While zoos are one of those things that people tend to love or hate, they've been a fun family pastime for many years. Adults and children alike are curious about the many different species in our world, and it is through zoos and aquariums that we actually get to visit them up close.
Not everyone agrees with the concept of zoos and aquariums, believing that animals should be free to live in their own natural habitat. However, with the environment the way it is these days, some of these animals are safer in captivity and have a chance at increasing their population better than they would in the wild. With increased awareness about animal conservation and the humane treatment of animals in captivity, many zoos are providing better habitats for the animals to thrive in, while also promoting awareness and understanding about what we need to do to help support our animal populations. Here are 10 amazing zoos in the US, ranked based on the number of animals they house.
10 Los Angeles Zoo
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens has been open since 1966, and it works hard through its various program to educate the public about animal conservation and care. The zoo cares for over 1,400 different animals, representing 270 species. 58 of those species are considered endangered, and the zoo's mission statement states their desire to create an environment for recreation and discovery, in hopes that through discovery, people develop an appreciation for all wildlife.
There are many things to do when visiting the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, including giraffe feedings, mingling with flamingos, and behind-the-scenes tours where you get to see and appreciate all the work and effort that goes into caring for the animals.
9 Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens
Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens is known as South Carolina's favorite spot for families to visit, and there are so many awesome activities to take part in when you are there. Their botanical gardens alone are stunning, and they are recognized as being one of the best botanical gardens in the nation. They even offer a children's garden, where kids can take part in a dinosaur dig! The zoo has over 2,000 animals to see in addition to their beautiful gardens, and the even have day camps for kids, summer night movies at the zoo, and specialized tours around the zoo.
Another thing that makes Riverbanks Zoo so great is that they have completely embraced the green movement, using solar power throughout the zoo, implementing a rigorous litter pick-up program, and facilities that conserve water.
8 Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney is known for many things, especially their amazing theme parks throughout the world. These places truly are magical to experience, and Disney's Animal Kingdom is no different. It is by far the largest of all the Disney theme parks, at over 540 acres, and it is home to 2,000 animals that represent 300 different species.
Disney incorporates its magic throughout the park with amazing animal displays, live shows that you can attend, and thrilling rides that take you throughout the park, all the while seeing animals up close and personal. They even offer an archeological experience for kids in The Boneyard, where kids can go and pretend to be archeologists digging for bones.
7 Brookfield Zoo
Brookfield Zoo was originally known as Chicago Zoological Park, and it was founded in 1934 on its 216 acres. This zoo is famous for their open-air, unbarred enclosures which provides a much more pleasant habitat for the animals living there. The zoo is home to 2,500 animals that represent 425 different species, which includes the black rhinoceros, wombats, kangaroos, ibex, and baboons.
There are wonderful things to see and do at the Brookfield Zoo. They offer incredible dolphin shows at the Seven Seas exhibit. In fact, the Brookfield Zoo was the first zoo to create a dolphinarium. Visitors can also experience three continents at once when they visit Tropic World, a combination of animals from the three major rainforest habitats of Africa, Asia, and South America.
6 Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute
One of the things that is amazing about the Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute is that it is completely free to enter! There is no admission charge and the zoo is open 364 days every year. As one of the oldest zoos in the United States, the zoo has been in operation since 1889, and it belongs to Smithsonian Institution, the world's biggest research and museum complex.
The zoos primary goal is to educate the public about various animals and proper conservation. So, while the zoo is meant to be an enjoyable, family experience, there is also the underlying goal to promote awareness and education about animals and their needs. This zoo is home to 2,700 animals that represent almost 400 different species.
5 San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo has been rated on Trip Advisor as being the best zoo in the world, and it is certainly a popular tourist attraction in the area. It is home to 3,500 animals that represent 650 different species! What makes the San Diego Zoo so popular is that is has one of the biggest collections of rare and endangered animals in the world, including the giant panda, clouded leopard, and Galápagos tortoise.
They have wonderful upgraded experiences at the zoo that you can choose to do as well, like the early morning cheetah experience, the behind-the-scenes tour, and the sunrise surprise stroll, where visitors can stroll through the zoo with experienced zoo educators before it is open to the public.
4 Bronx Zoo
Open since 1899, the Bronx Zoo is the largest urban zoo in the country, sitting on 265 acres of land just a few miles away from Yankee Stadium. With over 4,000 animals representing 650 different species, there is lots to see! Due to the size of the zoo, there is a Zoo Shuttle that you can buy tickets for, in order to cover more of the zoo in one day.
There are many free exhibits that are included in your admission to the zoo, including African Plains, Himalayan Highlands, and Tiger Mountain. There are also additional experiences that you can purchase once you are there, and those are the Children's Zoo and the Wild Asia Monorail.
3 Minnesota Zoo
The Minnesota Zoo was originally called the Minnesota Zoological Garden when it first opened its doors in 1978 and has since changed to Minnesota Zoo. It is home to nearly 4,300 animals, and it is the first zoo to have ever arranged its animals based on their ideal environments rather than by species. The zoo also promotes conservation and awareness through its many educational programs.
Some of the fun activities that people can experience at the zoo include group overnight packages that you can arrange, guided tours with an experienced zookeeper, backstage passes to view the behind-the-scenes action at the zoo, and family zoo adventures that caters to young children and their guardians and provide lots of fun for everyone to do.
2 Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
In terms of acreage, the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium is by far one of the largest in the country at 582 acres. This enormous attraction offers visitors an 18-hole golf course, a water park, and an amusement park. There are over 10,000 animals that call this zoo home, representing over 575 different species.
This zoo is also famous for its well-loved zookeeper Jack Hanna, known as "Jungle Jack", who has been on countless television programs over the years promoting animal awareness and conservation and even has his own successful television show. Between the famous zookeeper, tons of attractions, and thousands of animals, the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium is sure to be a memorable experience!
1 Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium first opened its doors in 1894 as Riverview Park, and since then has remained the top attraction in Nebraska, and has been named one of the best zoos in the world. The zoo is currently home to a whopping 17,000 animals! These animals represent 962 different species, many of them rare and endangered. The Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium is by far one of the best, and the zoo's infamous Desert Dome provides visitors with a glimpse into a real desert ecosystem under the world's largest geodesic dome.
There are trams that run throughout the zoo to take visitors from one attraction to another. It also offers many wonderful educational programs for visitors to attend, to learn more about the amazing animals that live there.