Travelers, and not just families, love to visit zoos. America has spectacular zoos that attract locals visitors and nature aficionado travelers — all nature and animal lovers, regardless of ages. TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site according to Media Metrix, unveiled on May 30, 2012, its rating of the top 10 zoos in the United States.
Make that a top 10 +1 list
The top 10 listing of America’s zoos is based on to a TripAdvisor Popularity Index and reflects the opinions of travelers. We’ve added an additional location. As travelers and nature photographers, we’ve added a personal favorite to TripAdvisor’s nationwide list of Top 10 Zoos to create a unique “10 + 1 Top American Zoos” listing.
Zoos impact attitudes and insights
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, through a study conducted with the Institute of Learning Innovation and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, has established visits to accredited zoos and aquariums prompt individuals to reconsider their roles in environmental problems and conservation action. Visits to zoos bring individuals to see themselves within solutions to environmental challenges. Zoos and aquariums play an important role in establishing conservation attitudes and enhance the understanding of wildlife and the conservation of the places animals live.
America’s first zoo
Zoos are delightful windows into nature. They serve as introductions to environmental regions and unique species. Excellent zoos offer delightful perspectives of favorite animals and allow inexpensive, easy access to enjoyment of nature and wildlife. They are venues for education and cultural value development.
A personal favorite zoo for us is the Philadelphia Zoo. It is America’s first zoo and home to more than 1,300 rare and endangered animals. It’s located at the corner of 34th Street and Girard Avenue in Philadelphia’s historic Fairmount Park, the world’s largest landscaped city park, and the Philadelphia Zoo has a lot to offer.
The Philadelphia Zoo is a 42 acre Victoria garden with a mission of conservation, science, education, and recreation. Its many animal habitats include highlights like the Rare Animal Conservation Center, the PECO Primate Reserve with Western lowland gorillas, the First Niagara Big Cat Falls with lush habitats and waterfalls and views of snow leopards, tigers, lions, and jaguars, and the McNeil Avian Center with walk-through habitats that immerse visitors in exotic landscapes featuring wonderful birds. There are camel rides, swan boat rides, an Amazon Rainforest carousel, and more. Mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and other wildlife are available at America’s first zoo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It’s a richly rewarding site for nature lovers.
A visit to the zoo is discovery, learning, and enjoyment in an interaction with nature and wildlife. With a personal favorite, the Philadelphia Zoo, added to Tripadvisor’s list of wonderful zoos, a nationwide, top 10 plus one listing of engaging zoos throughout America is produced. The selections all are made from the traveler’s perspective.
Tripadvisor’s top 10 zoos
Karen Drake, senior director of communications at TripAdvisor indicates, “The exotic sights and sounds at these zoos offer travelers a virtual round-the-world trip, without the price tag. Whether it’s gazing at gorillas or peeping at penguins, these wildlife sanctuaries offer herds of fun for adults and children alike.”
- Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, Nebraska — Omaha’s famous zoo boasts the Desert Dome – the largest indoor desert in the world, which spans 84,000 square feet and is home to a variety of vegetation and a colony of critters. Travelers can also take in the Lied Jungle, a rainforest setting featuring cascading waterfalls and monkeys jumping from tree to tree. “It’s a wonderful education for children and adults,” commented a TripAdvisor traveler. Admission costs $13.50 for adults (ages 12 and up), $12.50 for seniors, and $9 for children (ages three to 11); children under two get in for free.
- St. Louis Zoo, Saint Louis, Missouri — Home to more than 650 animals, this popular Midwest zoo features creatures of all kinds. Travelers can immerse themselves in the ten-acre River’s Edge exhibit, a naturalistic habitat featuring roaming hyenas, hippos, elephants and more. Feathered friends-galore can be spotted at the Penguin and Puffin Coast, while Bear Bluffs boasts some less cuddly beasts, such as Grizzlies, Andeans and Sloth bears. “This is a great zoo and the fact that it’s free is wonderful for families on a budget,” said one TripAdvisor traveler. Admission is free, but some attractions require a small fee.
- Cape May County Park & Zoo, Cape May Court House, New Jersey — Situated on the southern Jersey Shore, this wildlife sanctuary showcases more than 250 species of animals. Travelers can acquaint themselves with a bevy of birds, amphibians, reptiles, and furry friends – and, when not gawking at quadrupeds, can wander through one of the lush nature trails, or hop on the train and carousel rides. A TripAdvisor traveler noted, “If you and your family like to see animals treated in a fair and humane way and enjoy a wonderful park setting, the Cape May County Park and Zoo is the place to go.” Admission is free.
- Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden, Columbia, South Carolina — From African Plains to Lemur Island, this attraction’s exhibits let travelers get up close to more than 2,000 animals and 350 species. Giraffes, zebras, and ostriches roam across a vast expanse resembling the African savanna, while wallabies and kangaroos amble around an interactive walk-through area. A TripAdvisor traveler said, “Riverbanks Zoo is the perfect family outing.” Admission costs $11.75 for adults, $10.75 for seniors, and $9.25 for children (ages three to 12); children under two get in for free.
- Memphis Zoo, Memphis, Tennessee — In the midst of Memphis, travelers can connect with wildlife in an array of exciting settings, including Cat Country, Primate Canyon, and Crocodile Cove. Those wishing to learn more about the zoo’s remarkable residents can also take in one of the daily shows, which star a lineup of cuddly cast mates. “Well-timed feedings and shows give the experience an educational element,” noted a TripAdvisor traveler. Admission costs $15 for adults (ages 12 to 59), $14 for seniors (age 60 and up), and $10 for children (ages two to 11).
- San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California — Set across 100 acres of sun-drenched SoCal soil, this zoo is home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered residents, including giant panda bears, as well as an exotic collection of flora and fauna. Animal lovers can even sleep over at this wildlife kingdom, and enjoy an after-hours stroll through the grounds, before retiring to their tents. “A must-see if you visit San Diego,” commented a TripAdvisor traveler. Admission costs $42 for adults (ages 12 and up) and $32 for children (ages three to 11).
- Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, Kansas — This family-friendly attraction lets visitors come face-to-face with exciting species from across the globe. Travelers can visit Malaysian tapirs in the Asian forest, see penguins at play in the Cessna Penguin Cove, or discover the Children’s Farm, where dozens of domestic breeds dwell. “The animals seem to have nice habitats, the zookeepers are frequently roaming around answering questions and educating the visitors,” noted a TripAdvisor traveler. Admission costs $13.95 for adults (ages 12 to 61), $11.95 for seniors (age 62 and up), and $8.95 for children (ages three to 11); children under two get in for free.
- Brevard Zoo, Melbourne, Florida — Built by a community of nature enthusiasts, this sanctuary in the sun showcases several natural habitats, including “Wild Florida”. In this exhibit, travelers can feed white-tailed deer or climb into a kayak for a guided tour through acres of wetlands and their denizens. A TripAdvisor traveler noted, “This zoo is a perfect size for young children. I love the opportunity to get so close to the animals.” Admission costs $14.50 for adults (ages 12 and up), $13.50 for seniors, and $10.50 for children (ages two to 12); children under two get in for free.
- Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs, Colorado — This elevated establishment mirrors the natural habitats of more than 800 animals. Travelers can view wildlife from across the globe, including giraffes and meerkats in the African Rift Valley and grizzly bears in the Rocky Mountain Wild exhibit. Animal-gazers can also soar like a bird and enjoy panoramic views of the mountains in an open-air chairlift ride. A TripAdvisor traveler said, “It’s got everything the large zoos have but in a smaller space on the side of a mountain.” Admission costs $17.25 for adults, $15.25 for seniors (ages 65 and up), and $12.25 for children (ages three to 11); children under two get in for free.
- Audubon Zoo, New Orleans, Louisiana — At this zoo in the Big Easy, travelers can enjoy a parade of spots, stripes, and scales. Activities at this swamp-side attraction include bug tosses and “Creature Features”, during which patrons can pose for a picture with a critter and learn fascinating facts. Warm-blooded travelers can chill out at the Cool Zoo, a water park that boasts an alligator water slide and water-spitting snakes. A TripAdvisor traveler said, “One of the best zoos I have been to; great displays, beautifully maintained… simply a delight!” Admission costs $16 for adults, $13 for seniors (age 65 and up), and $11 for children (ages two to 12); children under two get in for free.
Across the nation
Zoos educate about the value of animals and their environments. The experience is sensory, filled with the sight, sounds, smells, and tactile impressions of wildlife and their natural environments. Many times, there are opportunities to attend shows, events, or talks. Through fun-filled experiences, important insights about nature and animals are initiated.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the major accrediting body for zoos in North America, in its “Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter: Assessing the Impact of a Visit to a Zoo or Aquarium” report, indicates zoo visitation can inspire visitors to care about and care for the natural world. Visiting zoos can be important and pleasurable travel opportunities. Excellent zoos are special sanctuaries that enable ecosystem appreciations. With the enlargement of ecosystem insights, the complex and vital responsibility of conservation is made possible.
Find the take in this article to be helpful? National and International Travel as well as National Education materials come from a husband and wife creative team, who travel extensively as photonaturalists and writers. One is an experienced scientist with a doctorate in Material Sciences and background in optics research. The other is former Vice President of GKE (Global Knowledge Exchange), who served as a US Web-based Education Commissioner during the Clinton administration, and was a former US National Tech&Learning Teacher of the Year. To keep current on similar articles, click the free, “subscribe” link at the top of this article to get a conveniently customized news delivery.