The 12 Best Zoos in America

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The best zoos do a lot more than provide a place to see animals in captivity. They also educate visitors about animals’ lives and the issues affecting them, and they serve as ways to preserve and rehabilitate critically endangered species. America’s best zoos have come a long way from the caged enclosures of the past and instead provide open-air habitats in natural settings for many of the animals. Rare and common animals alike find safety and quality care in these facilities. Let’s find out what the 12 best zoos in America are.

1. San Diego Zoo, California

San Diego Zoo, California
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Considered one of the world’s best zoos and often named America’s best, the San Diego Zoo has a dedication to conservation. With more than 14,000 rare and endangered animals, it’s also an incredible wildlife experience.

2. National Zoo, Washington (D.C.)

Panda Palooza Sign at National Zoo, Washington
Image Credit: M. Chase

One of the oldest zoos in the country, this one was established in the late 1800s to preserve species such as bison, foxes, and beavers that were fast-vanishing at the time. Today, it’s one of the few zoos in the country that has pandas, a hugely popular draw, although they are scheduled to return to China in December 2023.

3. Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Nebraska

Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha Nebraska
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Located in Omaha, this zoo has a reputation for outstanding animal care, conservation, and exhibit design. It also has the largest indoor rainforest in the country and the largest indoor desert and nocturnal exhibit in the world.

4. Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Florida

Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Florida
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Part of the Disney grounds, this 580-park is built around an African safari theme. As part of its conservation mission, this zoo once helped a white rhinoceros born there become ready for reintroduction to Uganda.

5. Lincoln Park Zoo, Illinois

Lincoln Park Zoo, Illinois
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This Chicago zoo is one of the nation’s oldest and has one of its largest zoo-based conservation and science programs. Animal welfare is a top priority here, as are conservation missions all around the world.

6. St. Louis Zoo, Missouri

St. Louis Zoo, Missouri
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Aside from providing a home for more than 500 animals, this zoo specializes in protecting wildlife from disease, poaching, and shrinking habitats. They also research how infectious diseases impact animals, humans, and the ecosystems they share.

7. Bronx Zoo, New York

Bronx Zoo, New York
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With 265 acres and over 10,000 animals of more than 700 species, the Bronx Zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the country. You can also enjoy a treetops ropes course and ride a zipline over the Bronx River.

8. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Ohio

hippo under the water at the Cincinnati zoo
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With animal exhibits and botanical gardens, this zoo has something for any outdoors lover. One of its top attractions is a pair of sibling hippos named Fiona and Fritz.

9. ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Florida

Pongo eating a leaf in the ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Florida
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At just 24 acres, this Tampa zoo is relatively small, but it still is a home to Tampa wildlife and to 1,100 animals from Afrisca, Asia, and Australia. It’s also renowned for excellent animal care and for rehabilitating endangered animal species.

10. Denver Zoo, Colorado

Elephant at the Denver Zoo
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The Mile High City’s biggest and best zoo hosts over 3,000 animals. Additionally, it’s active in protecting species under pressure from habitat loss, human encroachment, and catastrophic events.

11. Houston Zoo, Texas

two rhinoceroses at the houston zoo, texas
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A portion of every ticket sale goes to support wildlife conservation projects, including ones to help native Texas species. That and the more than 6,000 animals there help make it one of the most visited zoos in the country.

12. Austin Zoo, Texas

adorable turtle in zoo at austin
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This zoo is small compared to most others on this list and not as well known, but it has a big mission. Many of the animals here were taken in when they were orphaned or abandoned as young or because they were suffering from neglect in less ethical zoos and wildlife parks. The Austin Zoo is also popular with locals because, after Christmas each year, the zoo accepts people’s Christmas trees, which they repurpose as habitats for some of the residents. There’s also a fun little train ride that kids and their parents always enjoy.

How to Plan an Epic Theme Park Vacation: 4 Important Steps

girls at amusement theme park
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It is that time of the year, and you’ve decided to go on a family vacation to a theme park. The kids are excited to explore and experience all the fun, and you can’t wait to escape the stress of everyday life. 

Perfect! You can sit back until the day and enjoy the ride, right? Wrong. If you want to make your theme park vacation as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible, you must plan. A theme park vacation involves more than just buying tickets and showing up. 

How to Plan an Epic Theme Park Vacation: 4 Important Steps

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Robert Sihler is an educator, freelance writer, and rock climbing guide and instructor living with his family in Driftwood, Texas. In his spare time, he enjoys reading fiction, streaming films, completing crossword puzzles, and rock climbing. When he goes on vacation, he likes to visit the mountains of the West and climb remote, obscure peaks that have seen few or no prior ascents.