Americans are fascinated by seeing the majestic animals that live around the world. We flock to zoological parks around the nation just to get a glimpse of the creatures that are commonplace in other countries. While many of the nation’s zoos are pretty similar, however, some of them stand out above the rest. Either for their exhibits, their collections of animals, or their contributions to research and conservation efforts, here is a look at Murray Huberfeld’s favorites and in my humble opinion – (in no particular order) some of the best zoos in the country.
San Diego Zoo (San Diego, CA) – Renowned worldwide as one of the best zoos ever created, San Diego Zoo has more than 4,000 different animals representing almost 900 distinct species. This tourist attraction covers 100 acres and brings in more than 5 million visitors every year. Officially founded in 1916, the zoo has been the innovator of “cageless” exhibits since 1922. Plan to spend an entire day exploring this massive zoo, especially since it’s set amongst the hills and takes quite a bit of energy to get around. It’s almost impossible to highlight an exhibit or attraction that stands out because they are all fantastic. Make sure not to miss the Giant Pandas, however, because this zoo is one of only four in the U.S. to feature these incredible animals.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (Colorado Springs, CO) – Nestled along the face of Cheyenne Mountain, you can’t beat the views that you get from this zoo. The beautiful setting is complemented by several great exhibits, which display more than 100 species of animals. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo features the largest herd of reticulated giraffes anywhere in the U.S., and visitors are able to hand feed them romaine lettuce that can be purchased outside the enclosure. The zoo also has a historic carousel from 1937 and a chairlift-style Sky Ride that leads even further up the mountain. Wear sturdy walking shoes when you visit, as the slope of the zoo is equal to climbing up 10 stories.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (Columbus, OH) – Another of America’s most renowned zoos–and possibly the “best” in the nation–Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has been welcoming guests since 1927. Under the direction of famed wildlife expert Jack Hanna, the zoo set the standard that most other zoos aspire to. Today it features over 7,000 animals (almost 800 different species) and attracts millions of visitors annually. Over the last 10 years, the zoo has undergone a major expansion, and now it also includes an amusement park, water park, and golf resort in addition to showcasing its many animals. The zoo itself is divided into regions including North America, Polar Frontier, Pachyderms, Asia Quest, and more.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Orlando, FL) – Don’t let any hardcore Disney fans hear you referring to the fourth Walt Disney World theme park as a “zoo”–even if it is, on some level. Since its 1998 opening, Animal Kingdom has struggled to make a name for itself among tourists seeking thrills, but the one area it has consistently excelled is in its care and treatment of animals. The park is divided into sections such as Africa and Asia, and it features more than 250 species of animals that you can discover
through exciting attractions. Don’t miss the crowning jewel of the park–the 20-minute ride through an expansive wildlife preserve, known as Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Bronx Zoo (New York, NY) – A trip to New York City doesn’t typically involve going up to The Bronx, but both visitors and locals should carve out some time to check out the beautiful Bronx Zoo. The word’s biggest metropolitan zoo, it spans about 265 acres and is home to 650 different species (more than 6,000 animals). The zoo was founded in 1899 and has grown exponentially over more than a century. The Bronx Zoo is also the headquarters for the Wildlife Conservation Society–an international organization that manages four NYC zoos as well as promoting animal conservation efforts around the world. If you visit during the summer, make sure to ride the Wild Asia Monorail, which transports you above hundreds of Asian animals, including tigers, rhinos, and elephants.
Saint Louis Zoo (St. Louis, MO) – Founded in 1904, Saint Louis Zoo is located in the middle of the city’s massive Forest Park. The zoo spans more than 90 acres and displays more than 19,000 animals–655 species. It also holds the distinction of being one of the nation’s only free zoos. Recognized for its contributions to the science, research, and conservation, the zoo is dedicated to keeping its animals happy and features naturalistic enclosures. It is known in particular for its penguin display, which is designed to look like the shoreline of Peru and features a 22-foot waterfall.