30 Best Zoos in the US to Visit in 2021

Many of us love a wonderful outing to the zoo. It gives an opportunity to learn about many different types of exotic or endangered animals all while enjoying a pleasant day with the family.

There are more than two thousand zoos in the United States. It may be hard to decide which ones are the best zoos in the US to visit, but the thirty zoos listed below are the best of them all.

Each one has something unique to offer, like special animals, one-of-a-kind attractions, or unique environments for the animals.

These zoos are all over the United States, and they all have different climates, weather, and landscapes.

Additionally, the types of animals at these zoos come from all over the world, and some focus on the animals native to their state or city.

These top 30 zoos are undoubtedly the best in the US since they are all unique and offer their guests fun and educational experiences.

Let's explore the list of these best zoos in the USA that you must visit.

Best Zoos in the United States

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1: San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California

San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California

San Diego Zoo is considered to be the top zoo in North America because it is one of the few zoos in the world that housed and bred giant pandas.

While these giant pandas are no longer at the zoo as they have been sent back to China, there are now Platypuses from Australia living at the zoo and more than 12,000 other animals.

The San Diego Zoo is also one of the most visited zoos in the United States, with over four million visitors per year.

At the zoo, visitors can take a guided bus tour through the zoo, watch an animal show or 4-D theater show, or enjoy family-friendly play areas. There are also “Animals in Action” experiences where visitors can see cats up close.

It is truly a zoo that prides itself in diversity and quality- two necessary ingredients for an enjoyable, informative day.

Address: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

Also Read: Top 26 Attractions & Things To Do in San Diego, California

2: Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, Nebraska

Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, Nebraska

Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, has been rated one of the best zoos in the country and even in the world by TripAdvisor.

The zoo has over 15 exhibits that are home to over 16,000 animals. The cats at the zoo live in the largest cat complex on the continent.

There are many attractions at the zoo other than seeing the animals. There is a carousel, train, movie theater, and tram.

Other unique attractions include a skyfari ride in a chairlift with views overlooking the view and an Alaskan Adventure, a water and splash area.

The zoo also hosts many events such as trivia nights, children's summer camps, and unique overnight stays where guests can sleep near different animal exhibits.

Address: 3701 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68107

Website: www.omahazoo.com

3: Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, Illinois

Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, Illinois
Mexican wolf pup and mom at Brookfield Zoo | Flickr/Bob Haarmans

Brookfield Zoo is in Brookfield, Illinois, located just outside of Chicago. The zoo has over 2,000 animals who live on over 200 acres of land.

Exhibits at the zoo include big cats, African animals, and an indoor sea animal house. The sea animal house has fish, sharks, and lots of penguins. The tropical monkey home has many species of primates from three continents: South America, Asia, and Africa.

One of the significant specialty exhibits 'Dinos Everywhere' has lifesize mechanical dinosaurs inspired by Jurassic Park.

Another great exhibit for families is the interactive zoo where guests can feed animals like goats and meet other animals during talks with animal experts. A third popular exhibit at the zoo allows visitors to feed giraffes directly.

Address: 8400 W 31st St, Brookfield, IL 60513

Website: www.czs.org

4: Denver Zoo, Denver, Colorado

Denver Zoo, Denver, Colorado
Ring-tailed lemurs at Denver Zoo | Flickr/Jim & Robin Kunze

The Denver Zoo is one of the great American zoos. The zoo first opened in the late 19th century with only one animal, a black bear, and more than a century later, there are over 3,000 animals that call the zoo home!

It is known for having animals in its natural habitats. There are many unique exhibits at the zoo, like the Stringray Cove, where guests can touch and feed 40 stingrays who swim around in a 15,000-gallon pool.

Another exhibit is the Elephant Passage, with winding pathways on 10 acres of land for elephants and other animals.

Guests can learn more about animals like sloths, camels, llamas, and giraffes in personal up-close interactions.

Address: 2300 Steele St, Denver, CO 80205

Website: www.denverzoo.org

5: Bronx Zoo, New York, NY

Bronx Zoo, New York, NY

Bronx Zoo is one of the most prominent zoos in New York, and one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the United States.

It has over 260 acres to explore, with 8,000 animals from 6,000 species living at the zoo.

Some of its world-class exhibits include the Congo Gorilla Forest, the Wild Asia Monorail, Tiger Mountain, and the newest, Madagascar!

Among the most unique animals at the zoo include red pandas, puffins, chinchillas, and aardvarks.

Visitors can participate in different zoo experiences like riding the bug carousel, climbing the treetop adventure ropes course, and riding a trolley all around the zoo.

Kids can see the zoo from above on the nature trek. There are also wild encounters that give visitors an up-close look at animals like giraffes, cheetahs, penguins, and sloths.

Address: 2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10460

Website: www.bronxzoo.com

Also Read: 5 Best Zoos for Tourists in the Boroughs of New York City

6: Audubon Zoo, New Orleans, Louisiana

Audubon Zoo, New Orleans, Louisiana
White Tigers at Audubon Zoo | Flickr/Angie Garrett

Audubon Zoo is spread over fifty acres and is home to more than two thousand animals.

One of the most unique parts of the zoo is the swamp exhibit. It features the animals that live in Louisiana’s southern swamps. In the swamp are alligators and many swamp plants.

Other exhibits at the zoo include thirty species of birds, Asian animals like orangutans, big cats, primates, flamingos, and sea lions.

There is a waterpark at the zoo with water rides and pools. Also, there are many restaurants and shops in the zoo.

Zookeepers give daily educational talks about the zoo’s animals, and there are interactive events where guests can meet the animals.

With so many fantastic choices you can't go wrong, no matter where you begin your day.

Address: 6500 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70118

Website: www.auduboninstitute.org

7: San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, Texas
Lucky the Elephant at San Antonio Zoo | Flickr/amboo who

San Antonio Zoo is in South Central Texas. The zoo has more than three and a half thousand animals from over seven hundred species.

Over one million people visit the zoo every year. The exhibits at the zoo are split by habitat and place of origin. The newest exhibit is Africa Live! The exhibit has African animals like giraffes, monkeys, elephants, zebras, and lots of birds.

The attractions at the zoo include a locomotive train ride and a kids’ park. The kids’ park is the oldest amusement park that has a carousel and many other rides.

The zoo offers Animal Encounters, in which visitors can meet with zookeepers, learn about animals, and ask any questions they might have. Education Encounters offer close interaction with animals such as pythons and gibbons and informative sessions.

The zoo also holds many annual seasonal events like a winter lights show and a family Halloween party.

Address: 3903 N St Mary's St, San Antonio, TX 78212

Website: www.sazoo-aq.org

8: Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Philadelphia Zoo was opened in 1874, making it one of the oldest zoos in the US.

The zoo is home to more than 1300 animals, and over one million people visit the zoo every year.

Some featured animals at the zoo are the ruffed lemur and the sloth bears. Both animals are endangered and threatened, so the zoo makes all possible efforts to keep them safe from extinction.

The newest exhibit at the zoo has 24 life-size dinosaurs with educational displays on how dinosaurs lived.

Attractions at the zoo include a carousel, a train, and the WildWorks rope course.

The course is thirty-four feet high, and there is a zipline to take guests down when they are done climbing. The course is paired with a smaller course for younger children.

Address: 3400 W Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Website: www.philadelphiazoo.org

9: Memphis Zoo, Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis Zoo, Memphis, Tennessee

The Memphis Zoo is named one of the best zoos in America. Over one million people visit the zoo every year to see 3,500 animals from 500 species.

The most popular exhibit at the zoo is the China exhibit which is home to giant pandas.

The Memphis Zoo is one of only three zoos in the United States that has pandas. Other animals in the China exhibit include deer, pheasants, and langurs.

The zoo hosts many events that highlight the animals that live there. A tram transports guests around the zoo, and there is a carousel in the China exhibit.

Children can enjoy the many kids’ rides, participate in educational events and participate in a summer camp at the zoo.

Address: 2000 Prentiss Pl, Memphis, TN 38112

Website: www.memphiszoo.org

10: Cincinnati Zoo, Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati Zoo, Cincinnati, Ohio
One of the smallest wild cats found mainly in the deserts of Asia and Africa at Cincinnati Zoo | Flickr/Becker1999

One of the top zoos in the US is Cincinnati Zoo. The zoo is one of the oldest in the country and is a National Historic Landmark.

Cincinnati Zoo was home to the infamous Harambe, a gorilla who was part of a viral incident in 2016.

Another famous animal at the zoo is Fiona, a hippo who was born in 2017. Her premature birth and survival through childhood have made her a viral internet phenomenon.

Visitors can pet goats and feed giraffes at the zoo every day. Other interactive animal experiences include elephants, tortoises, and cheetahs.

Attractions include a carousel and a train ride. The Kanga’ Klimb is a new activity where visitors can climb on a high course and test their physical abilities.

Address: 3400 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH 45220

Website: www.cincinnatizoo.org

11: Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is one of the only US zoos with an adjacent aquarium. Over four thousand animals live at the zoo.

The aquarium is two stories tall and has exhibits that represent the different water ecosystems. The animals at the zoo live in one of eight areas, and they come from all over the world and are all types of species.

Visitors at the zoo can participate in interactive animal exhibits with animals like hippos, leopards, and cheetahs.

The aquarium has similar shows with sharks and other sea animals. There is a zipline at the zoo that lets visitors fly over the animals.

The zoo currently has many events like parades and special days when visitors can drive through the zoo.

Address: 7370 Baker St, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

12: Dallas Zoo, Dallas, Texas

Dallas Zoo, Dallas, Texas

The Dallas Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the US and one of the popular attractions in Texas.

More than 2,000 animals at the zoo are part of more than 400 species. There is a train that runs through the zoo and a one-of-a-kind carousel.

At the zoo, visitors can take part in many interactive animal experiences. One exhibit includes free-flying birds that can be fed and will land on people.

Other exhibitions include different animals depending on the day but can consist of cheetahs, tortoises, giant birds, and dogs. Visitors get a chance to get up close and personal with these animals and learn more about them from animal experts.

Address: 650 S R L Thornton Fwy, Dallas, TX 75203

13: Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas

Over seven thousand animals live at the Fort Worth Zoo. The zoo is one of the best zoos in the US for seeing all kinds of animals that are native to Texas as well as some exotic species.

The zoo has eleven exhibits that are split by habitat type. Some exhibits focus on a single species like the penguin home, Parrot Paradise, and the primate area. Other exhibits include African animals and Australian Animals.

Guests at the zoo can ride the western-themed carousel, walk over a long, swampy bridge, play a target shooting game, or enjoy life on the farm in the Playbarn.

A train connects two parts of the zoo to make exploring easier. There is also a rock-climbing wall and an area that simulates hurricanes and tornados.

Address: 1989 Colonial Pkwy, Fort Worth, TX 76110

14: Kansas City Zoo, Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Zoo, Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Zoo is one of the best zoos in America that has been open for more than one hundred years.

The African animals at the zoo are the top in the country. The African animal exhibit is on nearly one hundred acres, split into five different habitats. The African exhibits have elephants, cheetahs, lions, rhinos, and many other animals.

There are many ways to travel through the zoo during a visit.

There is a tram in the African exhibit, and animals are visible from the tram. There is also a sky tram where guests can ride over the African exhibit and see the animals from above.

Guests can also enjoy the carousel, a train ride, and a boat ride through the Africa exhibit.

Address: 6800 Zoo Dr, Kansas City, MO 64132

15: Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois

Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois

Lincoln Park Zoo is a city zoo in Chicago, Illinois. Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the top zoos in the US because entry to the zoo is free, except during special events.

There are over one thousand animals at the zoo, like penguins, seals, monkeys, and large cats, covering two hundred species. A carousel sits in the center of the zoo.

Popular events at the zoo include beer tasting nights, food tasting days, and the famous Zoolights.

Zoolights is a holiday event where millions of lights shine bright in the zoo. The zoo is open year-round, and many exhibits are inside, which makes winter visits easy.

There are also gardens at the zoo and a tree from 1830 before Chicago was even a city.

Address: 2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

16: Minnesota Zoo

Minnesota Zoo

The Minnesota Zoo is a unique zoo in southeast Minnesota. The zoo arranges animals based on habitat, and the habitats have walking trails for visitors to explore.

Each trail has a different theme, like northern animals, tropical animals, and Minnesota animals.

The Minnesota trail is the most unique since it features the state’s native animals like wolves, coyotes, otters, bears, and eagles.

The zoo has many aquariums for its marine animals, with over one million gallons of water combined in all the tanks.

The zoo holds many events, like a baby animal event that features the zoo’s newest animals and some different summer camps for kids.

Kids can also climb on the play areas throughout the zoo and ride the carousel.

Address: 13000 Zoo Blvd, Apple Valley, MN 55124

17: Oakland Zoo, Oakland, California

Oakland Zoo, Oakland, California

Oakland Zoo is in Oakland, California, and is one of the best zoos in the US. The zoo will be celebrating its one-hundredth anniversary in 2022. A unique part of the zoo is the veterinary hospital on site.

There is a children’s zoo that has many animals and exhibits geared explicitly to children.

The animals that kids can feed are the goats and the sheep, and there are playgrounds in the children’s zoo too.

Visitors can ride a gondola at the zoo that looks over not just the zoo but also the surrounding San Francisco area.

At the top of the gondola is the California Trail, an area built by the zoo that features bears, eagles, and wolves that guests can see along the way.

Address: 9777 Golf Links Rd, Oakland, CA 94605

18: Oklahoma City Zoo

Oklahoma City Zoo

Oklahoma City Zoo is one of the best zoos in the United States. The zoo has almost two thousand animals, and over one million people visit them every year.

The zoo's most famous animals include elephants, primates, butterflies, and many tropical animals like turtles and snakes.

There are many fantastic attractions and events at the zoo that visitors can participate in every day. Visitors can feed flamingos, giraffes, rhinos, and birds.

The zoo’s rides include a train that models a train from the nineteenth century, a carousel with endangered animals, and a tram to transport around the zoo.

To see water animals in action, visitors can watch a sea lion show or touch stingrays.

Address: 2000 Remington Pl, Oklahoma City, OK 73111

19: Orego Zoo, Portland, Oregon

Orego Zoo, Portland, Oregon

The Oregon Zoo is located in Portland, Oregon. The zoo opened in 1888, making it the oldest zoo in America.

The zoo opened with only two bears, and now there are over eighteen hundred animals live at the zoo representing over two hundred species.

There are twenty-four exhibits at the zoo that are based on the animals’ habitats.

Each summer, the zoo hosts educational and entertaining shows and concerts on a stage in the zoo.

A zoo lights event is held in the winter, with lights covering the zoo. There is also a train for visitors to ride and a carousel for people of all ages.

There is also a farm area for families to visit and interact with some of the animals.

Address: 4001 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221

20: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Cumberland, Ohio

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Cumberland, Ohio

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is located in Cumberland, Ohio, near the state capital of Columbus. It is one of the most prominent zoos in the US, with more than 7,000 animals from all over the world.

Some attractions at the zoo include a carousel, a water park with 17 rides, and an adjacent amusement park with 14 roller coasters.

Additionally, there are unique ways to tour the zoo, like a horseback ride, a safari tour, or by riding a zipline. Visitors can even stay overnight at exceptional resorts by the zoo.

Address: 14000 International Rd, Cumberland, OH 43732

21: Saint Louis Zoo, St. Louis, Missouri

Saint Louis Zoo, St. Louis, Missouri

Saint Louis Zoo houses more than 12,000 animals and focuses on helping its endangered species survive.

The animal exhibits are divided into different habitats like forests, water, the desert, and a birdhouse.

Although admission to the zoo is free, you would need to buy tickets for extra activities like riding the carousel or the railroad.

There are shows at the zoo's 4-D theater, and sea lion shows. Additionally, there is an interactive stingray exhibit where guests can pet stingrays. The zoo also hosts annual events like a holiday lights show.

Address: 1 Government Dr, St. Louis, MO 63110

22: San Francisco Zoo, San Francisco, California

San Francisco Zoo, San Francisco, California

The San Francisco Zoo sits right next to the ocean and is home to over one thousand animals. There are also gardens at the zoo. The gardens are open year-round with many native plants.

There are more than twenty exhibits at the zoo that are separated by the type of animal.

There are exhibits for many animals, including penguins, lions, bears, eagles, and even insects.

To see the animals from a different perspective, visitors can take a guided walking tour of the zoo that features fun facts about the animals, the history of the zoo, or the garden plants.

There are also special bike tours and a behind-the-scenes tour of the animals’ homes.

Address: Sloat Blvd &, Great Hwy, San Francisco, CA 94132

23: Zoo Miami, Miami, Florida

Zoo Miami, Miami, Florida

One of America's wildest zoos is Zoo Miami in Miami, Florida. The zoo and gardens have three thousand animals on over seven hundred acres of land.

Half of the land is undeveloped and makes up a natural tropical forest. The zoo is a tropical zoo, and it is the only one in the United States.

The zoo exhibits are split up by continent, except for the Florida exhibit, which highlights the animals and plants native to the state.

The animals in the Florida exhibit include alligators, panthers, bears, otters, and bald eagles.

Visitors at the zoo can feed and interact with animals, including camels, giraffes, parrots, rhinos, and tortoises. There are also education talks by zookeepers that feature other animals.

Address: 12400 SW 152nd St, Miami, FL 33177

24: Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida

Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is located at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Animal Kingdom has millions of visitors every year who come to visit the park’s seven areas.

The Africa and Asia habitats have animals from those continents. The Oasis has many animals, including boars and deer.

The park focuses on the health of the animals and the earth by limiting noises and only providing biodegradable items in the dining areas. Plastic items like straws and balloons are prohibited.

The zoo also has a dinosaur exhibit with educational displays about the lives of dinosaurs. There are also many rides and games at the park, such as a carousel, a rollercoaster, and even a live stage show.

Address: 2901 Osceola Pkwy, Bay Lake, FL 34747

25: Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Rock Creek Park, Washington D.C.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Rock Creek Park, Washington D.C.

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park is in Rock Creek Park. The zoo, more commonly known as the National Zoo, is in the United State’s capital of Washington D.C., and it is one of the best zoos on the east coast.

The zoo is unique because it offers free admission to all guests, and it is one of the only zoos in the United States to house giant pandas.

In addition to the famous pandas, there are two thousand other animals, some of whom are endangered species.

Many events are held year-round at the zoo, including food and drink tastings, educational events for people of all ages, and some overnight sleepovers where guests can explore the zoo at night.

Address: 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

26: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The zoo is located on a mountain nearly seven thousand feet above sea level.

It is one of the most unique and best zoos in America. There are seven hundred and fifty animals at the zoo, including thirty endangered species.

The zoo breeds these endangered animals to keep them from extinction. These animals include black-footed ferrets and mountain tapirs.

At the zoo, guests can participate in many experiences like animal feedings for birds, giraffes, goats, elephants, chickens, and rhinos.

There is also a goat petting zoo and various other educational and interactive experiences with the zookeepers and the animals.

Additionally, there is a chairlift ride with aerial views of the zoo and the surrounding mountain towns.

Address: 4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Website: www.cmzoo.org

27: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Tampa, Florida

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Tampa, Florida

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a popular animal theme park that gets more than four million visitors each year.

The zoo has many animals like the more than five hundred birds who live in a free flight home. There are also African animals like lions, hyenas, lemurs, and hippos.

There are theme park attractions like multiple roller coasters, water park rides, a train, and a tall drop tower in addition to the animals.

The park hosts events as well, like seasonal holiday events during the winter and for Halloween. In the summer, there is a food and wine festival and many musical concerts.

Address: 10165 McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612

Website: www.buschgardens.com

28: Bear Country USA, Rapid City, South Dakota

Bear Country USA, Rapid City, South Dakota

Bear Country USA in Rapid City, South Dakota, is a unique zoo that is an open mammal-based nature park.

The zoo is untraditional in that instead of having exhibits that guests walk around and see, guests stay in their car and take a slow three-mile drive through the park.

The drive takes visitors through the exhibits, which have animals like elk, reindeer, cougars, goats, sheep, and buffalo.

The park has the largest privately owned black bear collection in the world. In addition to the drive, there is a nature area for guests to explore.

Address: 13820 US-16, Rapid City, SD 57702

Website: www.bearcountryusa.com

29: Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Washington

Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Washington

Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, has more than one thousand animals that are part of three hundred species.

It is one of the best zoos in the US and has won many awards. The most extensive area of the zoo is the tropical animal area.

This exhibit has Asian animals like rhinos, tortoises, bears, otters, orangutans, and pythons.

Other exhibits have African animals like giraffes, forest animals like bears, and a jungle exhibit with jaguars, frogs, and monkeys.

Guests can participate in many events during their trip to the zoo, including food and beer tastings, musical events, and animal tours.

For children, there is a play area and a carousel. The new dinosaur exhibit has over twenty life-like dinosaurs.

Address: 5500 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103

Website: www.zoo.org

30: Indianapolis Zoo, Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis Zoo, Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis Zoo is the last on our list of the best zoos in the US. The zoo is in White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.

There are nearly four thousand animals at the zoo that are from over three hundred species.

More than one million people visit the zoo every year to see the exhibits that include ocean animals, forest animals, and desert animals.

A highlight of the zoo is the Dolphin Pavillon, where the zoo hosts dolphin shows in addition to multiple dolphin viewing areas when there are no shows.

Another unique attraction is the orangutan center. The vast exhibit is home to numerous orangutans where they can explore inside and outside the home. It is an educational center for scientists and guests alike.

Address: 1200 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46222

Website: www.indianapoliszoo.com

Plan a trip to one of these Zoos!

While there are plenty of zoos in America, the thirty zoos above are the best zoos in the US. Each one has unique animals, ecosystems, attractions, and events.

The zoos have carousels, roller coasters, rare Chinese pandas, and aerial views from ski lifts and ziplines. Some zoos even offer free entry and unique areas and events for kids, making them perfect for families.

The zoos also focus on protecting the endangered animals, helping them breed, and keeping them safe from human-made objects like plastic that endanger their living habitats.

From Florida to Washington and from California to New York, these are zoos all over the United States that you must visit.

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