Ahhh zoo trips. As a child, a visit to the zoo was an event to be celebrated. We would pack everything into the car and head off for the day. Each trip was magical, whether it was to a petting zoo with just a few animals or a massive zoo with hundreds.
And Florida has quite the menagerie.
TripAdvisor recently came out with its top 25 zoos in the U.S. and Florida was the state with the most zoos on the list with five. What makes these zoos so great? Let’s delve in and see what all the fuss is about.
The Zoological Wildlife Foundation in Miami comes in at No. 4 on the list. The incredible thing about this zoo is that you need to book your visit, as you will have a private guided tour with true wildlife interaction with exotic animals spanning more than five acres of land. (Imagine the look on your child’s face when you can say, “YES, you can touch the animals. Oh you want to hold that tiger cub? SURE!”) This zoo’s goal is to educate visitors on rare and endangered animals in their natural habitats in the wild. They offer educational programs to schools and also private events.
Zoo Miami is next on the list at No. 9. This is a big zoo, housing over 3,000 animals representing 500 different species viewable from three miles of walkways. More than 40 of these species are classified as endangered. It has a total of 740 acres but only 346 of them are developed and comprise the zoo. The rest of the land is federally protected. According to its website, it is the oldest and largest zoological garden in Florida and the only tropical zoo in the continental U.S. Another interesting fact is this is the first zoo to have its animals cageless. The animals are grouped together according to their geographic territories and roam freely together. Zoo Miami is also very involved in conservation; it is currently active in 36 projects spanning six continents.
Brevard Zoo in Melbourne comes in at No. 14. While not a large zoo, it has lots of areas for interaction, such as the innovative “Paws On” area. One can navigate a hive like a bee, tunnel through the earth like a worm, see a manatee or check out a mangrove forest. Brevard Zoo is the only zoo in the country to offer kayaking tours throughout all the exhibits. Visitors can also rent a paddleboat and explore some of Florida’s restored wetlands.
Jacksonville Zoo grabs the 18th spot on the list. This zoo sits right near the mouth of the Trout River. Visitors can rent kayaks or go on airboat rides in hopes of seeing egrets, manatees or other Florida river wildlife. The zoo is on the larger side, boasting 117 acres and 2,400 animals. It also holds a two-time, national award-winning exhibit, the Range of the Jaguar, home to six jaguars making it the largest jaguar exhibit in the U.S. They also have poison dart frogs, anacondas, vampire bats and more.
The last zoo in Florida to make the top 25 is Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo at No.23. With a major focus on children, it has been voted the number one family friendly zoo in the nation by Parents and Child magazines. It is a 56-acre nonprofit zoo recognized by the state as a center for Florida wildlife conservation and biodiversity. Lowry Park also has the region’s only dedicated zoological gardens.
In addition to the above five zoos, Florida has many zoos throughout the state sure to please the entire family. Fun and educational, there is something for everyone.
Go on; take a walk on the wild side.