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We love zoos because they are great places for families to spend the day together. We also love zoos because many serve as cutting-edge research centers, breeding facilities for endangered species, and educational institutions for a new generation of conservation-minded kids. So, which zoos are the best zoos in the United States? We scanned hundreds of Trekaroo user reviews and discovered that these ten are at the head of the pack.
10. Phoenix Zoo
Make your way through one of the largest non-profit zoos in the country as you visit orangutans, ocelots, oryx, and otters. Highlights include Monkey Village where squirrel monkeys swing above guests’ heads and the Arizona Trail which provides a fantastic introduction to the animals of the Desert Southwest. The children’s trail features a farm, petting zoo, and a playground with a saguaro cactus-shaped slide. If the kiddos are feeling the desert heat, just head over to the Leapin’ Lagoon Sprayground and cool off.
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9. Lowry Park Zoo (Tampa, FL)
Whether your kids are enjoying a turtle-shaped fountain shooting water out its mouth, a riding tiger-themed coaster, or catching glimpses of the 1,500 live animals that call this zoo home, they are sure to have a memorable day at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. The Florida Boardwalk takes visitors past local wildlife such as stingrays, crocodiles, and the elusive Florida panther. Everyone who visits will feel good knowing the zoo’s Florida Manatee and Aquatic Center is home to a hospital that has taken care of over 300 injured manatees to date.
8. National Zoo (Washington DC)
There are many fantastic and free educational attractions which make our nation’s capital an ideal family vacation, but none are better for teaching your kids about wildlife than the National Zoo. Besides the free factor, families love the convenient metro access and impressive giant panda exhibit. Bring your walking shoes as you climb the hill and discover loveable orangutans, Asian elephants, brightly-colored poison dart frogs, mysterious clouded leopards, and, of course, those majestic bald eagles.
7. Audubon Zoo (New Orleans, LA)
New Orleans may be known for its “adult” fun but this city has plenty of family-friendly offerings, including the city’s Audubon Zoo. While exhibits housing animals such as elephants, rhino, and tigers are perennial zoo favorites, the critters of the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit are not to be missed. Besides housing the famous Louisiana gators, the exhibit also does a wonderful job showcasing the region’s rich Cajun culture. If the heat of the Deep South gets to be too much, take the kids over to Cool Zoo, and awesome splash park housed inside the zoo.
6. Woodland Park Zoo (Seattle, WA)
At Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo your family can explore Alaskan tundra on the Northern Trail, dream of cuddling with a red panda in the Temperate Forest Zone, and wander amongst the wallaroos in the Australia Zone. If you have children ages 8 and younger, be sure to check out the Zoomazium. Perfect for those drizzly Seattle days, this indoor nature-themed play area has everything from a mountain cave to explore to a rope bridge in a tree canopy to cross to a 20 foot tree to climb.
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5. The Bronx Zoo
New York families have been coming to this urban zoo on the Bronx River for generations because it caters to kids. Children love playing spider on the giant web, climbing through a turtle shell, crawling through a prairie dog den, riding the bug carousel, and feeding farm animals. Visitors of all ages love taking the Wild Asia Monorail to view antelope, elephants, tigers, and more. Baboons, crocodiles, lemurs, king cobras, and a wide variety of birds are among the 4000 animals that call the zoo home.
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4. Columbus Zoo
Jungle Jack Hanna made this zoo famous. He poured heart and soul into developing Columbus into a world-class zoo and his success has lead over two million visitors in to admire the arctic foxes, linger with the langurs, and pass some time watching the mysterious puma. Be sure to stop by the Kangaroo Walkabout and walk a path where a “mob” of kangaroos is only a rope away. Don’t forget to see the manatees living in one of only three places outside of Florida.
3. Saint Louis Zoo
Did we mention we love free? The St. Louis Zoo offers free admission along with world-class exhibits such as River’s Edge which is home to favorite such as cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, and mongoose as well as the creatures of the Missouri wetlands. Kids won’t want to miss the sea lion show, speeding down a slide through the otter pool at the Children’s Zoo (which is free during the zoo’s opening hour), riding the Zooline Railroad, or petting the stingrays at Caribbean Cove.
2. Henry Doorly Zoo (Omaha, NE)
Home to the world’s largest indoor desert, world’s largest nocturnal exhibit and America’s largest indoor rain forest, the Henry Doorly Zoo is one of Nebraska’s premier attractions. 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 zoo’s Lied Jungle completely immerses families in a natural rain forest environment with cliffs, caves, waterfalls, and bridges leading guests towards clouded leopards, pygmy hippos, and spider monkeys. New for 2013- Dinosaurs Alive! The Lost Valley- which features 15 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs certain to mesmerize kids of all ages.
1. San Diego Zoo
Visitors walk through time at Elephant Odyssey, riders cross high above monkeys and hippos on the Skyfari aerial tram, polar bears splash away the day at Polar Bear Plunge, and Xiao Liwu, the baby panda, delights onlookers while doing adorable baby panda things. In all, 4,000 animals live on the San Diego Zoo’s 100 exquisitely landscaped acres inside Balboa Park. It takes a very full day to see all the queen of American zoos has to offer, so it is highly suggested that first timers take the 35-minute Guided Bus Tour which gives a nice overview of the zoo and allows you to plot your plan of attack.
Lead image by: Shutterstock
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