Going to the zoo is the quintessential experience for any child. Seeing the animals, eating ice cream, and feeding the giraffes. Lions and tigers and bears are one thing, but there are some really great zoos for kids out there. Almost any zoo in the world is going to offer a great time for a kid, but some zoos really go above and beyond, creating interactive exhibits and offering unique ways of learning about the world’s most amazing wildlife.
The best zoos for kids in the country will provide plenty of specialized activities for kids and parents alike. See if any of these are within driving distance for you, because they are definitely worth the trip.
1. San Diego Zoo
It’s one of the largest and most famous zoos in the world, and it’s one of the absolute best zoos for kids. Not only are they one of the few zoos in the world to house a great white panda, which your kid will love seeing, the San Diego Zoo also kid friendly in a number of ways. Gondola rides and easily accessible buses to ferry you around the zoo are great for tired little legs and feet. Kids will also enjoy the discovery center where they can climb into a pretend panda’s den and even watch zookeepers provide routine care for animals. And the zookeepers are all incredibly knowledgeable. 95% of animal-care employees at the San Diego zoo have a degree in zoology.
2. Brookfield Zoo, Illinois
With almost 6,000 animals on the premises, the Brookfield Zoo has plenty to look at, including some high-flying marine talent you can see at the 2,000 seat theater called the Dolphinarium. In addition to crazy cool exhibits and a huge variety of animals, parents will find the Brookfield Zoo incredibly family friendly. They have a quiet feeding room for babies and plenty of family restrooms with no shortage of changing tables.
3. Bronx Zoo
Whether it’s crawling inside a giant turtle shell, navigating a prairie dog’s tunnel, or watching the world from a heron’s nest, the Bronx Zoo has countless kid-friendly ways for your little one to learn about animals and experience some of the coolest parts of nature. The children’s area of the Bronx Zoo alone is more than three acres, and it’s chock full of interactive exhibits that are as informative as they are fun.
4. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
You’ll see the wonder in your child’s eyes when they reach their hand into the tide pool and touch an actual starfish. That’s just one of the cool things that makes the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium one of the best zoos for kids. They’ve also got special cameras where visitors can watch newborn animals interact with their mother, an amazing insect-themed playground, and they’re one of the few zoos in the country to house koalas — a proven kid’s favorite.
5. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo
The Lowry Park Zoo has a 4.5 acre children’s zoo where you and your little one can actually feed kangaroos in an Australian’-themed outback setting. The zoo is also adding onto it’s already amazing African safari experience which will get your kid up close with zebras, elephants, and giraffes. It’s one of the great zoos for kids because of its commitment to safety. There are plenty of first aid stations scattered about the park and the zoo holds animal escape drills twice monthly. They also have security onsite during opening hours which will keep your kiddo safe if they manage to slip out of your sight.
6. St. Louis Zoo
The children’s zoo section of the St. Louis Zoo has plenty to offer, making this one of the best zoos for kids in the country. You and your child can watch meerkats, a la The Lion King, pet goats, and act like your favorite animals in the Just Like Me area. Dig like an anteater, climb a spider’s web, or slide past the otters on a see-through slide that really makes you feel like you’re swimming amongst the otters. Zookeepers also bring out incredible birds and snakes for your kiddo to watch from up close.
7. San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the zoos! This one has the third largest collection of animals in the country, and the first children’s zoo created specifically for children under the age of five. In the Tiny Tot Nature Spot, toddlers can safely feed carrots to guinea pigs, hunt for animal tracks, and hop around on pretend lily pads. There’s plenty to keep older kids entertained too. For example, check out the Africa Live! exhibit where they’ll get to watch crocs and hippos swim underwater.
8. Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
Home to more than 500 species of animals and more than 3,000 species of plants, you and your kiddo can spend all day discovering things at the Cincinnati Zoo and never get bored. They have specially created habitats meant to mimic different animal living environments on every continent, as well as 20 incredible gardens for you to get lost in. You can feel good about buying tickets to the Cincinnati Zoo when you find out that it’s known for its conservation and protection efforts for animals and plants alike.
IMAGES: Flickr | STL Today | Kid 101 | Cincinnati USA