Best Zoos in the Midwest (and Rockies)

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Stop number two on our tour of the nations best zoos is the mighty Midwest.  The heartland is home to plenty of terrific spots to take the kids, and it’s zoos are amongst the best around.  Lets get started with the zoo that is home to my childhood hero, Jack Hanna.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium:

Photo Courtesy of Columbus Zoo

I have never had the pleasure of visiting this world class park but it is very high on my zoo “bucket list”. The zoo is divided into different geographical regions, from the Asia Quest to the newly opened Polar Frontier.  In the Australia region, Marvelis tells us “you can enter the Kangaroo Walkabout and walk a path where a “mob” of kangaroos is only a rope away.”  Be sure to see the manatees in the Shores Region.  It is one of only three places outside of Florida that you can see these massive yet gentle creatures. If you would like to break up the animal experiences with some rides take time to visit Jungle Jack’s Landing, the carousel, train, and the boat rides.

Check out more Trekaroo family reviews of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

St Louis Zoo:

Photo Courtesy St Louis Zoo

This highly acclaimed zoo is free!  That’s right, its free to visit the tigers, leopards and lions in the Red Rocks and walk along Rivers Edge to discover cheetahs, rhinos, and giant anteaters.  For a small fee, you can take the kids inside the Children’s Zoo which is equipped with a “Just Like Me” play area, plenty of critters to pet, and even a slide with lookouts so kids can wave as they shoot past playful otters.  Ahoward212 offers this great tip: “If you have the extra $$$, the Behind the Scenes tour Penguin Encounter was fabulous.  We were able to get an up close & personal hang out time with two penguins (Fidget & Shadow).  An experience we’ll never forget.”

Check out more Trekaroo family reviews of the St Louis Zoo.

Denver Zoo:

Photo Courtesy of Denver Zoo

Even with those harsh Minnesotan winters, the Minnesota Zoo is a zoo for all seasons.  In the winter when the snow is falling and the temperatures are below zero, visit the Tropics Trail and Discovery Bay.  Its nice and warm inside and animals from the Caribbean, South Pacific, and tropical rain forests are happily awaiting your visit.  When its hot and humid outside, head over to the Splash Pad and cool off between watching the sharks get fed and the moose chomp on water plants.  The exhibits at the Minnesota Zoo provide plenty of roaming room for the animals and Minnemom reminds us “outdoors, there’s a lot of walking to be done, so bring your walking shoes and a stroller for little ones who aren’t good walkers yet.”

Check out more Trekaroo family reviews of the Minnesota Zoo.

Henry Doorly Zoo (Omaha, NB):

Photo Courtesy TLC

Catholic Family calls the Henry Doorly Zoo “a gem of the Midwest in terms of the amount and quality of exhibits.”  It is home to the world’s largest indoor desert, world’s largest nocturnal exhibit and America’s largest indoor rain forest. The Desert Dome, the world’s largest geodesic dome at 13 stories high, features plants and animals from the Namib Desert of southern Africa, the Red Center of Australia and the Sonoran Desert of the southwest United States.  Located below the Desert Dome is the Kingdome of the Night, which transports families into a nocturnal wonderland.  The Lied Jungle completely immerses people in a natural rain forest environment with cliffs, caves, waterfalls, and bridges leading guests towards clouded leopards, pygmy hippos, and spider monkeys.

Check out more Trekaroo family reviews of the Henry Doorly Zoo.

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Sharlene Earnshaw (aka doubleadventure) is Blogger-in-chief for Trekaroo – a reviews site dedicated to exploring and traveling with kids and the woman behind Double the Adventure.

Travel with kids to: CA | CO | DC | FL | HI | IL | MA | NC | NY | PA | TN | TX | VA | WA

About the author

Sharlene Earnshaw is Trekaroo’s Editor in Chief. She lives in sunny Orange County, CA, with her husband and 10-year-old son and daughter (twins!). She is a self-proclaimed National Park junkie and has the goal of visiting each and every one with her kids. When she isn't traveling to places like Norway, Peru, Disney World, and Hawaii with her family, she enjoys hiking, beach days, obsessively rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, and planning her brood's next trip.

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