Summer has finally arrived! If you're looking for some family vacation inspiration, look no further than the results of our latest Readers' Choice contests.
For the last four weeks, 10Best readers have been voting for their favorite summer attractions in North America – zoos, zoo exhibits, aquariums, wildlife parks and botanical gardens – perfect for enjoying those long summer days. Did your favorites make the list?
Click on each category below to see the full list of winners:
Best Aquarium: Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium
Wonders of Wildlife opened to the public in 2017 — Photo courtesy of Wonders of Wildlife
Founded by Johnny Morris, CEO of Bass Pro Shops, Springfield's Wonders of Wildlife celebrates hunting, fishing and stewardship of the land and water through 1.5 miles of immersive galleries featuring 4D dioramas and a new 1.5-million-gallon aquarium. Some 35,000 animals representing over 800 species are on display, including zebra sharks, sea turtles and freshwater sport fish.
Unique to the aquarium is its collection of historic boats used by fishing legends and celebrities, like Jimmy Buffet, Ernest Hemingway and Zane Grey. The aquarium also won the title of Best New Attraction in 2017.
Best Zoo: Saint Louis Zoo
The Saint Louis Zoo is free for visitors — Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Saint Louis Zoo
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.
Best Zoo Exhibit: Sea Lion Sound at the Saint Louis Zoo
Sea Lion Sound was also nominated for this award in 2015 — Photo courtesy of Ray Meibaum / Saint Louis Zoo
The 1.5-acre Sea Lion Sound at the St. Louis Zoo is about as close as you can come to swimming with sea lions without actually jumping in the water. At the heart of the exhibit, home to nine California sea lions and three harbor seals, is a 35-foot-long underwater viewing tunnel where visitors can see the marine mammals swimming around them. The exhibit's 811-seat amphitheater hosts the First Bank Sea Lion Show where the sea lions show off their amazing abilities.
Best Wildlife Park: Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Safari
Visitors to this winning wildlife park can observe numerous North American species — Photo courtesy of Becker1999 / Flickr
An accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park in Nebraska invites visitors to drive along a 4-mile route through habitats populated by native North American plant and animal species – American elk, bison, waterfowl and white-tailed deer. At Wolf Canyon, guests can hop out of the car to see grey wolves and American black bears or walk through the half-acre Eagle Aviary.
Best Botanical Garden: Longwood Gardens
Longwood Gardens is one of the best family attractions in the Philadelphia area — Photo courtesy of J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA
The massive Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Creek Valley comprise more than 1,000 acres of gardens, woodlands and meadows divided into numerous indoor and outdoor named gardens. When it’s chilly outside, indoor options include a Banana House, Mediterranean Garden, Orchid House and Orangery, while outside, visitors can explore Canopy Cathedral, Flower Garden Walk, Rose Arbor, Peirce’s Woods and the Idea Garden, where home gardeners can find inspiration.
Congratulations to all these winning attractions. Remember to visit 10Best.com daily to vote in other Readers' Choice categories.