500 Ringgold St., Brownsville, Texas
One of the most delightful open-plan zoos in the country sits on the border with Mexico. A 31-acre preserve built on an old channel of the Rio Grande, the Gladys Porter Zoo is home to 1,600-plus animals from 464 species (47 of them endangered), all living in the open air amid tropical and semi-tropical plants and flowing waterways.
The four sections—Tropical America, Indo-Australia, Asia, and Africa—acquaint zoo-goers with a world of wildlife. Separate sections spotlight bears, California sea lions, and Komodo dragons. Small World allows children to interact with domesticated animals.
Visitors can’t get enough of the three generations of gorillas who live on their own small island. Another star attraction is Macaw Canyon, where three species of macaws make their home in a replica of the kind of canyon found in their Mexican habitat. The Free Flight Aviary is the place to see dozens of species of birds, including many that the zookeepers call “our free-loaders”—great kiskadees, gallinules, and others that drop in from the wild.
Open year round. Admission charged.