Best Zoo (2018)


North America is home to hundreds of zoological parks, including 230 facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Short of heading out into the world's wild places, nothing beats a visit to the zoo to foster an appreciation for the striking animal diversity of our planet.

  • Saint Louis Zoo

    Saint Louis Zoo
    St. Louis

    Situated within the nation’s largest urban park, the free-to-the-public St. Louis Zoo features 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. Centene Grizzly Ridge, new to the zoo in fall of 2017, expanded the original bear grotto to twice its original size.
    Photo courtesy of Ray Meibaum / Saint Louis Zoo

  • Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

    Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
    Omaha, Neb.

    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 – meerkat, peccaries, quail, gila monster, death adders, rattlesnakes and inland taipan, the wodl’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 giraffe, elephants, lions, cheetahs and sable antelope.
    Photo courtesy of Justin Limoges & Lucas Marshall, Henry Doorly Zoo

  • Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

    Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

    The Cincinnati 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 superstar 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.
    Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

  • Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

    Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
    Colorado Springs

    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.
    Photo courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

  • Fort Worth Zoo

    Fort Worth Zoo
    Fort Worth

    Established in 1909, the Fort Worth Zoo is the oldest continuously operated zoo in Texas and home to more than 540 animal species from around the world. More than 100 of those species are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan, and 68 are endangered or threatened. An international leader in Asian elephant conservation, the zoo recently opened the all new African Savannah – home to giraffe, zebras, hippos and black rhinos. An additional 10 acres of new exhibit space are in the works.
    Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Zoo

  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

    Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

    The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson blends elements of a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, museum and aquarium into a seamless and unparalleled look at the region’s wildlife. Animals displayed along 2 miles of trails are integrated impeccably into the vast landscapes. Observing coyotes, peccaries, mountain lions and bobcats in their naturalistic enclosures is as close as most visitors will come to seeing them in the wild.
    Photo courtesy of David Jewell / Visit Tucson

  • Dallas Zoo

    Dallas Zoo

    The Dallas Zoo is the largest in Texas with 106 acres. Founded in 1888, the zoo features approximately 430 species (not including fish), of which 152 are part of the AZA Species Survival Plans. The Wilds of Africa exhibit, where guests embark on a Monorail Safari through six exhibit areas, was the first in the world to include every major habitat on the African continent.
    Photo courtesy of Dallas Zoo

  • Audubon Zoo

    Audubon Zoo
    New Orleans

    Situated in historic uptown New Orleans, the Audubon Zoo features a spectacular recreation of the Louisiana Swamp – an exhibit linking the region’s distinct Cajun culture with the plants and animals of the surrounding habitats. Visitors get the chance to see 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. The zoo recently debuted a nocturnal bat house and a new troop of Western lowland gorillas; an updated lion exhibit is set to open in 2019.
    Photo courtesy of Audubon Nature Institute

  • Zoo Miami

    Zoo Miami

    The only subtropical zoo in the continental United States, Zoo Miami showcases more than 500 animal species across 750 acres. Visitors an walk through a simulated tropical rainforest in Amazon and Beyond, home to river otters, anacondas and jaguars. The Wings of Asia aviary provides a home for 70 species of free-flying birds, while the upcoming Florida:Mission Everglades exhibit will take visitors on a journey through one of Florida's most iconic habitats.
    Photo courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

    The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
    Palm Desert, Calif.

    The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in California's Palm Desert educates visitors on the challenges desert animals face to survive, through exhibits housing African wild dogs, ball python, caracal, bearded dragon, warthogs, hyena, mountain lions and sand cats. Standout exhibits include a nocturnal display, walk-through aviary and the Tennity Wildlife Hospital and Conservation Center. Other guest favorites make an appearance as well – the zoo has habitats for giraffe and cheetahs, as well as a lorikeet aviary.
    Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs


We asked a panel of travel experts to nominate their favorite North American AZA-accredited zoos–facilities that excel in the fields of animal care and enrichment, while also facilitating meaningful interactions between animals and human visitors. For the past four weeks, 10Best readers have been voting for their favorites.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Zoo are as follows:

  1. Saint Louis Zoo
  2. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
  3. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
  4. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo - Colorado Springs
  5. Fort Worth Zoo
  6. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum - Tucson
  7. Dallas Zoo
  8. Audubon Zoo - New Orleans
  9. Zoo Miami
  10. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens - Palm Desert, Calif.

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Debra Erickson (International Zoo Educators Association), Kyle McCarthy (Family Travel Forum), Mommy Nearest , Eileen Ogintz (Taking the Kids) and Alan Sironen (Zoo Consultants International) were chosen based on their knowledge and experience of America's zoos.

Congratulations to all these winning zoos!

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AlertThe Experts

Debra Erickson

Debra Erickson

Debra Erickson

Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy

Mommy Nearest

Mommy Nearest

Mommy Nearest

Eileen Ogintz

Eileen Ogintz

Eileen Ogintz

Alan Sironen

Alan Sironen

Alan Sironen