Sign for the Smithsonian National zoo, flowers surround the sign. Image credit melissamn via Shutterstock.

The Largest Zoos In the United States

Most people have a favorite animal, if not more than one, although many have never been able to see their beloved creatures in person, nor visited the lands where they live. Fortunately, even the most exotic furry, slimy, feathered, or fanged animal can be found in one of the many zoos in the United States, where they can be studied, protected, and admired by millions of visitors every year.

The word “zoo” is short for zoological park and is a point of controversy. Some believe holding animals in enclosures is cruel because they should be free to roam and live as they do in the wild. Others champion zoos for their medical facilities where animals can get the care they need, breeding facilities to bolster dying populations, and the opportunity to study the unique idiosyncrasies that make each animal special. Whichever side of the conversation visitors may find themselves on, one thing is clear: zoos are a safe place for both the animals and the humans observing them. 

Zoo Miami

Exterior of the Miami Zoo
Miami Zoo entrance. Image credit photravel_ru via Shutterstock.

Spanning 750 acres with over 4 miles of walking paths through the facility, Zoo Miami is home to over 2,500 animals with about 400 different species represented. There are plenty of activities for all ages including a splash pad, a petting/feeding area, and the Conservation Center where learning comes alive featuring games and interactive displays.

Columbus Zoo

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Sign in Dublin, Ohio.
Columbus Zoo, Ohio. Image credit Eric Glenn via Shutterstock.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium campus covers 580 acres and houses over 10,000 animals with 600 species. Conservation is a crucial part of keeping these animals thriving in today's world and the Columbus Zoo is dedicated to ensuring the most vibrant environment for each of them. Along with the zoo and aquarium, a modest amusement park also shares the grounds, perfect for a family outing!

Minnesota Zoo

Minnesota Zoo in St Paul, Minnesota
Minnesota Zoo exterior. Image credit Ritu Manoj Jethani via Shutterstock.

With award-winning exhibits visitors must see to truly appreciate, the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley is home to 4,500 animals across 505 species. To streamline visitors entering the facility, all tickets must be purchased online now, as well as parking passes. The zoo features plenty of animals to see and activities to do, including the recently opened Dino Hideout, an interactive spot for kids who love dinosaurs.

Bronx Zoo

Lemur closeup shot at the Bronx Zoo
Close-up shot of Lemur at the Bronx Zoo. Image credit LouieLea via Shutterstock.

Ready for a wild encounter? Then it is time to take a trip to the Bronx. Interact with some of the crowd-favorite, wild, animals including cheetahs, porcupines, and sloths in an up-close and personal experience with memories to last a lifetime.  Watch the sea lion feedings, learn about the conservation efforts taking place on-site and abroad, and monkey around at the treetop adventure course. With 265 acres of fun and over 6,000 species, visitors here will have a fun-filled experience from start to finish.

Brookfield Zoo

Portrait of a Humboldt penguin at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago
Penguin at the Brookfield Zoo. Image credit OGI75 via Shutterstock.

Part of the Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo is a champion in the realm of conservation and habitat management, and it shows in the events they hold throughout the year to raise donations and awareness of the needs of these animals. For 80 years, the members and staff of the CZS and Brookfield Zoo have dedicated themselves to preserving and protecting all animals, including of course the myriad of species residing on the 215-acre property.

Kansas City Zoo

Entrance to the Kansas City Zoo.
Kansas City Zoo entrance. Image credit Wirestock Creators via Shutterstock.

When is the last time you looked upon something with childlike wonder? At the Kansas City Zoo, you just might again when the zoo lights up at the Glowild lantern festival in the fall. Make a day of it! Bring your friends and family, observe and enjoy the 1,700 animals across 205 acres of world-class enclosures and exhibits, then cap off the night with a light show designed to enrich the spirit and calm the soul.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Zebras and flowers exhibited in the Asian Lantern Festival presented by Cleveland Clinic Children's at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Asian Lantern Festival presented at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Image credit Thomas Leikam via Shutterstock.

The faculty at this lovely setting is securing a future for wildlife on 183 pristine acres near the Cleveland suburb of South Brooklyn. 3,000 animals across 600 species are ready and waiting for tourists' visitation, and the staff hopes you will bring a friend to witness the labors of love they have produced to give these animals their best life while in captivity. Learn, grow, and become part of the solution!

Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens

The botanical gardens at Riverbank Zoo in South Carolina
The botanical gardens at Riverbank Zoo in South Carolina. Image credit Katherine Harward via Shutterstock.

Established in 1974, this South Carolina staple is home to not only more than 3,000 animals but also 5,700 varieties of plants. On 170 glorious acres, Riverbanks hosts north of a million visitors each year, showcasing to them around every corner the possibilities of making real connections with animals, with nature, to ensure an environment where conservation is the key to a brighter tomorrow.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park

A monkey on a rope in the cherry blossoms at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington DC. USA
Monkey hanging from a rope at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Image credit Manokhina Natalia via Shutterstock.

One of the oldest zoos in the country, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park was founded in 1889 and encompasses 163 acres. The park hosts habitats for over 2000 animals with 400 species represented. What makes this zoo significant is the endangered species housed within, including Sumatran tigers which were almost poached to extinction. One of its most popular features is the panda webcam which attracts unique visitors almost constantly.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Giraffes at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo being pet by visitor
Petting giraffe at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Image credit Mylana via Shutterstock.

A favorite destination in both Colorado and the surrounding states, this mountainous location houses 750 animals with 150 species situated across the 140-acre landscape. 30 endangered species thrive here and are included in the 30 Species Survival Plan, an initiative to help these animals endure the constant trials of environmental changes and antagonism in the wild.

Name Acreage

Zoo Miami


Columbus Zoo and Aquarium


Minnesota Zoo


Bronx Zoo


Brookfield Zoo


Kansas City Zoo


Cleveland Metroparks Zoo


Riverbanks Zoo and Garden


Smithsonian National Zoological Park


Cheyenne Mountain Zoo


Los Angeles Zoo


Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (Omaha)


Detroit Zoo


Living Desert Zoo and Gardens


Dallas Zoo


San Diego Zoo


Oakland Zoo


Woodland Park Zoo


St. Louis Zoo



More in Places