The Best Zoos in America

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20. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
> Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Known for one of the largest collections of primates in the United States, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is part of 23,000 acres of parkland that also has 300 miles of trails, eight golf courses and eight lakefront parks. Another zoo attraction is its two-story rainforest exhibit, which visitors can enjoy even in the cooler weather, along with a convenient heated tram to transport them. There are seven main exhibits, with more than 3,000 animals representing over 600 different species. These exhibits include a five-acre elephant crossing, an eight-acre Australian habitat, an African savannah and more.

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19. CuriOdyssey
> Location: San Mateo, California

More than just a zoo, this science playground, located in San Mateo, just south of San Francisco, allows kids to get up close to wild animals and experiment with science through exhibits. Visitors can experience live, non-releasable animals native to California at CuriOdyssey’s home in the Coyote Point Recreation Area. There are nearly 100 of these animals, most of them from rehabilitation facilities because they could not survive in the wild. The museum also features interactive exhibits and hands-on science and art programs.

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18. Detroit Zoo
> Location: Royal Oak, Michigan

The Detroit Zoo is located on 125 acres, many of which are naturalistic habitats. There are more than 2,000 mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates representing at least 240 different species, and major exhibits that include: the Arctic Ring of Life, Australian Outback Adventure, Great Apes of Harambee, National Amphibian Conservation Center, Holden Reptile Conservation Center, Penguinarium, and Butterfly Garden. Beyond these exhibits, the zoo hosts exciting events throughout the year for its visitors. One of the most popular events, Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo, takes place around Christmas, when the entire zoo is lit up for the holidays. Zoo Brew features craft beer, live music and zookeeper talks, and Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo, a 5K and 10K, raises money for animals at the zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center.

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17. Santa Barbara Zoo
> Location: Santa Barbara, California

Home to more than 500 animals, including 146 species, this 30-acre park features an open, naturalistic habitat overlooking the Pacific Ocean and San Ynez Mountains. Animals include penguins, an Asian elephant, gorilla, leopards, and native California condors. Though small (the zoo can be seen in about two hours), it’s been described as a charming, beautiful and must-see attraction in the area. Features include the giraffe feeding, a 26-foot rock climbing wall, the Zoo Train and the Ridley-Tree Animal Kitchen, where visitors can observe the animal’s food-prep process.

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16. Denver Zoo
> Location: Denver, Colorado

The idea of a zoo in Denver began more than a century ago when the city’s mayor received a black bear cub as a gift and it went to live at City Park. Today the zoo is home to more than 4,300 animals representing over 600 species. Still located in the 80-acre City Park, the zoo is one of the greenest in America thanks to its sustainability efforts. Attractions include a Conservation Carousel that features hand-carved wooden replicas of some of its animals, including giraffes, okapi and a baby gorilla; a Zoo Railroad and 4D Theater.