Where to Find the Best Zoo in Your City

Every year at the end of December, our nation celebrates National Visit the Zoo Day. This year, the day falls on the twenty-seventh of December and many of our nation’s zoos will offer their regular patrons and guests of all kinds special programming and special admission rates. Some zoos will even offer free admission on the special day.

Here are eight of our nation’s finest zoos, to help you get out and celebrate in style this year!

Zoo in cities near you

1 – The San Diego Zoo

We might as well begin our list with the “gold standard” of American zoos. The San Diego Zoo, a component of San Diego’s sprawling Balboa Park, was arguably the first zoo in the world to display its collection of roughly 900 species from around the world in open-air, “cage-less,” enclosures, combining some of the allure of a safari park with the convenience of a traditional menagerie.

These days, the San Diego Zoo may earn its spot on every Internet top-ten zoos list because of its successful breeding of giant pandas and other endangered species, but it has long lead the nation in progressive zoo policies, visitor education, and conservation of species efforts.

2 – The Memphis Zoo

If you don’t live on the West Coast or aren’t planning to visit Southern California any time soon, but you still want to see giant pandas, don’t worry – you’re in luck. The Memphis Zoo in East Tennessee also has giant pandas on display along with more than 3,500 other live specimens. The Memphis Zoo features interactive feedings and discussions about animal behavior, habitat, and diet, too.

3 – The Oregon Zoo

Nestled in the West Hills of Portland, the Oregon Zoo is home to nearly two thousand animals, including many species native to the Pacific Northwest—mountain goats, Stellar’s sea lions, and beavers. The zoo also boasts a narrow-gauge railway, a summer Zoo Concert series, and a holiday zoo lights festival.

4 – The Columbus Zoo

If you’re of a certain age, then the name Jack Hanna certainly means something to you. From his appearances on The Tonight Show and others, many Americans first learned about endangered species conservation and the wild variety of species sharing our planet.

Well, if you’d like to see his work in action and in person, then you can make the trip to the Columbus Zoo, arguably one of the most important zoos in the world. The zoo, with its seven thousand animals, is part of a larger complex that includes a golf course, a water park, and an amusement park as well.

5 – The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago

If “free admission” is compelling to you, then make sure you check out the Lincoln Park Zoo the next time you find yourself in the Windy City. Nestled in the heart of a sprawling inner city park, Chicago’s zoo is renowned for its partnerships with conservation and animal rights organizations, and for its commitment to supporting species and habitat conservation throughout the world. Plus, its park setting makes it an oasis in the middle of one of our largest metropolitan areas.

6 – The Bronx Zoo in New York City

Speaking of oases in the middle of our cities, the Bronx Zoo, situated on 265 acres in the heart of one of New York’s five boroughs, is well worth a visit the next time you’re in the city. With exhibits that house around six hundred species, live penguin and sea lion feedings on a daily basis, and a myriad of other attractions, this is on NYC attraction not to be skipped.

7 – The Denver Zoo

While the climate and altitude of the Mile-High City may make housing many of the world’s species challenging or even impossible, the Denver Zoo is still the best example of a contemporary menagerie anywhere in the Rocky Mountain states.

8 – The Philadelphia Zoo

Last but definitely not least, the nation’s oldest zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, complete with a Reptile and Amphibian House, has much to offer the residents and anyone who comes to the City of Brotherly Love. You can even see the zoo in its entirety from four hundred feet up high, when you travel in the Zoo Balloon.

See the World’s Animals From Near Your Own Back Yard

The great thing about zoos is that they bring the world to you, or at least near you. And, before you bring up the old objection that zoos are antiquated institutions that display animals suffering in conditions nothing like their natural environs, consider that without zoos, much of the ongoing work to preserve endangered species and educate the public on the necessity of conserving remaining wild habitats would not be done.

Many of our nation’s zoos have been at the forefront conservation efforts for several decades. So get out there and support your local zoo on National Visit the Zoo Day!

Author: Giano Panzarella