10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (2022)

// By 10Best Editors

By 10Best Editors

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (2)Photo courtesy of kali9 // Getty Images

North America is home to hundreds of zoological parks, including more than 200 facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Besides traveling around the world to see animals in their natural habitats, nothing beats a visit to the zoo to inspire an appreciation for the diversity of animals we have on our planet. A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Scroll to see the winners.

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10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (3)Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Zoo

No. 10: Saint Louis Zoo - St. Louis, Missouri

Situated within one of the nation’s largest urban parks, the free-to-the-publicSaint Louis Zoofeatures a stunning diversity of animals – more than 600 species in total. The zoo is divided into six zones, including Lakeside Crossing where the award-winning Sea Lion Sound combines a stellar exhibit experience with educational presentations and shows.

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (4)Photo courtesy of Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

No. 9: Houston Zoo - Houston, Texas

TheHouston Zoois dedicated to bringing new and exciting experiences to its animal-loving visitors, experiences like the World of Primates where apes, monkeys and lemurs from around the world can be observed from close range. The African Forest leads visitors on a trek from a small trading outpost into a forest and through to a clearing that hosts chimpanzees, gorillas, rhinos and giraffes. The zoo’s 3-acre Asian Elephant Habitat provides a home for a family of gentle giants, who enjoy spacious grounds, a large pool and a dust-bathing area.

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (5)Photo courtesy of Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

No. 8: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium - Powell, Ohio

Wildlife from seven regions around the world, including Australia, the Congo, Asia and North America, call the Columbus Zoo home. The zoo is one of only two facilities outside of Florida to care for manatees, visible in the Manatee Coast area alongside other rescued animals such as a sea turtle and pelicans.

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10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (6)Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Zoo

No. 7: Philadelphia Zoo - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Located on 42 acres of beautiful gardens on the Schuylkill River, the Philadelphia Zoo welcomes more than a million visitors annually and is home to Zoo360, the first-in-the-world animal travel trail system. This “first true zoo” in the United States opened in 1874 and today is home to nearly 1,700 animals, including many rare and endangered species.

Visit KidZooU for hands-on learning experiences, see African lions in Big Cat Falls, gorillas in the PECO Primate Reserve and much more in this animal oasis.

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (7)Photo courtesy of Audubon Zoo

No. 6: Audubon Zoo - New Orleans, Louisiana

TheAudubon Zoo, situated in historic uptownNew Orleans, is ranked as one of the city's top things to do and offersvisitors personal encounters with wildlife, including highly endangered whooping cranes, Amur leopards and orangutans.

Be sure to check out the award-winning Louisiana Swamp re-creation, an exhibit linking the region’s distinct Cajun culture with the plants and animals of the surrounding habitats. You'll have the chance to observe black bears, alligators, red foxes, blue crabs, water snakes and a host of other animals with a view into the daily lives of those who rely on the swamp for a living.

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (8)Photo courtesy of Memphis Zoo

No. 5: Memphis Zoo - Memphis, Tennessee

Created in 1906, this zoo is located in midtown Memphis and is home to more than 4,500 animals and over 500 different species. Explore Teton Trek, inspired by the extraordinary ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park, or view polar bears and sea lions in a naturalistic environment in the Northwest Passage exhibit. See giraffes, rhinos and elephants in the African Veldt, or experience a multi-level open-air viewing of Cat Country’s “big cats.”

Some of the most powerful and beautiful creatures on Earth can be seen in the Zambezi River exhibit, and don’t forget to stop by the China exhibit to see the giant pandas or the penguins at Penguin Rock.

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10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (9)Photo courtesy of Brevard Zoo

No. 4: Brevard Zoo - Melbourne, Florida

Home to more than 900 animals, the AZA-accreditedBrevard Zootakes the zoo-going experience to adventurous new levels. Guests can zip line through the jungles of South America or kayak through the African savanna or a restored Florida wetland.

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (10)Photo courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

No. 3: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo - Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs connects visitors with more than 750 animals representing 170 species from all corners of the globe. The African Rift Valley exhibit is home to the largest zoo giraffe herd in the world, as well as red river hogs, meerkats, African lions and colobus monkeys. Rocky Mountain Wild hosts regional species, like moose, grizzly bears, mountain lions, river otters, porcupine, Mexican gray wolves, bald eagles and lynx. A ski lift offers stellar views over Colorado Springs.

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (11)Photo courtesy of Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

No. 2: Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium - Omaha, Nebraska

Continued investments have allowed Henry Doorly Zoo to continue to offer one-of-a-kind exhibits to guests, including the world’s largest indoor desert where arid plants and animals – meerkats, peccaries, quail, gila monsters, death adders, rattlesnakes and inland taipans, the world’s most venomous snake – are visible inside a geodesic dome year-round in the heart of the Midwest. The $73 million African Grasslands exhibit features 28 acres of habitats and exhibit spaces for giraffes, elephants, lions, cheetahs and sable antelopes.

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10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (12)Photo courtesy of Michelle Curley

No. 1: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden - Cincinnati, Ohio

TheCincinnati Zoo(one of the oldest zoos in the nation) brings visitors nose-to-nose with a range of exciting animals. Guests can view hippos underwater (including world-famous hippo Fiona), pop up in a bubble amid meerkats or watch cheetahs racing at top speeds. The multi-sensory Night Hunters exhibit hosts cats and other nocturnal predators, while Manatee Springs seeks the long-term conservation of the Florida manatee by encouraging guests to observe these gentle giants.

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10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (13)The Experts

10Best Editors

10Best.com provides users with original, unbiased...ReadMore

10Best.com provides users with original, unbiased and experiential travel coverage of top attractions, things to see and do, and restaurants for top destinations in the U.S. and around the world.

10Best Editors

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (14)

10Best.com provides users with original, unbiased and experiential travel coverage of top attractions, things to see and do, and restaurants for top destinations in the U.S. and around the world.

Chez Chesak

‘Chez’ Chesak is Executive Director of the Outdoor...ReadMore

‘Chez’ Chesak is Executive Director of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, an adventure travel writer, board member of the Society of American Travel Writers and 22-year veteran of the outdoor and travel industries. While he’s lived all over the U.S. and traveled to more than 30 countries, he has the most fun when he’s exploring with his wife Sally and two daughters. An avid outdoors person, he’s happiest on a trail, on skis, or nestled into a sleeping bag. Learn more about him and his work at www.chezconnects.com.

Chez Chesak

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (15)

‘Chez’ Chesak is Executive Director of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, an adventure travel writer, board member of the Society of American Travel Writers and 22-year veteran of the outdoor and travel industries. While he’s lived all over the U.S. and traveled to more than 30 countries, he has the most fun when he’s exploring with his wife Sally and two daughters. An avid outdoors person, he’s happiest on a trail, on skis, or nestled into a sleeping bag. Learn more about him and his work at www.chezconnects.com.

Corinne Whiting

Corinne hails from theother Washington, where she...ReadMore

Corinne hails from theother Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's backpacked around Australia, taught English in Argentina and explored (so far!) countries from Cambodia and Egypt to Turkey and China.Corinne served as associate editor at Where magazine for five years; as a freelancer, she now writes for publications like National Geographic Traveler and Amtrak's OnTrak. Here in the lovely Northwest, she's attempting to debunk the rain myths, up her coffee and live music quotient and find her Zen near/on the water.

Corinne Whiting

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (16)

Corinne hails from theother Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's backpacked around Australia, taught English in Argentina and explored (so far!) countries from Cambodia and Egypt to Turkey and China.Corinne served as associate editor at Where magazine for five years; as a freelancer, she now writes for publications like National Geographic Traveler and Amtrak's OnTrak. Here in the lovely Northwest, she's attempting to debunk the rain myths, up her coffee and live music quotient and find her Zen near/on the water.

Debra Erickson

Debra Erickson is President of the International...ReadMore

Debra Erickson is President of the International Zoo Educators Association. She is also the Marketing Director for San Diego Zoo Global, Executive Director of Atlantis Blue Project Foundation and Accreditation Chair for Atlantis, Paradise Island. She has been in the conservation, interpretation, marketing, communications, and education fields for 30 years and has worked for the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Atlantis, Paradise Island, Atlantis, The Palm, SeaWorld San Diego, SeaWorld Orlando, S.E.A. Aquarium and Dolphin Island.Debra has held a wide variety of positions in the education and interpretation field including Education Director at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld Orlando, and Atlantis, Paradise Island. She has created interpretive plans for a wide variety of exhibits including Manatees: The Last Generation, Wild Arctic, and Tiger Trail which have all won the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums Top Exhibit Honors award. Currently she is leading the effort to provide San Diego Zoo Kids, a 24-hour, commercial-free television channel, to 300 children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses around the world.Having worked in over 40 countries during her career and seeing the challenges that many developing countries face, Debra has a keen commitment to conservation. She worked as Executive Director and Conservation Director for Orangutan Foundation International and was responsible for developing and implementing the conservation plan for Tanjung Puting National Park. Debra continues her conservation work through the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation where she funds marine conservation projects and mentors conservationists in the field.Debra received her B.A. in Biology from Scripps College and her M.A. in Educational Technology from San Diego State University.

Debra Erickson

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (17)

Debra Erickson is President of the International Zoo Educators Association. She is also the Marketing Director for San Diego Zoo Global, Executive Director of Atlantis Blue Project Foundation and Accreditation Chair for Atlantis, Paradise Island. She has been in the conservation, interpretation, marketing, communications, and education fields for 30 years and has worked for the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Atlantis, Paradise Island, Atlantis, The Palm, SeaWorld San Diego, SeaWorld Orlando, S.E.A. Aquarium and Dolphin Island.Debra has held a wide variety of positions in the education and interpretation field including Education Director at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld Orlando, and Atlantis, Paradise Island. She has created interpretive plans for a wide variety of exhibits including Manatees: The Last Generation, Wild Arctic, and Tiger Trail which have all won the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums Top Exhibit Honors award. Currently she is leading the effort to provide San Diego Zoo Kids, a 24-hour, commercial-free television channel, to 300 children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses around the world.Having worked in over 40 countries during her career and seeing the challenges that many developing countries face, Debra has a keen commitment to conservation. She worked as Executive Director and Conservation Director for Orangutan Foundation International and was responsible for developing and implementing the conservation plan for Tanjung Puting National Park. Debra continues her conservation work through the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation where she funds marine conservation projects and mentors conservationists in the field.Debra received her B.A. in Biology from Scripps College and her M.A. in Educational Technology from San Diego State University.

Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy is the co-founder and editor of...ReadMore

Kyle McCarthy is the co-founder and editor of Family Travel Forum, the trusted resource for family vacation planners since 1996. FTF’s award-winning publications:MyFamilyTravels.com, America’s Most Popular Family Vacations andThe Family Vacationiste-newsletter provide destination reviews, tips anddealsfor all aspects of travel. Ms. McCarthy, author of a dozen Frommer’s guidebooks, also contributes to US News, CNN and other publications. She can be found on most social networks @familytravelforum.

Kyle McCarthy

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (18)

Kyle McCarthy is the co-founder and editor of Family Travel Forum, the trusted resource for family vacation planners since 1996. FTF’s award-winning publications:MyFamilyTravels.com, America’s Most Popular Family Vacations andThe Family Vacationiste-newsletter provide destination reviews, tips anddealsfor all aspects of travel. Ms. McCarthy, author of a dozen Frommer’s guidebooks, also contributes to US News, CNN and other publications. She can be found on most social networks @familytravelforum.

Nicky Omohundro

Nicky Omohundro is the founder and editor of ReadMore

Nicky Omohundro is the founder and editor of LittleFamilyAdventure.com, the popular family travel & lifestyle website that inspires families to leave no child left inside. Since 2013 LFA has been providing inspiration to get families outdoors, eat well, and travel everywhere from their own backyard to around the world. Always up for a family adventure, she has traveled to 37 states and 6 countries to zip-line through a Costa Rican rainforest, see Finland’s Northern Lights, and go camping throughout the US. Nicky is the co-founder of Tourism WorX a travel consultancy group. Connect with her Twitterand Instagram.

Nicky Omohundro

10 best zoos across the United States, according to our readers (19)

Nicky Omohundro is the founder and editor of LittleFamilyAdventure.com, the popular family travel & lifestyle website that inspires families to leave no child left inside. Since 2013 LFA has been providing inspiration to get families outdoors, eat well, and travel everywhere from their own backyard to around the world. Always up for a family adventure, she has traveled to 37 states and 6 countries to zip-line through a Costa Rican rainforest, see Finland’s Northern Lights, and go camping throughout the US. Nicky is the co-founder of Tourism WorX a travel consultancy group. Connect with her Twitterand Instagram.

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