10 Top Zoos on the East Coast USA

Jocelyn Murray January 17, 2012 No Comments


Tots and Travel Recommended

Zoos are a great place for families to visit any time of year and offer an unforgettable learning experience about our world’s amazing wildlife. Listed alphabetically, the following 10 zoos are among the best on the East Coast of the USA. Visit one of these for a memorable encounter that will inspire future generations with wonder and respect for the natural world.


Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo - gorilla

The Bronx Zoo in New York is the biggest urban zoo in the world

At 265 acres, the Bronx Zoo in New York is the biggest urban zoo in the world. Their naturalistic habitats are home to over 600 species of creatures in fantastic exhibits including Tiger Mountain, JungleWorld, the Congo Gorilla Forest, African Plains, Madagascar! and the Baboon Reserve. Their award-winning Children’s Zoo boasts three acres of hands-on activities that help children learn all about animals and their habitats and includes a petting zoo. The zoo also features a Bug Carousel, camel rides, a Zoo Shuttle with unlimited rides per ticket, a 4-D Theater, and the Wild Asia Monorail that takes visitors on a guided tour where elephants, rhinos, tigers and other wildlife frolic in the forests, riverbanks and pastures of their habitats. Daily animal feedings and training demonstrations offer unforgettable encounters as well. The Bronx Zoo is located at Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road in Bronx, New York 10470. For more information visit www.bronxzoo.com



Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom safari - elephant

Safari tours at Disney's Animal Kingdom are a wonderful way to view many of the animals at the park, like this elephant

As part of the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, Disney’s Animal Kingdom encompasses 500 lush acres and over 1,700 animals from 250 species. There are seven themed areas surrounding the park’s Tree of Life - a 14-story sculpted thematic park centerpiece –  with exhibits, expeditions and safaris that offer close encounters with the animals. Pulsating entertainment includes musical stage performances, parades, and fantastic shows like Flights of Wonder that features 20 bird species including macaws, hawks and eagles. Several rides whirl guests through themed adventures like the Kali River Rapids rafts, the Expedition Everest coaster, the TriceraTop Spin, the Wildlife Express Train and more. A shaded petting zoo lets children learn more about a variety of animals including llamas, sheep, goats and chickens. Kids can also run, climb, slide or dig for fossils at the playground with a shaded dig site called The Boneyard. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is located at 2901 Osceola Parkway in Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830. For more information visit www.disneyworld.disney.go.com (under “Parks” tab at top)



Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Jacksonville Zoo - train

Train rides are one of the delights featured at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

With over 1,800 exotic animals and 1,000 diverse plants, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida offers families an exciting wildlife adventure. Some of the many naturalistic exhibits are the Great Apes, the Plains of East Africa, the River Valley Aviary, the Giraffe Overlook, Wild Florida, and the Range of the Jaguar that is home to one of the nation’s largest collections of these gorgeous cats. Its botanical gardens are a passionate testament to nature’s beauty, and a sanctuary for strolling. The zoo offers behind-the-scenes tours, lush garden tours, keeper talks, bird watching, train rides, and a delightful wildlife carousel. A play park with splash ground lets children run, jump, climb and play through mazes and a variety of nature-themed apparatus. They can also pet animals such as pygmy goats in the animal care contact yard, explore several tree houses, do arts and crafts and other activities in the Discovery Building, and much more. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is located at 370 Zoo Parkway in Jacksonville, Florida 32218. For more information visit www.jacksonvillezoo.org



The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

Maryland Zoo - giraffes

Guests can feed the giraffes for a nominal fee at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

With its opening in 1876, The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Maryland is the third oldest zoo in the nation, and is home to over 2,000 animals. African Journey is the zoo’s largest area with numerous exhibits where animals indigenous to Africa can be seen. Watch cheetahs, gazelle, warthogs, elephants, rhinos, zebras, lions and more in naturalistic habitats. Go on camel rides or feed giraffes at the feeding station for a nominal fee. In Polar Bear Watch, guests can explore the tundra setting with arctic foxes, snowy owls, ravens and polar bears with a large underwater viewing area to see the bears swim. The Maryland Wilderness featuring The Children’s Zoo boasts many interactive exhibits that inspire children to crawl, climb and jump like the animals displayed – all native to Maryland – and includes a walk-through aviary, cave, petting area with farmyard critters, and much more. The zoo also has a few carnival-style rides, a train, a carousel, a variety of tours, animal encounters and educational keeper talks. The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is located at 1876 Mansion House Drive in Baltimore, Maryland 21217. For more information visit www.marylandzoo.org



Philadelphia Zoo

Philadelphia Zoo lion

State-of-the-art exhibits at the Philadelphia Zoo let visitors see many animals like this very regal lion up close through tall windows

The Philadelphia Zoo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is the nation’s first and oldest zoo, having opened after the American Civil War. Over 1,300 animals – many of them rare and endangered – live on the 42-acres in habitats that allow visitors to see and experience the animals up close.  Get face-to-face with big cats from around the world including tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars through tall glass windows rather than across deep moats. Watch gorillas as they meander through stunning lush gardens. There are bears, birds, bugs, reptiles, aquatic animals and so much more. Children will love the variety of rides and activities such as the Amazon Rainforest Carousel, camel and pony rides, swan boats, train rides, hand-feeding lorikeets, and the Channel 6 Zooballoon that offers panoramic views at a soaring 400 feet. The Children’s Zoo allows kids to pet and feed familiar furry and feathered farm friends, and get a closer look at creepy crawlies at Backyard Bugs, while they learn about the many creatures that share our planet. The Philadelphia Zoo is located at 3400 West Girard Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104. For more information visit www.philadelphiazoo.org



Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium - sea lions

These sea lions and over 4,000 animals live at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

With its fantastic combination of zoo and aquarium, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania features 77 acres with over 4,000 animals.  Guests can see lions, elephants, zebras and ostriches roam among the plains and animals of the African Savanna exhibits. There are over 90 primates in the indoor/outdoor Tropical Forest complex. The Asian Forest is home to snow leopards, tigers, a Komodo dragon and other fascinating creatures. Visitors can get a close look at polar bears, sea otters and sand tiger sharks in the Water’s Edge exhibit with its two underwater tunnels. The PPG Aquarium boasts over 4,000 exotic fish, an open ocean tank, coral reef, stingray tunnel and more. Children will love exploring the Kid’s Kingdom with its petting zoo, animal encounters, playful sea lion shows, reptile house, playground and many interactive exhibits where they can learn all about the animals. Train and carousel rides (Memorial Day through Labor day – weather permitting) top off an exciting visit here. The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium is located at 1 Wild Place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15206. For more information visit www.pittsburghzoo.org



Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden - penguins

Pretty penguins frolicking at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Over 2,000 animals live at Columbia, South Carolina’s 170-acre Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, while its lush exotic and native plants – including perennials, vines, fragrant flowers and more – are all enchantingly displayed among waterfalls, scenic river views and tranquil pathways that inspire a wonder for nature. Some of the animal exhibits include the African Plains with giraffes, zebras and ostriches; Large Mammals with lions, tigers, bears and baboons; Australian Animals with koalas, a walk-through lorikeet aviary, kangaroos and wallabies; and the Ndoki Forest with elephants, monkeys, gorillas and meerkats. The award-winning Aquarium Reptile Complex features fish, amphibians, invertebrates and reptiles along with daily diving presentations. The popular Riverbanks Farm lets children get a closer look at farm animals while learning about farm life. This wonderful zoo also offers pony rides, an Endangered Species Carousel, and a 3-D Adventure Theater with exciting shows. They are located at 500 Wildlife Parkway in Columbia, South Carolina 29210. For more information visit www.riverbanks.org



Smithsonian National Zoological Park

National Zoo cheetah

Graceful cheetahs lounging at the National Zoo

Founded in 1889, the National Zoological Park in Washington, DC is one of the oldest zoos in the USA. There are about 2,000 animals from 400 species including its popular giant pandas (one of only four such centers housing giant pandas in the USA), Asian elephants, great apes, big cats, birds, small mammals, aquatic animals, amphibians, reptiles, insects and a host of endangered species which comprise about a quarter of the animals there. Exciting daily programs include feeding demonstrations, animal training, and keeper presentations where visitors can learn more about the fascinating animals, what they eat, and how they behave. The Kids’ Farm engages children with hands-on activities and a petting barn where they can learn about a variety of animals including goats, hogs, cows, alpacas and donkeys. There is also a playground area and Pizza Garden where they can discover the origins of ingredients that make a pizza. The National Zoo offers free admission and is located at 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW in Washington, DC 20008. For more information visit www.nationalzoo.si.edu



Zoo Atlanta

Zoo Atlanta panda

Zoo Atlanta is one of only four zoos in the nation with giant pandas

Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia is home to more than 1,300 animals representative of over 220 species residing in about 40 lush acres of realistic wildlife habitats. Like the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, it too was founded in 1889 and is Atlanta’s oldest cultural venue. Some of the exhibit highlights include the Asian Forest and the Ford African Rain Forest with the nation’s biggest zoological collection of orangutans and gorillas, a giant panda conservation, and the African Plains and Mzima Springs where black rhinos, giraffe, lions, zebras, meerkats, ostriches and other animals roam a five-acre savanna like the African plains. Children will be delighted with KIDZone where they can explore the children’s zoo with spacious petting zoo and outback station, ride the Endangered Species Carousel, scale the Rock Climber wall, embark on educational train rides, and romp around in the outdoor and indoor play areas. The zoo also features live shows, presentations and feedings, including friendly parakeet feedings by guests. Zoo Atlanta is located at 800 Cherokee Avenue SE in Atlanta, Georgia 30315. For more information visit www.zooatlanta.org



Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami - camel rides

Zoo Miami has camel rides among its many enticements

The Zoo Miami in Miami, Florida is the only tropical zoo in the continental United States, and one of the country’s largest zoos with over 300 developed acres. It has more than 100 exhibits with over 2,000 animals living in spacious naturalistic habitats among lush tropical landscaping. The exhibits feature animals native to Africa, Asia, the Amazon and Australia with everything from tigers and tortoises to lions and leopards, to anacondas, anteaters and much more. The large amphitheater features exciting wildlife shows, while keeper talks and feedings can be seen throughout the park. The air-conditioned Zoofari Monorail provides guests with great views and narrated tours about the animals. The Children’s Zoo offers up-close and personal interaction with many smaller animals. Familiar barnyard animals like goats, sheep and horses await children at the Wacky Barn. Kids can also take camel rides or enjoy the Wildlife Carousel with its assortment of endangered animals. Zoo Miami is located at 1 Zoo Boulevard in Miami, Florida 33177. For more information visit www.miamimetrozoo.com



avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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