Feed a giraffe, ride a camel, pet a sting ray - if you’re looking for a fun, hands-on experience for the whole family, then Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa should be top on your list. Lowry Park is the top-attended zoo in the Southeastern U.S. and features 56 acres of lush and beautifully landscaped habitats that are home to over 1,000 animals. Kids are able to get up close and personal with many species, and there are tons of amenities, rides and attractions dedicated to families with younger children.
Kids love seeing the giraffe's 18-inch tongue! — Photo courtesy of Lowry Park Zoo
The zoo is conveniently laid out with eight different habitat areas, including the popular Safari Africa and a free-flight aviary. Australian-themed Wallaroo Station is an area specially designated for families and offers plenty of interactive activities to get the kids engaged. Watch them light up as they walk down the path with kangaroos and wallabies, or brush a goat or ride a horse.
The Florida Boardwalk is an area dedicated to the local habitat and animal specials. As you stroll along the boardwalk, you can enjoy all the wonderful creatures that make Florida home. This area also features interactive areas including Stingray Bay, where kids (and adults, too) can feed and touch a stingray. Conservation is very much a part of the zoo’s mission, and here you can find the most comprehensive collection of Florida’s endangered native species.
The zoo's unique Manatee Hospital has treated over 330 manatees — Photo courtesy of Lowry Park Zoo
Another unique conservation area in the zoo is the the David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Hospital. This is the world’s only facility dedicated fully to the treatment and rehabilitation of Florida’s endangered manatees. These fascinating and gentle creatures are well loved by locals, and efforts are on-going to protect them from habitat destruction and boat-strikes. The Lowry Park Zoo is one of the few places where you can view manatees outside their natural habitat.
When the kids are ready for a break, there are plenty of spots to rest, relax and refuel. Interspersed among the habitat areas are plenty of reasonably priced dining options, shady parks and kid-friendly rides. The zoo has planned thoughtfully to account for the needs of moms and tots and offers stroller rentals, family bathrooms and changing areas.
Family-friendly rides and other amenities are located throughout the park — Photo courtesy of Lowry Park Zoo
In fact, accessibility of all kinds is a key factor here. The park is wheelchair accessible and rentals are offered. Visitors in need of sign language interpreters are accommodated, as well. In addition, the zoo has partnered with the Center for Autism & Related Disabilities at the University of South Florida to provide services for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities. Specialized resources are available on their website.
The Lowry Park Zoo is also a great value. You can enjoy a day at the zoo for about a quarter of the price of a major theme park ticket. Two days at the zoo, and you have paid for an annual pass.
If you’re just visiting, you might want to check out the new Tampa Bay City Pass, which offers a package of five area attractions for one low price. See the Lowry Park Zoo website for details.