20 Best Zoos in the US (2023)

In this article, we will look at the 20 Best Zoos in the US. You can skip our detailed analysis of these zoos and go directly to the 5 Best Zoos in the US.

Zoos remain an integral part of our entertainment and recreation, especially for kids. According to Association of Zoos and Aquariums, over 183 million people in the US visit zoos annually.

Zoos and aquariums serve the purpose of conserving and showcasing land and aquatic animals for education and recreational purposes. However, zoos suffered heavy losses as foot traffic came to a screeching halt after the coronavirus crisis.

The travel and tourism industry has also suffered losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with new data suggesting that those losses may total to $766 billion in the United States alone during 2020. Like most industries, the travel and tourism industry has also been subjected to layoffs.

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) annual Economic Impact Report says that the number of jobs supported by the industry had declined by 33.2%, from 16.5 million to 11.1 million, due to the pandemic in the US alone.

Zoos and travel and tourism companies like Expedia Group Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE), AirBnB Inc. (NASDAQ: ABNB), Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKNG), Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) and Delta Airlines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) are, however, on track for a strong recovery as governments around the world scramble to vaccinate millions of people in the coming months.

Our Methodology

While selecting zoos for this list, we took into account factors like the number of animals, the total number of visitors, visitor feedback and diversity of species

20 Best Zoos in the US (1)

Photo by Omar Ram on Unsplash

(Video) Top 10 Best Zoos to Visit in USA 2022

20. Woodland Park Zoo

Total Animals in the Zoo: 1098

Annual Visitors: 1.4 million

One of the smallest zoos on this list, the Woodland Park Zoo is home to only 1098 animals of 300 unique species. It was opened in 1899, and some of its popular exhibits include the Jaguar Cove and the Humboldt Penguin Exhibit. It welcomes 1.4 million visitors annually.

19. Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Total Animals in the Zoo: 500

Annual Visitors: 0.5 million

The Living Desert Zoo focuses on exhibiting the deserts of the world and the animals that live there. It houses 500 animals of 150 individual species. Opened in 1970, some of its famous exhibits include the African Safari and the Australian Adventures. It receives half a million visitors every year. It is located in California.

18. Central Park Zoo

Total Animals in the Zoo: 1487

Annual Visitors: 1.0 million

Perhaps best known for being the home of the main characters from the widely popular movie Madagascar, Central Park Zoo is located in New York City in Central Park. It has been in operation since 1864, where it was initially a menagerie. It was rebranded into a zoo in 1934 and then finally wholly renovated into its current form in 1988. This renovation saw all the previous exhibits being replaced with realistic depictions of the animals’ natural habitats. It is home to 1487 animals and 163 unique species. It welcomes more than a million people each year.

Zoos in the US, along with travel and tourism companies like Expedia Group Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE), AirBnB Inc. (NASDAQ: ABNB), Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKNG), Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) and Delta Airlines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) are expected to see a lot of business in the coming months as more and more people begin to travel after getting their COVID-19 vaccine.

17. Detroit Zoo

Total Animals in the Zoo: 2400

Annual Visitors: 1.3 million

Located just outside the city limits, the Detroit Zoo is home to over 2400 animals of 235 unique species. It was opened in 1928, and some of its popular exhibits include the Arctic Ring of Life, Australian Outback Adventure, and the Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness.

(Video) 12 Best Zoos to visit in The United States

16. Brookfield Zoo

Total Animals in the Zoo: 2300

Annual Visitors: 2 million

Opened in 1934 and based in Chicago, the Brookfield Zoo was one of the first zoos in the United States to build an indoor Dolphin enclosure to display to the public. Among its other firsts, it was also one of the first zoos to exhibit a giant panda in the United States. It was also the first zoo to forgo cages and use deep enclosures and moats to separate the animals and guests. Its most popular attractions include the Dolphins in Action exhibit, the Butterflies Exhibit and The Carousel. Currently, 2300 animals representing 450 different species, are living at the zoo.

As different states begin to open and people start travelling, zoos, along with travel and tourism companies like Expedia Group Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE), AirBnB Inc. (NASDAQ: ABNB), Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKNG), Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) and Delta Airlines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) are expected to see a lot of business in the coming months.

15. Sedgwick County Zoo

Total Animals in the Zoo: 3000

Annual Visitors: 0.6 million

The Sedgwick County Zoo is home to over 3000 animals of 400 unique species. It was opened in 1971, and some of its popular exhibits include the Downing Gorilla Forest, Pride of the plains, and the Tiger Trek. It has been the recipient of many national and international awards for its efforts towards conservation of endangered species through field conservation programs and breeding in captivity.

14. Pittsburgh Zoo

Total Animals in the Zoo: 4000

Annual Visitors: 1 million

In 1898, the Pittsburgh Zoo was one of the six zoos in the United States that also has an Aquarium. It is home to over 4000 animals and 475 unique species. Some of its famous exhibits include the Kid’s Kingdom, the PPG Aquarium, and the Water’s Edge.

13. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Total Animals in the Zoo: 3500

Annual Visitors: 2 million

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is home to over 3500 animals of 400 unique species. It was opened in 1972, and some of its popular exhibits include African Plains, African Outpost, and the African Woods. It welcomes 2 million visitors annually.

(Video) Top 10 Best American Zoos to Visit

12. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Total Animals in the Zoo: 1896

Annual Visitors: 1.5 million

The Cincinnati Zoo was opened in 1875 and is home to 1896 animals of over 500 unique species and over 3000 different plant species. It receives 1.5 million visitors every year, and some of its famous exhibits include the P&G Discovery Forest, Eagle Eyrie, and the Reptile House. It is famous for being the home of the last surviving passenger pigeon, Martha, and to the last surviving Carolina parakeet, Incas.

11. The National Zoological Park

Total Animals in the Zoo: 2700

Annual Visitors: 1.8 million

The National Zoological Park is part of the Smithsonian Institution and is one of the few zoos that does not charge admission fee. Located in Washington and opened in 1889, the National Zoological Park is home to over 2700 animals belonging to over 400 unique species. 30 to 40 of these species are endangered, and the Zoo has been active in its efforts to conserve the species and save them from extinction. The zoo welcomes over 1.8 million people annually. The zoo is famously open every day of the year except on Christmas Day.

10. Indianapolis Zoo

Total Animals in the Zoo: 3800

Annual Visitors: 1.1 million

One of the younger zoos on this list, the Indianapolis Zoo began operations as late as 1964. The zoo is located inside the White River Park in the state of Indiana. Currently, over 3800 animals live at the Indianapolis Zoo, and 320 different species are represented there. Their popular exhibits include the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center and the Flights of Fancy exhibits, where guests can witness exotic birds from around the world.

9. Denver Zoo

Total Animals in the Zoo: 3500

Annual Visitors: 2.2 million

With over 3500 animals representing 550 different species, the Denver Zoo seems to be a favorite with locals and tourists, welcoming around 2.2 million visitors annually. It has been declared the most visited paid attraction in the city of Denver. Its exhibits include the Bear Mountain, the Primate Panorama, an exhibition featuring various apes and monkeys, and finally, the Toyota Elephant Passage.

8. Forth Worth Zoo

Total Animals in the Zoo: 7000

(Video) Amazing Zoos in the USA | FIND YOUR WILD SIDE in these Best Zoos in the USA 2020

Annual Visitors: 2.2 million

The Forth Worth Zoo has been declared one of the top zoos in the United States by three different publications, Family life magazine, USA Today and Southern Living. The zoo currently houses 7000 animals belonging to over 542 other species. It began operations in 1909, and some of its most popular exhibits today include World of primates, Elephant Springs, and Raptor Canyon. It also has an exhibit that features African penguins on a beach with an underwater viewing setup for guests.

As different states begin to open and people start travelling, zoos, along with travel and tourism companies like Expedia Group Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE), AirBnB Inc. (NASDAQ: ABNB), Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKNG), Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) and Delta Airlines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) are expected to see a lot of business in the coming months.

7. Saint Louis Zoo

Total Animals in the Zoo: 12,000

Annual Visitors: 3 million

The Saint Louis Zoo has opened over 100 years ago in 1910 and is home to over 600 unique species of animals. Entry to the zoo is free, and over 3 million people visit the zoo every year. However, you do have to pay to see some of the special exhibits in the zoo. A popular attraction at this Zoo is the locomotive train that takes guests around the zoo's perimeter while stopping to show them some of the famous exhibits inside.

6. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Total Animals in the Zoo: 7000

Annual Visitors: 2.3 million

Located in Ohio, the Columbus Zoo has been in operation since 1927. It is home to an astonishing 7000 animals of over 800 unique species. 2.3 million people visit the Columbus Zoo every year. The eight exhibits at the zoo are designed after regions of the world and currently include North America, Asia, the Congo, Australia, and Africa. The zoo also contains an 18-hole golf course that spans 150 acres of land. The Columbus Zoo has also been involved in conservation efforts since it began operations. One of its notable projects includes saving the Mexican Wolf from extinction. The species became almost extinct due to extensive hunting, but the zoo has managed to breed 29 pups in captivity, with the goal of having 100 wolves in their natural habitat.

As different states begin to open and people start travelling, zoos, along with travel and tourism companies like Expedia Group Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE), AirBnB Inc. (NASDAQ: ABNB), Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKNG), Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) and Delta Airlines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) are expected to see a lot of business in the coming months.

Click to continue reading and see the 5 Best Zoos in the US.

Suggested articles:

  • 10 Best Vanguard Stocks to Buy Now

    (Video) Top 10 Best Zoos In The United States of America

  • 10 Best Dividend Stocks for Long Term

  • 15 Fastest-Growing Fintech Companies

Disclosure: None. 20 Best Zoos in the US is originally published on Insider Monkey.

FAQs

What is the best zoo to visit in the United States? ›

The San Diego Zoo might be the most famous in the country. Any list of the best zoos in the US would be remiss if it didn't include this zoo. Spanning 100 acres and housing 3,500 animals, this zoo offers live entertainment, rides, and experiences that you won't find in other zoos.

What is the #2 zoo in the US? ›

2. San Diego Zoo (San Diego, California)

What is the #1 zoo in the USA? ›

1. San Diego Zoo | San Diego, CA. Renowned across the country, San Diego's zoo, founded in 1916, is home to over 12,000 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies. Among them are red pandas; African elephants; and bonobo apes.

What is the #3 zoo in the US? ›

3: Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, Illinois

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.

What is America's largest zoo? ›

The largest zoo in the United States is Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, measuring 406.30 acres for the zoo alone and 580 acres in total. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has more than 7,000 animals and over 800 species of animals living within its borders.

Where is the biggest zoo in USA? ›

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is located in Liberty Township, Ohio, which is north of Columbus. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is known as the largest zoo in the United States for good reason: it covers a massive area of 582 acres.

What is the oldest zoo in the US? ›

Philadelphia Zoo, America's first zoo, is renowned for innovation in animal care and unwavering commitment to wildlife. A zoo of firsts, Philadelphia Zoo has been a leader since opening its historic gates on July 1, 1874.

What is the largest free zoo in America? ›

1. Cape May County Park & Zoo, Cape May Court House, New Jersey. Located on a finger of New Jersey that points across the bay at Delaware, the Cape May County Zoo spreads across 200 acres within the Cape May County Park.

Where is the most popular zoo? ›

San Diego Zoo, San Diego, USA

One of the best zoos in the US and possibly the world's best zoo, or at least the most famous, is the San Diego Zoo in California. Since opening in 1916 in Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo has grown to become the most visited zoo in the country and a main attraction of the city.

What is the greenest zoo in America? ›

“Even though it is the second oldest zoo in the country, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is also the greenest – proving that old infrastructure, strong commitment, and practical innovation can lead a Zoo, or any institution, to a green, efficient, and sustainable operation,” says Sophia Cifuentes Sustainability ...

Where is the smallest zoo in the United States? ›

The Charles Paddock Zoo is a small 5-acre (2.0 ha) community zoo located in San Luis Obispo County, California, in the City of Atascadero, California. It is the only zoo in the Central Coast area of that U.S. state.
...
Charles Paddock Zoo.
Charles Paddock Zoo logo
Meerkats at the zoo
MembershipsAZA
Websitewww.charlespaddockzoo.org
7 more rows

What is North America's largest zoo? ›

Sprawled across an area of 5.548 km², North Carolina Zoo is situated in North Carolina and is considered the biggest zoo in North America. Therefore, exploring this zoo at its best usually takes more than a day. It is one of the largest zoos in the world. This zoo is home to more than 1800 diverse animals.

What are the two largest zoos in the United States? ›

Biggest Zoos in The US
  • Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Located in Ohio, the United States of America Columbus zoo and aquarium near Powell has some of the best exhibits. ...
  • San Diego Zoo. ...
  • Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. ...
  • Bronx Zoo. ...
  • Smithsonian National Zoological Park. ...
  • Dallas Zoo. ...
  • Denver Zoo. ...
  • Saint Louis Zoo.
13 Sept 2022

What is the best zoo in the U.S. in 2022? ›

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden was just named the best zoo in the U.S. The Queen City's zoo earned the No. 1 spot in the Best Zoo category of USA Today's 2022 10Best Readers' Choice poll, according to our news partners at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati.

What is the longest running zoo? ›

Tiergarten Schönbrunn – Schönbrunn Zoo – was established by the Habsburgs in the park of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna's 13th district of Hietzing in 1752 and is today the world's oldest zoo that is still in operation.

What are the top five zoos? ›

The 15 Best Zoos in the U.S.
  • Houston Zoo (houston, Texas) ...
  • Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden (cincinnati, Ohio) ...
  • Pittsburgh Zoo & Ppg Aquarium (pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) ...
  • Philadelphia Zoo (philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ...
  • Dallas Zoo (dallas, Texas) ...
  • Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo And Aquarium (omaha, Nebraska)
12 Jul 2021

What is the 2 biggest zoo in the world? ›

A non-profit zoo located just north of Columbus, Ohio the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is the second largest zoological park in the world. Built-in 1905, with a total surface area of 2340000 square meters the zoo is home to over 900 animals representing over 793 species divided into geographic regions of the world.

What is the #1 Aquarium in the US? ›

Georgia Aquarium | Atlanta, GA

Not only a top aquarium in the USA, the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is also the largest in the country at an astounding 10 million gallons.

What is the rarest animal in a zoo? ›

The Javan rhino is the rarest large mammal on the planet, and none are in captivity, according to the World Wildlife Fund. They're a shy species used to living in dense tropical forests, which are tough to replicate in captivity, Mizejewski says.

Which zoo has the most animals? ›

Berlin Zoological Garden[SEE MAP]

It covers 84 acres (34 ha) and is located in Berlin's Tiergarten. With more than 1,500 different species and around 17,000 animals the zoo presents the largest collection of species in the world.

What zoo in the US has the most giraffes? ›

The zoo houses more than 750 animals, representing nearly 150 different species, with more than 30 endangered species. The zoo was ranked the #4 best zoo in North America in 2018 by USA Today.
...
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Logo
Three members of the zoo's large giraffe herd
MembershipsAZA
Websitewww.cmzoo.org
6 more rows

What is the second oldest zoo in the United States? ›

The Zoological Society of Cincinnati was founded in 1873 and officially opened its doors in 1875, making the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden the second oldest Zoo in the United States.

What zoo in us has elephants? ›

The Indianapolis Zoo is well-known throughout the world for its cutting-edge elephant reproduction research. The first and second African elephants in the world to be conceived and successfully born through artificial insemination were at the Zoo.

What is the top ranked zoo? ›

1. Henry Doorly Zoo. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is a zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, proclaimed by TripAdvisor as the "world's best zoo." The zoo is renowned for its work in animal research and conservation. Established in 1894, today the zoo provides home to over 17,000 animals from 962 species.

How many major zoos are in the US? ›

Today, it's estimated that there are more than 2,800 zoos and aquariums around the world, including more than 355 in the United States.

What was the 1st zoo? ›

The first modern zoo, built in 1793, opened in Paris, France. The menageries of French aristrocrats, including the king and queen, were taken by leaders of the French Revolution and relocated to the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes. The facility is still a busy and popular zoo in downtown Paris.

When was the last human zoo? ›

1945-1958. The exoticism that gave 'human zoos' their appeal would disappear with the Second World War. It would no longer be possible to hold such racist events in the wake of Nazi war crimes, the presence of colonial troops in the war, and increasingly vocal anticolonial sentiment.

Which president owned a zoo? ›

Calvin Coolidge (30th President, 1923-1929) had a small zoo at the White House, which included a bear cub, two lion cubs, a wallaby, an antelope, pekin ducks, and Billy the pygmy hippopotamus. He also received a raccoon as a gift to be served as part of Thanksgiving dinner.

Where is the smallest zoo in the world? ›

The world's smallest zoo according to Tripadviser is probably Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, California. It is 5 acres.

What are the top 3 zoos based on annual attendance? ›

America's 10 Best Zoos
  • San Diego Zoo: 3.2 million annual visitors. ...
  • Lincoln Park Zoo: 3 million annual visitors. ...
  • St. ...
  • Columbus Zoo and Aquarium: 2.3 million annual visitors. ...
  • Brookfield Zoo: 2.2 million visitors. ...
  • Smithsonian National Zoological Park: 2.2 million visitors. ...
  • Como Park Zoo and Conservatory: 2.2 million visitors.

Are there any moral zoos? ›

Ethical zoos are those that prioritize animal welfare, education, and conservation efforts above profits. They are run by non-profits or the government (at least in the United States, this might not apply to other countries) and have AZA accreditation.

What is the world's largest natural habitat zoo? ›

The NC Zoo is nestled on 2,600 wooded acres centrally located in the heart of North Carolina, just south of Asheboro in Randolph County. With 500 developed acres, it is the world's largest natural habitat zoo. Moreover, the Zoo is one of two state-supported zoos in North Carolina.

What is the biggest zoo in the world 2022? ›

Largest Zoos in the World
  • Berlin Zoological Garden, Germany.
  • Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, California, USA.
  • Arignar Anna Zoological Park, India.
  • Chester Zoo, Cheshire, England.
  • Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens.
  • North Carolina Zoo, USA.
  • National Zoological Park, Delhi, India.
  • Oakland Zoo, California, USA.
2 Nov 2022

What is the largest privately owned zoo? ›

The Phoenix Zoo opened in 1962 and is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, the zoo was founded by Robert Maytag, a member of the Maytag family, and operates on 125 acres (51 ha) of land in the Papago Park area of Phoenix.

What are the top 3 oldest zoos in the United States? ›

The Oldest Zoos in the United States
RankZoo NameYear Constructed
1Museum of Science1830
2Philadelphia Zoo1859
3Central Park Zoo1864
4Lincoln Park Zoo1868
15 more rows
29 May 2017

Who made the 1st zoo? ›

The first real zoo was established by Queen Hatshepsut in 1500 B.C. in Egypt by collecting animals from all over Africa. Later, Emperor Wen Wang of China built a zoo to show his wealth and power. Spread over 1,500 acres, it had animals from all over his empire and was named the Garden of Intelligence.

What is the most visited zoo? ›

San Diego Zoo, San Diego, USA

One of the best zoos in the US and possibly the world's best zoo, or at least the most famous, is the San Diego Zoo in California. Since opening in 1916 in Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo has grown to become the most visited zoo in the country and a main attraction of the city.

Where is the largest zoo in America? ›

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is located in Liberty Township, Ohio, which is north of Columbus. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is known as the largest zoo in the United States for good reason: it covers a massive area of 582 acres.

What is the 2 largest aquarium in the world? ›

Kuroshio Sea is the main tank at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

What zoo has the most animals? ›

Berlin Zoological Garden[SEE MAP]

It covers 84 acres (34 ha) and is located in Berlin's Tiergarten. With more than 1,500 different species and around 17,000 animals the zoo presents the largest collection of species in the world.

What state has the biggest zoo? ›

The largest zoo in the United States is Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, measuring 406.30 acres for the zoo alone and 580 acres in total. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has more than 7,000 animals and over 800 species of animals living within its borders.

Videos

1. The Most AMAZING ZOOS In The World | The best zoos you have to visit.
(Trend Max)
2. 10 MOST STUNNING ZOOS IN THE WORLD
(100M)
3. Best Zoos in the World | San Diego Zoo, USA
(Trend Breaker's)
4. Best Zoos in America
(Travel & Tourism)
5. Ranking All 25 Zoos & Aquariums I've Been To
(Zoo Tours)
6. Phoenix Zoo is one of top 5 zoos in the US
(AZFamily | 3TV and CBS 5 News in Phoenix )
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Ouida Strosin DO

Last Updated: 03/01/2023

Views: 5649

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (56 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Ouida Strosin DO

Birthday: 1995-04-27

Address: Suite 927 930 Kilback Radial, Candidaville, TN 87795

Phone: +8561498978366

Job: Legacy Manufacturing Specialist

Hobby: Singing, Mountain biking, Water sports, Water sports, Taxidermy, Polo, Pet

Introduction: My name is Ouida Strosin DO, I am a precious, combative, spotless, modern, spotless, beautiful, precious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.