Once school was out for the summer for my siblings and myself, my dad would pile the family in the car and drive us up to the Milwaukee Zoo at least 3 or 4 times a month. We’d pack a picnic, fill the car with all my dad’s favorite Tom Waits albums, and spend the day walking around the zoo, taking pictures, going to various animal shows, and chasing the peacocks and geese around the premises.
In the winter we’d head up for the Zoo Lights, a tradition several zoos have adopted around the holiday time, and even got to tour the zoo on those swanky “Members Only” days.
My family loved our zoo trips, and if you’re looking for a fun activity to do with your kids or your friends this summer, a zoo getaway is a great idea! Several zoos now cater to adults, hosting after hour parties with food and drink, and some even offer the opportunity to camp at the zoo overnight!
No matter where you are in the country, there’s bound to be an awesome zoo just a road trip away from you. Here are a few of the best ones I could find:
Rated America’s No. 1 zoo by TripAdvisor.com in 2008 and Top Zoo in the Country the following year, the Memphis Zoo is home to more than 3,500 animals, representing more than 500 different species. It’s one of the only four zoos in the country to exhibit giant pandas and is home to giant pandas Ya Ya and Le Le. A daily schedule keeps visitors on task and occupied, highlighting a multitude of feeding times, discussions, and stage shows. Plus, their website is pretty awesome!
St. Louis Zoo
The St. Louis Zoo stands out for its commitment to sustainable preservation of animals and natural, humane exhibits. Visit Sea Lion Sound, the Insectarium, the Bird House, or visit Kali, an 850-pound polar bear who makes his home in a $16 million, 40,000 square-foot environment. Wanna get a little closer to the action? Book a behind-the-scenes tour!
A trip to the Houston Zoo is so much more than animal observation. With attractions like a Wildlife Carousel and a water park, this zoo is fun for the whole family. With webcams to view gorillas, elephants, flamingos, giraffes and more, the Houston Zoo brings visitors right up to the front lines. A dinosaur exhibit and an area where kids can feed the giraffes also help make the Houston Zoo a great destination.
San Diego Zoo
Take a trip to the Skyfari Aerial Tram to glide over this animal kingdom and get a lay of the land. Home to more than 3,700 animals, the San Diego Zoo is a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike. Besides animals, the San Diego Zoo is also home to more than 700,000 exotic plants. A wildlife refuge that is at the forefront of environmental protection, the San Diego Zoo is making strides to keep animals safe and healthy. If you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to go on one of their many safari rides to get up close and personal with all kinds of wildlife!
Embark on a tropical adventure at Zoo Miami! The great thing about this zoo is that it offers the extremely rare opportunity to feed Jaunpar and Suru, to male Indian rhinos, for just under $5.00. Visitors can also feed tropical parrots, take camel rides, feed the giraffes, and visit the waterpark and playground.
The Bronx Zoo
Ranked as one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the world, the Bronx Zoo stretches for 265 acres and is home to an astounding 6,000 animals. Popular exhibits include a 4-D movie experience, the snow leopard exhibit, and peaceful Butterfly Garden.
Operated by the Chicago Zoological Society, the Brookfield Zoo is home to all kinds of fun animals. The Brookfield Zoo has also been recognized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for its outstanding educational programs and events. There is a recycling drop-off center, a tree planting event, adult classes and lectures, and backstage adventures for the whole family.
Henry Doorly Zoo
Located in Nebraska, this zoo features an aquarium, IMAX theater, driveable (or hikeable) wildlife safari park, the world’s largest indoor desert environment and the country’s largest indoor rainforest. Get up close and personal with desert dwellers in the Desert Dome or relax with nature in the butterfly exhibit.
No stranger to top 10 lists, the Cincinnati Zoo prides itself on great programs for visitors. Nocturnal Adventures lets families pitch a tent and camp out at the zoo, and the Spaulding Children’s Zoo lets kids get up close and personal with the zoo’s newest arrivals. It is also home to events like Zoo La La, Wild About Wine, and Zoo Brew, a collection of fun evenings for adults to come and enjoy some beverages without worrying about the kids.
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