The best zoos in the US to visit, ranked in order, serve as a helpful guide to those who are big animal lovers and want to make sure they visit all the best United States zoos.
We have prepared the top 20 coolest zoos for your next travel destination to have wonderful encounters with animals that you only see on TV or the internet. Let’s go ahead and take a look at the top zoos in the United States ranked in order.
1. Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (Nebraska)
Location: 3701 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68108
- Over 17,000 animals
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is the top pick for the best zoo in the US that houses an incredible number of 17,000 animals on a 160-acre of land. 20 different exhibits cater to all ages and all types of interests including Asian Highlands, Owen Sea Lion Shores, Walking Trails, Desert Dome, Insect Pavilion, and Hubbard Expedition Madagascar.
As one of the biggest aquariums and zoos in the US, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is not just limited to the huge number of animals you will see, there are various educational activities that anyone can participate in like On-site Programs and Camps, Sleeping Bag Safaris, Conservation Hero, and Omaha STEM ecosystem.
There are special events held from time to time and they also accommodate private events such as weddings, birthdays, and picnics. This zoo also has conservation programs that support animal welfare and other animals outside the zoo that span different fields like Conservation Genetics, Nutritional Sciences, Reproductive Sciences, and Plant Micro Propagation.
Directly opposite this zoo is a great resort and water park if you want to stay nearby.
2. Saint Louis Zoo (Missouri)
Location: 1 Government Dr, St. Louis, MO 63110
- Over 14,000 animals
The Saint Louis Zoo is another one of America’s best zoos that are known for its incredible work in animal conservation and research. This 90-acre land is home to over 14,000 animals representing around 550 species. Saint Louis Zoological Park is divided into different zones depending on the geographical location of the animals such as River’s Edge, Historic Hill, Red Rocks, The Wild, and Lincoln Children’s Zoo.
This top-rated zoo in the US has many interactive programs for visitors of all ages like the Zookeeper Chats, Animal Enrichment, and the 4-D experience. You also get to take part in behind-the-scenes tours, educational workshops, camps, and even birthday parties. The Saint Louis Zoo is also involved in many global field conservation efforts to help preserve animals in the wild.
3. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (Ohio)
Location: 4850 W Powell Rd, Powell, OH 43065
- Over 10,000 animals
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is also one of the best zoos in America with memorable zoo experiences and fun activities for all ages to enjoy. With over 10,000 animals to see from animal exhibits such as North America, Asia Quest, Expedition Congo, Shores, and Voyage to Australia and the Islands, you will learn a lot about wild animals in their natural habitats. There’s also an animal guide on their website that will be handy, especially during rare animal encounters.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a strong supporter of wildlife conservation and has several programs, scholarships, and educational resources dedicated to animal preservation.
The Wilds – Columbus Zoo (Ohio)
Location: 14000 International Rd, Cumberland, OH 43732
- More than 500 animals
Part of the Columbus Zoo and the biggest zoo in the United States in terms of land area, The Wilds by Columbus Zoo delivers a one-of-a-kind experience as a rare animal conservation center. You will need to have a reservation to visit the place and be able to see the endangered animals that are thriving within the zoo. This zoo was even recognized as the number 2 Best Safari Park in North America by the 2022 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice awards.
4. Bronx Zoo (New York)
Location: 2300 Southern Blvd, The Bronx, NY 10460
- Over 10,000 animals
The Bronx Zoo is another top zoo in the US that should be on your travel list. With 265 acres of land and home to over 10,000 animals from 500 different species, this zoo is the biggest metropolitan zoo in the US. The Bronx Zoo has many unique animal exhibits such as Tiger Mountain, Congo Gorilla Forest, Himalayan Highlands, Wild Asia Monorail, and Butterfly Garden.
Apart from being a top destination for animal lovers, the Bronx Zoo is also a leader in wildlife conservation. They have many programs and initiatives to support animal welfare and are actively involved in fieldwork to help preserve endangered species.
5. Fort Worth Zoo (Texas)
Location: 1989 Colonial Pkwy, Fort Worth, TX 76110
- Over 7,000 animals
Forth Worth Zoo is also one of the best American zoos with over 1 million visitors annually. With over 7,000 animals to see, your trip will be a fun-filled day with a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, and many more. Fort Worth Zoo is also the only zoo in the United States where you can see all four great ape species.
There are several programs and camps to participate in including Zoo Camp Mission, Virtual Field Trip, Home School Classes, Special Event Volunteers, and Texas Nature Traders.
As one of the best zoos in the U.S. Forth Worth Zoo also has amazing programs for animal preservation that spans over 30 countries. Some of the programs include the program for the critically endangered Anegada Iguana, the conservation of the Panamanian Golden Frog, and the Florida Reef Tract Rescue Project.
6. Denver Zoo (Colorado)
Location: 2300 Steele St, Denver, CO 80205
- Over 4,125 animals
The Denver Zoo is also one of the best zoos in the U.S. with over 4,000 animals from 700 different species. With popular exhibits such as Predator Ridge, Toyota Elephant Passage, Tropical Discovery, and Birds of Prey, you will learn about many different animals and their habitats. The Denver Zoo also has many educational programs, camps, and events for all ages to participate in.
One of the top conservation programs that the Denver Zoo is committed to is the Saving Wildlife Together Initiative. This initiative has many different programs to help preserve and protect endangered wildlife species.
7. Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium (Pennsylvania)
Location: 1 Wild Pl, Pittsburgh, PA 15206-1176
- Over 8,000 animals
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is a remarkable place where you get to see live animals in their naturalistic habitats. The popular animals within the zoo that you should not miss out on include Amur tigers, red pandas, polar bears, and pygmy hippos.
Several exhibits will make your trip worthwhile like the Forest Passage, The Islands, Water’s Edge, African Savanna, Tropical Forest, Worlds of Discovery, Kids Kingdom, and Jungle Odyssey. There are also wild encounters to participate in where you can get close to zoo animals.
As one of the best zoos in the United States, this zoo also dedicates great efforts to animal conservation and educational classes. There are virtual programs, teen programs, outreach, adopt-an-animal classroom, and school groups.
8. San Diego Zoo (California)
Location: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
- Over 3,500 animals
The San Diego Zoo, San Diego California belongs to the best zoos in the United States with its ample space of 100 acres and more than 3,500 animals. The San Diego Zoo is home to several endangered species like the California condor, the giant panda, and the Sumatran tiger.
There are many exhibits within the zoo including Tiger River, Gorilla Tropics, Ituri Forest, Reptile Mesa, Koalafornia, Elephant Odyssey, and Monkey Trails. You would need more than a day to explore the entire zoo!
If you are interested in animal conservation, the San Diego Zoo should be your top pick as they have many programs and projects to support animal welfare. The programs include fieldwork, research, education, and training.
9. Brookfield Zoo (Illinois)
Location: 8400 W 31st St, Brookfield, IL 60513
- Over 2,300 animals
The Brookfield Zoo offers an unforgettable experience to visitors with different animal exhibits including animals from Australia and Africa, snow leopards, grizzly bears, and many other animals from the animal kingdom. There are reptiles, birds, swamp animals, seals, black rhinoceros, Galapagos tortoise, and many more.
There are also a ton of events that you might be lucky to attend during your trip to Brookfield Zoo such as Ice Age Giants, Zoorun, Boo at the Zoo, and Reindeer Run. Programs for education and the conservation of wildlife like Climate Literacy Ebook, Zoo Camp, King Conservation Science Scholars, and Family Play Programs are supported by this zoo. You can also donate or apply for corporate membership in this zoo.
10. Dallas Zoo (Texas)
Location: 650 S R.L. Thornton Fwy, Dallas, TX 75203
- Over 2,000 animals
Dallas Zoo is another one of the must-visit zoos in the U.S. featuring over 2000 animals from 406 different species. The Dallas Zoo is committed to providing the best environment for its animals by creating naturalistic habitats.
The must-see exhibits in this zoo are Giants of the Savanna, Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo, Simmons Hippo Outpost, Flamingo Bay, and the Herpetarium. You can also take part in many different events like Date Night, Zoo To Do, Cubs & Cubs, and Breakfast with the Animals.
This zoo also offers many education programs like Scout Days, Homeschool Days, Junior Zookeeper Camp, and Distance Learning. The zoo is also dedicated to wildlife conservation by participating in many different projects all over the world.
11. Audubon Zoo (Louisiana)
Location: 6500 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70118
- Over 2,000 animals
- 58 acres
Audubon Zoo in New Orleans is one of the consistently ranked zoos in the US offering hands-on animal encounters and award-winning exhibits of animals in their natural habitats including the Jaguar Jungle and Louisiana Swamp.
There are a lot of interesting animals within the zoo for you to see are the white alligator, babirusa, green sea turtle, Western Lowland Gorilla, Golden Lion Tamarin, and many more.
The zoo has a nature center, an aquarium, a planetarium, a golf course, and parks. There are fun events that you can participate in including Mermaids at the Aquarium and Boo at the Zoo. You can also book a party in the zoo or hold private events.
Audubon Zoo also commits to the preservation of Louisiana’s natural habitats, educating the masses about the natural world, helping in the care and survival of wildlife, and delivering an impactful experience to the audience.
12. Smithsonian National Zoo (DC)
Location: 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
- Over 2,000 animals
The Smithsonian National Zoo or also known as Smithsonian National Zoological Park is also one of the best national zoos in the US. The zoo is home to more than 2,000 different species of animals. Among the must-see animals are the giant pandas, naked mole rats, African lions, and elephants. This is one of the three zoos in the US that has giant pandas available for viewing.
The must-see exhibits in this zoo are the Elephant Trails, Cheetah Conservation Station, Great Ape House, Amazonia Science Gallery, and many more. The programs for education and conservation in this zoo include Professional Development Workshops for Educators, Zoo Camp, Summer Internships for College Students, and Citizen Science.
13. Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden (Cincinnati)
Location: 3400 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH 45220
- Over 1,896 animals
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden offer a special experience with over 1,896 animals and with tours escorted by knowledgeable naturalists. A variety of animals from different types of habitats await every animal lover. Among the must-visit exhibits are Cat Canyon, Dragons, Gibbon Islands, Gorilla World, Lemur Lookout, Dragons!, Rhino Reserve, Roo Valley, and many more.
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden hold several events within the year and you might be lucky to catch one during your trip. Examples of events are Zoo Brew, Sunset Safaris, and HallZooween.
As one of the best zoos, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden commits to wildlife preservation and has involvement in field projects, animal care, and project-saving species. Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden even have a Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife.
14. Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Florida)
Location: 2901 Osceola Pkwy, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
- Over 1700 animals
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is another largest zoo in the US that span 500 acres of land. This zoological theme park is part of the Walt Disney World Resort and Amusement Park that delivers fun and exciting times with the animals.
There are different lands within Disney’s Animal Kingdom which are Asia, DinoLand U.S.A., Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and Pandora – The World of Avatar. Each land has its unique attractions, animals, and experiences that you shouldn’t miss. There is also the Wild Africa Trek where you can get an up-close experience with the animals including exotic animals in their natural habitat.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom also offers a conservation program that focuses on research, education, and action to help protect animals and their habitats. The zoo has been active in more than 50 field projects all over the world.
15. Indianapolis Zoo (Indiana)
Location: 1200 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46222
- Over 1,416 animals
The Indianapolis Zoo also belongs among the best zoos in the US. It is one of the first zoos in the world that received accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The zoo is also known as a stewardship leader in animal care, education, and wildlife conservation.
The Indianapolis Zoo has different attractions namely White River Gardens, Dolphin Adventure, Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center, Bicentennial Pavilion, and many more. The must-see animals are African lions, giraffes, zebras, monkeys, and dolphins.
There are also several education programs available for kids, teens, and adults. The Indianapolis Zoo is also active in field conservation to help protect animals in the wild.
More Zoos to Explore
If you’re looking for more experience with the zoo’s animals, then we have added additional picks for the best zoos in the US that you might want to add to your bucket list or collection of visited zoos.
Philadelphia Zoo (Pennsylvania)
Location: 3400 W Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19104
With over 1300 animals on a 1,300-acre land, Philadelphia Zoo has Zoo360, the first-in-the-world exploration train system for animal travel where the audience gets to experience primates and big cats on the train’s main pathway.
Woodland Park Zoo (Washington)
Location: 5500 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
Woodland Park Zoo is home not just to 1,098 animals on a 92-acre land but also has over 92,000 plants and tree species.
Zoo Miami or Miami Dade Zoological Park (Florida)
Location: 12400 SW 152nd St, Miami, FL 33177
Visiting Zoo Miami or Miami Dade Zoological Park is a one-of-a-kind experience as it is the oldest and largest zoological garden in Florida. With over 3000 animals on a 700-acre land, Zoo Miami is a fantastic place for animal lovers and those who are looking for a great time to spend with animals.
Houston Zoo (Texas)
Location: 6200 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, TX 77030
Houston Zoo is another best zoo in the United States that champions over 45 wildlife conservation projects all over the world. This zoo has over 900 animal species on a 55-acre of land.
Lincoln Park Zoo (Illinois)
Location: 2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
Founded in 1898, Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the oldest zoos that you can find in the US. This zoo has over 1000 animals on a 49-acre of land.
There you go, all the best zoos in the US to visit whether you’re looking for a specific animal experience, educational programs, or simply want to explore and have a great time. These zoos are definitely worth the visit!