1910, the zoo has been noted for its naturalistic exhibits and diverse array of animals.

  • The zoo brings together more than 16,000 wild animals.
  • 600 of the zoo’s species represent the major continents of the world.
  • The Saint Louis Zoo sees roughly three million visitors each year.
  • One of the biggest attractions at this zoo are the penguins. There are roughly 90 penguins living at the zoo today.

The Bronx Zoo

Located in Bronx Park in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, you’ll find the Bronx Zoo. As the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States, this is a zoo you don’t want to miss. Spread across 265 acres of park lands and natural habitats, the Bronx Zoo sees approximately 2.15 million visitors annually.

The New York Zoological Society (which was later renamed to Wildlife Conservation Society) was founded in 1895, but the zoo didn’t open its doors to the public until November 8, 1899. At the time, the zoo only had 843 animals and 22 exhibits. In the 1900s, thylacines, also known as Tasmanian tigers, were nearing extinction, but the zoo was able to acquire several of them for an exhibition in 1902.

  • The zoo was co-founded by a taxidermist named William Temple Hornaday.
  • Since 2010, the Bronx Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals of 650 species.
  • In 2011, a venomous Egyption cobra escaped its enclosire and was on the loose for six days.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

If you’re planning a trip to Ohio, consider visiting the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Delaware County. The zoo’s mission, according to its website, is to lead and inspire by connecting people with wildlife. The zoo complex spans an impressive 588 acres and the zoo habitats are organized into six unique geographic regions: Asia Quest, Australia and the
Islands, Congo Expedition, Heart of Africa, North America and Polar Frontier, and Shores.

  • The Columbus Zoo is home to more than 11,000 animals representing close to 600 species from around the world.
  • The zoo and aquarium also operates the Wilds, which is a 10,000 acre conservation center and safari park in southeastern Ohio.
  • In 2014, the zoo experienced 2.47 million visitors.
  • The zoo owns an 18-hole golf course called the Safari Golf Club which spans 140 acres.
  • There are three modes of transportation at this zoo including walking, taking a train, or riding a boat.

The Brookfield Zoo

The Chicago Zoological Park, also known as Brookfield Zoo, is an impressive zoo that is located in the suburb of Brookfield, Illinois. The zoo is home to roughly 2,00 animals and 450 species of animals and covers a whopping 216 acres of natural habitats and exhibits. The zoo officially opened on June 30, 1934 and became most known for its open air enclosures. Some popular featured exhibits include:

  • Australia House – This exhibit has been molded to resemble Australia and its incredible wildlife. You’ll see fruit bats soaring overhead and kangaroos lounging outdoors at this exhibit.
  • Clouded Leopard Rainforest – Explore some of Asia’s most mysterious animals including clouded leopards.
  • Great Bear Wilderness – You’ll get to see some of North America’s wonders in this unique exhibit. See bald eagles, gray wolves, and bears as you walk through this zoo spectacle.

As you can see, there are many amazing zoos to see throughout North America. If you’re planning an upcoming trip and you’re flying out of the Denver International Airport (DIA), be sure to park your car with ParkDIA. Download our app to reserve your airport parking space today!