Zoos, first established as private collections by the wealthy to display power, have evolved into places where people come to not only see animals that they would never get to view otherwise, but as a way to educate the public and for species conservation.
Today, it’s estimated that there are over 2,800 zoos and aquariums around the world, including more than 355 in the United States.
Even though the concept of keeping animals in captivity for human entertainment has been getting more and more controversial, many zoos in the country are accredited by independent organizations and have adopted policies to benefit the animals and to preserve their natural way of life as much as possible.
Many go beyond what we may think of as the traditional zoo to include safari parks, reserves, animal sanctuaries and places where animals are rehabilitated and can live in a naturalistic habitat. Some focus on housing animals that are endangered or nearly extinct, largely because people are putting them in danger — these are the animals humans are driving to extinction.
To identify the 20 best zoos in the United States, 24/7 looked a total of 272 zoos, all of which were within the zoo category on Yelp in or near the top 1,000 U.S. cities by population. Only zoos with at least 50 Yelp reviews were considered. The ranking is based on the average rating and number of reviews. Establishments that were only petting zoos, public parks, or were being investigated for animal abuse were excluded.