30 Best Zoos in the US Recommended by Families


Going to the Zoo is part of a child’s best memories. Kids find animals magical and they love to interact with them, while parents enjoy the educational aspect of the visit.
But not all zoos are created equal! You want to make sure that your visit supports a reputable place and of course, make sure that the zoo will have enough fun exhibits for the whole family to enjoy. 

Gowhee found the 30 best zoos in the US recommended by local families all over the country and on the Gowhee App.

best zoos in the us blog cover
Out Of Africa Park in Arizona. Photo by @findingouttomorrow

1. Brookfield Zoo – Brookfield, Illinois

West of Chicago, Brookfield Zoo has been welcoming visitors through its doors since 1934. With over 2,000 animals from over 400 unique species, your kids will have a blast exploring the dozens of exhibits. 

Must See: Australia exhibit including kangaroos, pythons, wombats, emu, and more!

Good To Know: Adults: $24.94, Children: $17.95, Kids Under 2: FREE 

2. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden – Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati Zoo has over 500 species of animals, including the world’s most famous hippo, Fiona, the first Nile hippo to be born at the zoo in 75 years!

Must See: Add a Wild Encounter to your zoo day! Feed a sloth, bathe an elephant, or spend time with a handful of other exciting species with the animal encounters program.

Good To Know: Adults: $22, Children: $16, Kids Under 2: FREE – Accessible

3. San Francisco Zoo – San Francisco, California

Focused on rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation, the San Francisco Zoo houses over 2,000 endangered animals. If your kiddos get tired of walking, take a break and ride the Little Puffer steam train. 

Must See: Bring little kids to the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo to see meerkats and red pandas!

Good To Know: Adults: $25, Children: $18, Kids Under 2: Free – Restaurants on site

>>> Discover tons of places to bring the kids to and have fun in California, here

Kids in front of the map at the San Francisco zoo
San Francisco Zoo in California. Photo by @gowheeapp

30 Best Zoos in the US Recommended by Families

4. Denver Zoo – Denver, Colorado

One of the oldest zoos in the country, Denver Zoo today is home to over 3,000 animals. Reasonably sized, even little kids can easily walk this zoo.

Must See: Give your kids an Up Close Look at their favorite animals!

Good To Know: Adults: $20, Children: $14, Kids Under 2: FREE – Free Days

>>> Find more kid-friendly locations near Denver, Colorado, here.

5. Philadelphia Zoo – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The first and oldest zoo in the country, Philadelphia Zoo opened its doors in 1874. Visit this historic zoo with your kids to see a piece of living history and lots of animals!

Must See: Visit the Rare Animal Conservation exhibit to see endangered species.

Good To Know: Adults: $24, Children: $19, Kids Under 2: FREE – Accessible – Wheelchair rental available

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6. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium – Columbus, Ohio

With over 5,000 animals and 10 unique zones, the Columbus Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the U.S.! You could easily spend a full weekend here, and the zoo has a variety of food to keep you fed while visiting.

Must See: Watch the Dive Into Adventure show at the Lighthouse Theater and meet some of the zoo’s animal ambassadors.

Good To Know: Adults: $24.99, Children: $18.99, Kids Under 3: FREE – Accessible

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7. Minnesota Zoo – Apple Valley, Minnesota

You’ll be blown away by the habitats at the Minnesota Zoo. Designed to maximize space and mimic natural ecosystems, the animals are all housed in some of the most extensive habitats in the country.

Must See: Walk the Medtronic Minnesota Trail to see animals from Minnesota like black bears, beavers, and wolverines.

Good To Know: Adults: $19.95, Children: $13.95, Kids Under 2: FREE – Accessible

8. San Diego Zoo – San Diego, California

The San Diego Zoo is big, so we recommend a narrated tour through the park on a double-decker bus to cover more ground.

Must See: See an endangered snow leopard

Good To Know: Adults: $67, Kids: $57, Children Under 3: FREE – Accessible

Red Panda in San Diego Zoo, California
Red Panda in San Diego Zoo, California. Photo by @travelingwithkidsworlwide

9. Smithsonian’s National Zoo – Washington, DC

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo has an enormous campus, but a relatively small animal population. This means all the animals get lots of room! 

Must See: The Smithsonian’s National Zoo has been working to protect giant pandas for over 40 years, and visitors love seeing these fuzzy creatures up close.

Good To Know: FREE – Accessible + Sensory Accommodations

10. Out of Africa Wildlife Park – Camp Verde, Arizona

Take your kids on an African bush safari at Out of Africa Wildlife Park! See exotic free-roaming animals from across the African continent and create core memories.

Must See: Safely feed a tiger for $3!

Good To Know: Adults: $38.95, Children: $23.95, Kids Under 2: FREE 

11. Bronx Zoo – Bronx, New York

The fun never ends at the Bronx Zoo with over 10,000 animals from over 700 different species! Open since 1916, the Bronx Zoo has been a must-visit destination for over 100 years.

Must See: Take the Wild Asia Monorail to see red pandas, rhinos, tufted deer, and more.

Good To Know: Adults: $41.95, Children: $31.95, Kids Under 2: FREE – Accessible

>>> Discover more family-friendly places, in New York, here.

12. Zoo Miami – Miami, Florida

Zoo Miami has a unique solution to achy feet: Safari Cycles. Able to fit 2 adults and 2 kids, renting a Safari Cycle is a super fun way to see the zoo and a great family activity!

Must See: Let giraffes eat right out of your hands at the daily giraffe feedings!

Good To Know: Adults: $22.95, Children: $18.95, Kids Under 2: FREE – Accessible

13. Reptile Gardens – Rapid City, South Dakota

Visit a zoo entirely dedicated to reptiles! See tiny frogs, venomous snakes, enormous tortoises, and much more.

Must See: Learn about some of the world’s deadliest snakes

Good To Know: Adults: $21, Youth: $17, Children: $15, Kids Under 3: FRE

The jungle dome in the Reptile Gardens, South Dakota
The jungle dome in the Reptile Gardens, South Dakota. Photo by @theviewfromoverhere

14. Houston Zoo – Houston, Texas

Over 6,000 animals live on Houston Zoo’s 200-acre campus. Enjoy immersive exhibits featuring creatures from the tiniest insects to the largest mammals. 

Must See: Sign up for an Animal Encounter to see giant sea otters, sloths, alligators, and other animals up close. 

Good To Know: Prices vary – Stroller rentals – Early childhood programs

>>> Here you can find more of places for kids and parents in Texas.

15. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo – Colorado Springs, Colorado

If your kids are interested in endangered species, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the perfect place to visit. The zoo is home to more than 30 endangered species like amur leopards, snow leopards, and other big cats.

Must See: See the zoo from above on the chair lift ride.

Good To Know: Prices vary – Accessible

16. Living Desert Zoo & Gardens – Palm Desert, California

Dedicated to preserving desert and savannah wildlife, Living Desert Zoo is a unique destination for animal lovers. 

Must See: Ride the Endangered Species Carousel for $3.

Good To Know: Adults: $27.95, Children: $17.95, Kids Under 3: FREE

17. Woodland Park Zoo – Seattle, Washington

One of North America’s oldest zoos, Woodland Park Zoo opened in 1899. Today, the zoo welcomes more than 1 million visitors every year.

Must See: Walk the Trail of Adaptations to teach kids about what makes animals unique.

Good To Know: Adults: $26.25, Children: $16.25 – Accessible

18. Brevard Zoo – Melbourne, Florida

Brevard Zoo is so popular, that every fourth grader in Brevard Public Schools visits the zoo! The hands-on experiences are great for families with small children.

Must See: Bring your swimsuit – kids love splashing in the Indian River Play Lagoon.

Good To Know: Adults: $29.95, Children: $17.95, Kids Under 3: FREE – Accessible

>>> Discover tons of kid-friendly spots, recommended by local parents in Florida, here.

Hands-on Experience at the Brevard Zoo, Florida
Hands-on Experience at the Brevard Zoo, Florida. photo by @eatwanderexplore

19. Indianapolis Zoo – Indianapolis, Indiana

See incredible immersive exhibits where birds fly overhead, cheetahs approach the glass, and visitors can get an inside look at important conservation research. 

Must See: Visit the award-winning International Orangutan Center.

Good To Know: Adults: $24.75, Children: $20.75, Kids Under 2: FREE – Accessible

20. Fort Worth Zoo – Fort Worth, Texas

Explore more than 7,000 animals in one of North America’s most beautifully designed zoological parks. 

Must See: Feed the stingrays at Stingray Cove.

Good To Know: Adults: $18, Children: $14, Kids Under 2: FREE – Accessible

21. Turtle Back Zoo – West Orange, New Jersey

Turtle Back Zoo was designed based on Hans Christian Anderson’s children’s stories and rhymes, and the park today is every bit as whimsical as it was in 1963.

Must See: Ride a pony at the zoo!

Good To Know: Adult: $17, Children: $14, Kids Under 2: FREE – Accessible

22. Henson Robinson Zoo Springfield – Springfield, Illinois

The plot of land this zoo was built on was donated by the city of Springfield to fulfill one man’s dream to build a zoo. Today, this destination is a dream come true for kids and adults alike!

Must See: Don’t miss the rare animals like African Painted Dogs.

Good To Know: Adults: $7, Children: $5, Kids Under 2: FREE 

Playground in the Henson Robinson Zoo
Playground in the Henson Robinson Zoo, Illinois. Photo by @midwestnomadfamily

23. Detroit Zoo – Royal Oak, Michigan

Opened in 1928, the Detroit Zoo has awed kids from around North America and the world for nearly 100 years.

Must See: Visit Dinosauria to see dozens of animatronic dinosaurs!

Good To Know: Adults: $22, Children: $18, Kids Under 2: FREE – Accessible + Sensory Accommodations

24. Phoenix Zoo – Phoenix, Arizona

Awarded four stars by Charity Navigator, and a traveler’s choice award from Tripadvisor, the Phoenix Zoo is one of the country’s most popular destinations.

Must See: See small animals from around the world on the Children’s Trail.

Good To Know: Adults: $29.95, Children: $19.95, Kids Under 3: FREE – Accessible

25. The Saint Louis Zoo – St. Louis, Missouri

A positively massive zoo, the St. Louis Zoo has more than 14,000 animals for you to explore.

Must See: See life-sized dinosaurs at Emerson Dinoroarus.

Good To Know: FREE admission – Pay for experiences inside – Accessible + Sensory Accommodations

>>> Find over a hundred places for kids, recommended by local families in St. Louis MO, here. 

Little girl in front the sea lion exhibit in St Louis zoo.
Sea Lion Exhibit at the St Louis Zoo. Photo by @midwestnomadfamily

26. Central Park Zoo – New York City, New York

Visit a tranquil sanctuary in the midst of the city that never sleeps.

Must See: Don’t miss the daily penguin feedings!

Good To Know: Adults: $19.95, Children: $14.95, Kids Under 2: FREE – Accessible

27. Parrot Mountain and Gardens – Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Fascinated by birds? Visit Parrot Mountain to see hundreds of rare tropical species. 

Must See: Kids can feed and interact with some of the birds!

Good To Know: Adults: $27.95, Children: $14.95, Kids Under 2: FREE

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28. Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium – Omaha, Nebraska

Encounter plants, insects, sea creatures, mammals, reptiles, birds, and much more at Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. 

Must See: Take a chairlift tour of the zoo’s African grassland exhibits. 

Good To Know: Prices vary – Accessible – Motorized wheelchair rental

29. Alaska Zoo – Anchorage, Alaska

See cold weather and arctic animals from around the world at Alaska Zoo!

Must See: Make sure to visit the polar bears.

Good To Know: Adults: $17, Children: $10, Kids Under 2: FREE – All terrain wheelchair rental

30.  Audubon Zoo – New Orleans, Louisiana

An accredited zoo and aquarium, Audubon has a fabulous reputation for its conservation efforts and fabulous visitor resources. 

Must See: Visit the Louisiana Swamp exhibit to see animals that are native to the area.

Good To Know: Prices vary – Accessible + Sensory Accommodations

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