Jul 02

Ten Best Zoos in the United States

Karen and I love to go to zoo’s, especially well done zoo’s.  To read about all the zoos that we have visited you can click here.  This list contains the top ten zoo’s that we think are the best in the United States.  Some of these zoo’s Karen and I have been to, others are ones that we want to see.   Our ten best zoo’s is based on looking at their website, reviews, and one of our favorite zoo books called America’s Best Zoos: A Travel Guide for Fans & Families by Allen W. Nyhuis and Jon Wassner.

Ten Best Zoos in the United States

10. Saint Louis Zoo
 Ten Best Zoos in the United States

The Saint Louis Zoo is located in Forest Park has 90 acres to house 655 species of animals.  Top exhibits at the Saint Louis Zoo include their Insectarium with butterfly house, the River’s Edge- home to a variety of animals that make river habitats their home, Penguin and Puffin Coast, and their brand new Sea Island Sound which is the only zoo in North America where visitors can walk through an underwater tunnel into the sea lions’ habitat.  It also does not cost a thing to enter the zoo.

Check out their website at http://www.stlzoo.org/

9. Minnesota Zoo

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The Minnesota Zoo is located about 15 miles south of the Twin Cities in Apple Valley.  It is a relatively new zoo having been founded in 1978.  The Minnesota Zoo has more than 2,700 animals that represent 449 species.  Over the last several years they have added/remodel several exhibits including the Minnesota Trail which has more than 15 amazing wildlife exhibits.  In 2008, they opened the award winning Russia’s Grizzle Coast.  Other areas worth seeing are their Tropics Trail, 3M Penguins of the African Coast, and the Wells Fargo Family Farm.

Check out their website at http://www.mnzoo.com/

8. Denver Zoo
 Ten Best Zoos in the United States


The Denver Zoo is an 80 acre zoo located in the heart of Denver at historic City Park.  It averages 1.6 million visitors which I am sure will increase significantly now that they have added their amazing new exhibit Toyota Elephant Passage.  The Denver Zoo has over 3,500 animals that represent over 650 species.  This zoo has an amazing breeding program and seems to always have new baby animals. The Denver Zoo has several worth seeing exhibits like their Predator Ridge, Primate Panorama, and Tropical Discovery.

Check out their website at http://www.denverzoo.org/

7. Memphis Zoo

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The Memphis Zoo is an up and coming zoo having opened several immersion exhibits after the last decade.  It also has the distinction of being one of only four zoo’s in the United States that house giant pandas.  The Memphis Zoo is a 70 acre zoo that is home to over 2,800 animals representing 400 species.  This zoo has several amazing exhibits like Primate Canyon, China, Northwest Passage, and Teton Trek.

Check out their website at http://www.memphiszoo.org/

6. Miami MetroZoo

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Zoo Miami is considered one of the best zoos in the world because of its free-range inspired exhibits.  This zoo has four main exhibit areas that represent Asia, Africa, The Amazon, and Australia.  Zoo Miami is home to over 2,000 animals that represent 500 different species.  Since Hurricane Andrew severally damaged the zoo in 1992 Zoo Miami has opened several new exhibits and has remodeled others.  The Miami Zoo is working on their newest exhibit Florida: Mission Everglades which is slated to be open sometime in 2014.  Once their latest exhibit is opened this zoo will be climbing even higher on people’s best of lists.

Check out their website at http://www.miamimetrozoo.com/

5. Woodland Park Zoo

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Woodland Park Zoo is located in Seattle, Washington.  It is a multi-award winning zoo for its natural looking habitats.  While it might not have all the bells and whistles of an amusement style zoo like the Columbus Zoo it does have some of the best looking natural exhibits around.  The Woodland Park Zoo has 92 acres to house its 1,000 animals most of them in spacious areas. The Woodland Park Zoo’s sward winning exhibits like Northern Trail, African Savanna, Tropical Asia, and Tropical Rain Forest is the reason that it is number five on my top ten best zoo’s in the United States.

Check out their website at http://www.zoo.org/

4. Henry Doorly Zoo

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The Henry Doorly Zoo of Omaha is one of the premier zoo’s in the country.  The Omaha Zoo has over 17,000 animals that represent over 962 species.  It is also home to some of the largest exhibits in the world including the Lied Jungle which is an indoor rainforest and the Desert Dome which is an indoor desert.  The Henry Doorly Zoo has many world-class exhibits including the two already mentioned along with Expedition Madagascar, Kingdoms of the Night, Scott Aquarium, and Simmons Aviary.  This zoo, like so many others, is striving to maintain its exhibits while adding many exciting more.  If their master plan is ever completed this zoo will be going for the title as the best zoo in the United States.

Check out their website at http://www.omahazoo.com/

3. Bronx Zoo
 Ten Best Zoos in the United States

The Bronx Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the world at 265 acres.  It is a massive zoo that houses over 4,000 animals that represent 650 species.  Besides just the size of the museum it has several world class exhibits including what might be the best exhibit ever made which is the Congo Gorilla Forrest.  This zoo is well known for its naturalistic exhibits and its Tiger Mountain, Madagascar, Big Bears, and JungleWorld exhibits should not be missed.  The Bronx Zoo has won more Best National Exhibit awards than any other zoo in the United States.

Check out their website at http://www.bronxzoo.com/

2. San Diego Zoo

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The San Diego Zoo is probably the most famous zoo in the United States and there is an easy reason why that is,  it has some of the best exhibits in the world.  The San Diego Zoo houses more than 3,700 animals that represent more than 650 species. It has the largest colony of koalas that reside outside of Australia and it is also one of four zoo’s that have Giant Pandas.  It has many exhibits that are worth your time including Elephant Odyssey, Polar Bear Plunge,  Absolutely Apes, and Monkey Trails and Forest Tales.

Check out their website at http://www.sandiegozoo.org/

1. Columbus Zoo

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The Columbus Zoo, also known as Jack Hanna’s Zoo, is home to over 8,000 animals that represent close to 800 different species.  The zoo is divided into several regions each representing a different part of the world.  The different areas include North America, Polar Frontier, Asia Quest, Shores, Australia, and the African Forest.  Just about every major animal in the world is represented at this zoo.  Besides the zoo the Columbus Zoo also owns a water park and an amusement park so expect to spend a couple days here if you want to experience everything the Columbus Zoo has to offer.

So, what do you think of our ten best zoos list?  Is your favorite zoo left off?  If it is, please tell us which one it is and why it is your favorite because Karen and I are always looking for one to go visit.  Hope you enjoy our list of the Ten Best Zoos in the United States.

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  1. Allen Nyhuis

    I honestly have no problems at all with your list, though I might rearrange the Top 4 a bit. But overall, you have definitely listed 10 of the very best zoos in America.

    I hope you two continue to enjoy touring the country, taking in great zoos. Thanks for mentioning our book!
    Allen Nyhuis, Coauthor: America’s Best Zoos

  2. Kenny and Karen

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. We are excited you visted our humble blog. Your book has inspired serveral of our trips and probably many more to come.

  3. EB

    How about the Milwaukee County Zoo? Have you ever been there?

    1. Kenny and Karen

      No, but we have heard good things. Hopefully someday Karen and I will hit all of the major zoos across this great land and will probably have to revise our list.

  4. Brandon

    Definitely check out the National Zoo in DC! I live down the street from it and it’s amazing. It’s over 160 acres with many happy animals and entrance cost is free!

    1. Kenny and Karen

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! We would love to take a trip to DC as a history teacher I have been planning a trip there for a long time and the National Zoo is right up there with the things we want to see.

  5. nick

    The Cincinnati zoo come on.

    1. Kenny and Karen

      Heard some wonderful things about the Cincinnati Zoo, we will have to check it out. Thanks for the suggestion who knows maybe it will force us to reevaluate our list.

  6. Ryan

    My family has a season pass for the Columbus Zoo. We go every few weeks and it never gets old. There is so much to see all year around. The water park is a separate pass but it is outstanding as well. If you are going to be in the area I highly recommend you stop by for a visit.

    1. Kenny and Karen

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and the tip about the water park.

  7. Gene

    If anyone takes a vacation to Disney land or any where near central Florida. You want to check out the a Brevard zoo. It was not so good a decade ago but it has started to make the top 10 lists. Will not break your pockets to get in and just wow. Went expecting 1 to 2 hours of enjoyment. Did not leave until 6 and still did not cover everything. Peek at the website to see what I am talking about

    1. Kenny and Karen

      Thanks for the information, we will have to check it out- Karen and I are always looking for a great zoo to visit.

  8. Elijah

    The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Has some of the best reserch, yet exhibits in the world. In my opinion, That zoo would be my #1. Its just so unique.

    1. Kenny and Karen

      It is a great zoo…My wife and I like it so much we have been to it three times. Really looking forward to the new additions they have in their master plan.

  9. Catherine

    I just wanted to thank you guys for adding Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo to your list. It seems to be underappreciated in other lists I’ve seen. I know they are expanding and I hope they come up with some more unique exhibits. I would personally love to see them add some koalas and pandas. I feel really lucky to have such an amazing zoo so close to home.

    I have also been to the Memphis Zoo. When I went, I really didn’t think they had many animals. I think some of the exhibits just weren’t open when I went there in April 2012. It was still a nice zoo and I give them credit for their pandas and Asian exhibit. I can see them making this list though. I am just so used to Omaha’s that it was a little disappointing to me. If I had it my way, Henry Doorly would be #1 because they truly deserve it. Thank you so much for including them.

    1. Kenny and Karen

      It is one of our personal favorites and look forward to visiting anytime we are in the Omaha area. Thanks for taking the time to comment!!!

  1. Top 10 Zoos In United States 2012 | Reveview Tips

    [...] Ten Best Zoos in the United States – plainadventure.com – Karen and I love to go to zoo’s, especially well done zoo’s. To read about all the zoos that we have visited you can click here. This list contains the top ten zoo’s that we think are the best in the United States. [...]

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