The Best Zoo in Every State in America
Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! From the largest to the oldest to the most fascinating, these are the best zoos in each state across the United States. Road trip, anyone?
Alabama: Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, Gulf Shores
Come for the beaches, stay for the Gulf Coast Zoo. With a creepy-crawly reptile house (you can even hold the snakes!), baby kangaroos, and over 500 unique exhibits, it’s an animal lover’s paradise. Don’t miss the fan-favorite sloth exhibit, where you can play with and pet the cuddly creatures. Can’t make it to the zoo, but love four-legged friends more than people? Add one of these animal-themed gifts to your Christmas list.
Alaska: The Alaska Zoo, Anchorage
There’s something beary special about the Alaska Zoo: Not only is it the only zoo in the northern state, but it also features a new polar bear Transition Center. This special facility, completed by the nonprofit zoo in 2016, is solely dedicated to rescuing orphaned polar bear cubs from the wild and nursing them back to health (there’s also a den just for pregnant mama polar bears!). While you’re there, say hello to Cranbeary, the newest addition to the zoo’s bear brigade.
Arizona: Reid Park Zoo, Tucson
TripAdvisor calls this small-but-mighty zoo a “hidden gem” of the Grand Canyon State. The zoo first opened in the 1960s and has evolved and expanded over the years. For instance, in April 2019, a new Mayan temple-inspired exhibit opened as a habitat for a quartet of spider monkeys. In 2014, Reid Park Zoo made history as the birthplace of the first elephant ever born in the state of Arizona. Find out 50 astonishing facts about the 50 states.
Arkansas: Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo, Hot Springs
Channel your inner Steve Irwin at the Arkansas Alligator Farm in Hot Springs, where you can pose for the perfect picture with a baby gator. If you aren’t ready to actually hold one of the reptiles (and we don’t blame you!), you can still get hands-on by feeding meat on a stick to the alligators or head to the petting zoo for all the fluffy feels with baby goats, emus, and more.
California: San Diego Zoo
Ever wondered what it’s like to be a zookeeper? Now you can know, thanks to the “Keeper For A Day” program at the San Diego Zoo. Pick whether you want to care for koalas or giraffes, then shadow a zookeeper as they feed and play with the animals and set up their habitats. You’ll even get to go inside the animal enclosures and get your hands dirty—literally. Cargo pants and safari hat recommended, but not required.
Colorado: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs
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Denver may be the Mile High City, but Colorado Springs has something equally impressive: The largest herd of giraffes in the United States! Watch the 16 long-necked gentle giants frolic in their savannah habitat, take home a piece of artwork created by the animals themselves (hint: it’s a painted hoofprint) or even hand-feed them romaine lettuce. Just don’t be freaked out by their purple-black tongues, which can be up to 20 inches long! Check out the U.S. state facts that everyone gets wrong.
Connecticut: Beardsley Zoo, Bridgeport
Good things come in small packages. Like the Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut (the state’s only zoo!). It may not be the biggest in terms of area, but has more than enough to offer in terms of animals and entertainment. Walk through the tropical rainforest as birds swoop by overhead, fawn over Reka and Zeya, the two new Amur tiger cubs, or take a spin on the indoor carousel, where you can even adopt one of the merry-go-round animals to have your name engraved on it.
Delaware: Brandywine Zoo, Delaware
“New year, new zoo” is the motto at this Wilmington family-friendly attraction, where they recently unveiled a new red panda exhibit for zoo favorites Rochan and Meri complete with a bamboo forest and swings for the critters to play in. It’s all part of the zoo’s $13 million Master Plan, which includes 17 new exhibits, more events for visitors and even an animal hospital for rescued or injured wildlife. Looks like you know where you’ll be heading next summer…
Florida: Zoo Miami
The only sub-tropical zoo in the United States, this Miami must-see is home to over 500 species of animals and 1,200 unique plant species. Highlights include the Kaziranga Camp Rhino Encounter, where you can feed and pet the zoo’s one-horned Indian rhino, and the Mission Everglades exhibit, where you can take a boat ride through Florida’s natural swampy habitat. You might even spot a bald eagle soaring overhead, or a gator swimming next to the riverboat! Check out the most charming small town in each state.
Georgia: Zoo Atlanta
There’s a lot to love about Zoo Atlanta, like the giant panda exhibit (it’s one of only four zoos in the U.S. with the cuddly creatures!) or the Wild Encounters, where you can go behind-the-scenes and feed your favorite animals, like elephants or even lions. But one of the newest additions that people of all ages will love is the Treetop Trail, a swinging rope bridge over the zoo that ends with an adrenaline-pumping zip line to the bottom.