Special Report

The Best Zoos in America

Source: Tbennert / Wikimedia Commons

10. Reptile Gardens
> Location: Rapid City, South Dakota

Located just six miles south of Rapid City, Reptile Gardens is home to the largest collection of reptiles in the world, and is even recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for the feat. Visitors can see everything from deadly snakes to tropical birds and giant tortoises and fierce alligators. In addition to the zoo, there is a botanical garden, and a three-level Sky Dome featuring an indoor jungle to explore. Founded in 1937, Reptile Gardens is still owned by the same family.

Source: Courtesy of The High Desert Museum via Facebook

9. The High Desert Museum
> Location: Bend, Oregon

With both indoor and outdoor exhibits, from animals to interactive history, the High Desert Museum is one of central Oregon’s must-see attractions. Located five minutes south of Bend, Oregon, the museum is spread out on 135 wooded acres, including a 100,000-square-foot exhibit space. Visitors can start with the native wildlife, which includes otters, porcupines and reptiles, and in the summer, birds of prey during the Raptors of the Desert Sky daily flight program. Beyond the animals there are Western art and Native American collection that allows visitors to learn more about the region and its history.

Source: boblinsdell / Flickr

8. Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens
> Location: Hilo, HI

Located in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo is the only natural tropical rainforest zoo in the United States. This 12-acre zoo is designed to blend with the natural vegetation of the Pana’ewa Forest Reserve, and features a variety of rainforest animals and endangered Hawaiian animals. It’s home to more than 80 animal species, including the endangered ‘Io (Hawaiian Hawk), Pueo (Hawaiian Owl) and the state bird, Nene, as well as giant anteaters, american alligators, bengal tigers and more. Visitors also can take a stroll along its beautiful paths, where there are over 100 types of palm trees.

Source: leecannon / Flickr

7. Brevard Zoo
> Location: Melbourne, Florida

With a mission of “‘wildlife conservation through education and participation,” the

Brevard Zoo may be small, but it’s still one of the country’s top zoos. Home to nearly 150 animals, it offers visitors plenty of activities, especially for those that love to interact with animals. Animal lovers can feed giraffes or exotic birds, and take a kayak tour to check out lemurs. For daredevils, there is also the Treetop Trek, an aerial climbing experience, and zip lining.

Source: Tchoupis / Getty Images

6. Orange County Zoo
> Location: Orange, California

Orange County Zoo, located inside Irvine Regional Park, focuses on animals and plants native to the southwestern United States. These include black bears, mountain lions, bald eagles, island foxes, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, turkey vultures, coati, and more. The zoo also features a petting zoo with domestic animals such as goats, cheviot sheep, jacob sheep, pot-bellied pigs, doves, chickens and pheasants. Though only eight acres, the zoo is part of a large wilderness park and can be enjoyed with the Irvine Park Railroad, a 1/3 scale train that takes children and adults on a ride through the park.

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