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The 25 Best Zoos and Aquariums in the U.S. [2024]

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Nearly every city in the U.S. has at least 1 zoo or aquarium, so choosing which attractions to visit can be daunting. From facilities that focus on rehabilitating animals to those that prioritize education and conservation, there are hundreds of places to choose from. To help kick-start your planning, here are our picks for the best zoos and aquariums in the U.S.

1. Alaska SeaLife Center — Seward, Alaska

Alaska SeaLife Center
Image Credit: Alaska SeaLife Center

Alaska SeaLife Center is the only facility of its kind in the state. It’s part aquarium and part research center that educates the public about marine life and aquatic habitats.

Alaska SeaLife Center houses native Alaskan species and those that migrate through the state’s waters. It also cares for mammals, fish, birds, and invertebrates. Some of the animals that call the center home are Steller sea lions, horned puffins, and northern sea otters.

In addition to the aquarium, the facility hosts a series of special experiences throughout the year. These include species highlights, day camps, and other educational events for people of all ages. You can sponsor animals at the facility and track their progress even after you return home from your visit.

Admission prices vary by day, and discounts are available for children and Alaska residents. Children under 3 are free. Alaska SeaLife Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Address: 301 Railway Ave., Seward, AK 99664

2. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas — New Orleans, Louisiana

Audubon Nature Institute
Image Credit: Audubon Nature Institute

New Orleans’ Audubon Aquarium of the Americas recently reopened and provides one of the most immersive aquarium experiences in the country.

Considered to be one of the top 10 facilities in the country, Audubon houses over 3,600 animals ranging from fish to birds. Many of the space’s residents are endangered species, like the white alligator, providing visitors a chance to see some of the country’s rarest animals.

Today, the museum has 14 exhibits that highlight animals and habitats. Additionally, the aquarium hosts several educational events throughout the year and can be rented for private parties and events.

Wildlife encounters are hosted on weekends, ranging from snorkeling to meeting the on-site penguins. Participating in these events requires purchasing additional tickets.

Admission ranges between $25 and $30 for children and between $30 and $35 for adults. Combination tickets are available to access the zoo, aquarium, and insectarium. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest tram stop is Canal Street Station.

  • Address: 1 Canal St., New Orleans, LA 70130

3. Bronx Zoo — Bronx, New York

Bronx Zoo
Image Credit: Julie Larsen Maher via Wildlife Conservation Society 

First opened 125 years ago, the Bronx Zoo is a staple of New York City. The zoo spans over 260 acres of land, divided into over 20 animal and habitat exhibits. Jungleworld is the zoo’s most popular exhibit, but the zoo is also home to bison, bears, a butterfly garden, and thousands of other animals from around the world.

Some of the site’s exhibits are only open seasonally. For example, the Children’s Zoo, an outdoor experience, can only be visited between April and October. The same restrictions apply to the Butterfly Garden.

Special events and experiences are also hosted on the premises throughout the year. These include the Nature Trek, Bug Carousel, and Wild Encounters with some zoo animals. Private tours and events can also be arranged before your visit.

Admission is free for members and children 2 and under. The zoo operates a flex pricing system, so booking online and in advance for the best rates is best. Bronx Zoo is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and until 5:30 p.m. on weekends. The nearest subway station is Pelham Parkway.

  • Address: 2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY 10460

4. Brookfield Zoo — Brookfield, Illinois

Brookfield Zoo
Image Credit: Chris Buchanan via Unsplash

Brookfield Zoo in Illinois has been an education and conservation facility since it opened in 1934. The 3,400 animals cared for on-site represent over 500 species, ranging from birds to amphibians.

Yellow-headed poison dart frogs, African lions, Mexican gray wolves, and bald eagles are just a few of the many animals that can be seen while visiting the zoo. In addition to the exhibits, Brookfield Zoo hosts over a dozen research programs to preserve animal species and educate the public.

Locals love the zoo for the numerous special events it hosts each year. Some of the most beloved are the Bunny Hop, which takes place around Easter, and Boo! At the Zoo, which has been hosted each October for decades. Private events can also be hosted at the zoo.

Admission is free for children under 2, $20.95 for kids 3 to 11, $24.95 for seniors 65+, and $29.95 for adults. Brookfield Zoo is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest train stop is Hollywood.

  • Address: 8400 31st St., Brookfield, IL 60513

5. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden — Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati Zoo Botanical Garden
Image Credit: Sean Foster via Unsplash

First opened in the 1870s, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is one of the oldest zoos in the country. With over 3,400 plant and animal species on the grounds, the Cincinnati Zoo allows visitors a chance to see a variety of global specimens.

Aardvarks, cheetahs, and red pandas are just some of the animals at the zoo. In recent years, one of the zoo’s residents, Fiona the hippo, has gained fame online, making her one of the facility’s most well-known and beloved residents. Another hippo, Fritz, has also become a celebrity in his own right.

Education and conservation are 2 of the zoo’s pillars. The facility hosts a number of research programs, special events, and educational experiences to help reach its goals of teaching the public.

Admission is free for children under 3. Ticket prices vary depending on the time of day and ticket type. Walk-up tickets cost more. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Vine Street and Erkenbrecher Avenue.

  • Address: 3400 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45220

6. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium — Powell, Ohio

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Image Credit: Anthony Melone via Unsplash

Home to over 10,000 animals, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is one of Ohio’s most important animal facilities. The zoo is divided into 8 habitat areas that imitate the natural environments of the animal residents.

Some of the over 600 species in the zoo are the African grey parrot, the harbor seal, and the Florida manatee. To help accomplish the zoo’s missions of research and education, special events and camps for kids and teens are hosted on the premises.

A number of scientific programs are also organized by the zoo, including a plasma bank for giraffes and a DNA lab to help protect elephants. While admiring the animals, visitors can also learn about the little steps they can take to contribute to animal conservation.

Admission is free for children under 3, $28.99 for kids 3 to 9, $33.99 for seniors 60+, and $35.99 for adults. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s opening hours vary by month and on certain days. There is no nearby public transit stop.

  • Address: 4850 W. Powell Road, Powell, OH 43065

7. Como Park Zoo & Conservatory — St. Paul, Minnesota

Como Park Zoo Conservatory
Image Credit: Casey Lovegrove via Unsplash

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul shares the animal kingdom with the public. Over 2 million people visit the park each year, making it one of the city’s most beloved attractions.

The facility houses animals from across the globe. Crowned cranes, bison, golden-headed lion tamarins, and penguins are just a few of the species at the zoo.

In addition to the animal habitats, the park has a series of garden areas on its grounds that help promote the conservation of plant and insect species. These include the Enchanted Garden, Orchid House, and the Palm Dome.

Classes and camps for adults and children are also staple parts of the Como event calendar. These are in addition to the festivals and community activities hosted here.

Admission is free for everyone, but a $2 donation for child visitors and a $4 donation for adults is suggested. Como Park Zoo & Conservatory is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. between October and March and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. between April and September. The nearest bus stop is Hamline Avenue and Midway Parkway.

  • Address: 1225 Estabrook Drive, St. Paul, MN 55103

8. Denver Zoo — Denver, Colorado

Denver Zoo
Image Credit: Morgan Newnham via Unsplash

Denver Zoo is at the heart of Colorado’s cultural diversity. Using its 84 acres of land, the park educates and informs the public about the importance of nature.

Today, over 3,000 animals are housed on the property, including African wild dogs, black rhinos, grizzly bears, and spotted hyenas. In addition to the habitat exhibits where visitors can admire the zoo’s animals, the park also hosts several other educational experiences.

The zoo’s science facilities offer research programs and internships. The general public can attend camps, organize on-site field trips, and participate in the many special events on the Denver Zoo calendar. Sponsoring an animal before, after, or during your visit is also possible.

Admission is free for kids 2 and under. Tickets cost $18.90 for kids 3 to 15, $22.05 for seniors 65+, and $25.20 for adults. Denver Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Colorado Boulevard and 23rd Avenue.

  • Address: 2300 Steele St., Denver, CO 80205

9. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park — Bay Lake, Florida

Disneys Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Image Credit: David Santoyo via Unsplash

With over 2,000 animals housed on its 500-acre property, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is one of the most immersive zoos in the U.S. So much care has gone into designing the atmosphere, habitats, and rides that the park prides itself on not actually being a zoo.

Using Disney movies such as “Moana” and “The Lion King” as a launching pad, the park educates the public about the importance of conservation and the animal kingdom. Animals are housed in incredibly themed habitats that include culturally accurate architecture, food, and plants and wildlife.

Some of the park’s most beloved attractions are the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction, the Conservation Station, and the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Admission is free for children under 3. Ticket prices vary. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • Address: Bay Lake, FL 34747
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10. Georgia Aquarium — Atlanta, Georgia

Georgia Aquarium
Image Credit: Glenn Haertlein via Unsplash

With thousands of animals housed on-site, the Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the country and the fourth-largest in the world.

Though the facility’s primary focus is its fish, it is also home to a number of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Some of the species in the aquarium are the African penguin, electric eel, otter, and manta ray.

The Georgia Aquarium offers several special experiences and events to make visits and education more immersive. These range from animal encounters with some of the facility’s species, like dolphins and beluga whales, to dives in some of the on-site tanks. Seasonal events are also hosted, particularly around the winter holidays. Schools and other groups can also make arrangements for special tours.

Admission is free for children under 3. Tickets start at $39.99 for everyone else. Annual passes are also available. Opening hours and show times vary. The MARTA station is Civic Center.

  • Address: 225 Baker St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30313

11. Houston Zoo — Houston, Texas

Houston Zoo
Image Credit: Houston Zoo

Houston Zoo is home to nearly 6,000 animals across 1,000 species and promotes interest and education in wildlife conservation. Currently, the zoo collaborates with dozens of international research and preservation organizations.

In addition to the numerous habitats spread out around the park, the zoo hosts daily animal encounters visitors can experience. Some of the most popular are the Elephant Encounter on Fridays, the Children’s Zoo Farm Encounter every Sunday, and the Galapagos Tortoise Encounter on Sundays and Tuesdays.

Your visit can start before you even make it to the property. Live feeds are set up around the park so that you can watch the elephants, otters, rhinos, and other animals from the comfort of your home.

Admission is free for children under 3. Non-members must have an online reservation, and admission is based on flex pricing. Houston Zoo opens daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The light rail station is Museum District.

  • Address: 6200 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030

12. Lincoln Park Zoo — Chicago, Illinois

Lincoln Park Zoo
Image Credit: Matthew Mazzei via Unsplash

First founded in 1868, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the oldest on the continent and one of the only completely free zoos in the U.S. Despite being tucked away in the heart of the Windy City, the facility stretches over 30 acres of land and is home to hundreds of animals.

Aardvarks, chimpanzees, giraffes, and red pandas are just a few of the 200 animal species the zoo cares for. In addition to the animals, the zoo houses a sprawling garden with over 800 plants. This pocket of greenery gives animals native to the Midwest a place to thrive.

Camps, field trips, and “animal investigations” are among the many educational and social events Lincoln Park Zoo hosts every year.

Admission is free to the public all year, but donations are welcome. Lincoln Park Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest train stop is Armitage Station, about a mile away.

  • Address: 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614

13. Los Angeles Zoo — Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles Zoo
Image Credit: David Achilles via Unsplash

Los Angeles Zoo’s primary mission is to promote preservation and education about biodiversity and the animal kingdom. Today, the park is home to over 2,000 animals, including 270 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians.

While most animals housed on the property are common, over 60 are considered endangered. As a result, the park takes the utmost care in ensuring their preservation. Axolotls, Baja rat snakes, and California sea lions are just a few of the animals in the zoo’s care.

Since education is so critical to the zoo, the facility also hosts several special events during the year, like Zoo Camp and the Family Nature Club. Other more socially focused events include dinners and even gala events for zoo members.

Admission is free for children under 2, $17 for kids 2 to 12, $19 for seniors 62+, and $22 for adults. Los Angeles Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is LA Zoo.

  • Address: 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027

14. Monterey Bay Aquarium —  Monterey, California

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Image Credit: Cristina Seaborn via Unsplash

Monterey Bay Aquarium aims to educate the public about California’s flourishing sea life. From galleries to live exhibits, the space inspires visitors to get interested in maintaining ocean habitats.

Currently, the aquarium has over 200 exhibit spaces, home to over 80,000 plants and animals. These specimens offer guests a peek at the lively, vibrant ecosystem under the Pacific’s surface. African penguins, aggregating anemones, and California sea lions are just a few of the species that call the aquarium home.

Birds that tend to live near the coast are also part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium experience. Many of these birds can be found in the Sandy Shore & Aviary exhibit. To promote education, the facility regularly works with schools to plan field trips and even hosts online courses for people of all ages.

Admission is free for members and children under 5, $44.95 for children 5 to 12, $49.95 for youth 3 to 17 and seniors, and $59.95 for adults. Monterey Bay Aquarium is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Monterey.

  • Address: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940

15. National Aquarium — Baltimore, Maryland

National Aquarium
Image Credit: Brendan Beale via Unsplash

Since its opening, Baltimore’s National Aquarium has been on a mission to promote interest in learning about and conserving ocean life worldwide.

Fish, amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles are all housed on the property, all of which call the coast their natural habitat. Atlantic puffins, black groupers, and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are just a few of the many species the aquarium cares for. Each of the facility’s dozens of exhibits aims to recreate a different aquatic habitat, from the rivers of Australia to the coral reefs found in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

To make visits even more immersive, the aquarium hosts special events, like 4D film showings and tours for people of all ages. A few of the aquarium’s most popular tanks are even broadcast via live stream.

Admission is free for children under 5, $39.95 for youth 5 to 20 and seniors 70+, and $49.95 for adults. National Aquarium is open Sunday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Pratt Street and Gay Street.

  • Address: 501 E. Pratt St., Baltimore, MD 21202

16. New England Aquarium — Boston, Massachusetts

New England Aquarium
Image Credit: Garrett Hayes via Unsplash

With 11 on-site exhibits, the New England Aquarium in Boston allows visitors to admire animals from our planet’s many oceans. The aquarium focuses on 14 specific species, including the green sea turtle, the African penguin, and the dwarf shark.

Since the facility also aims to promote education and research, the aquarium hosts several study programs that observe right whales, sea turtles, and sharks. Each year, the aquarium hosts educational events, including discussions with scientists, panels, camps, and animal encounters for kids and teens.

Though nothing beats seeing the aquarium’s exhibits up close, the facility also has multiple live-streaming cameras to allow visitors to watch the tanks from home.

Admission is free for members and children under 3, $25 for children 3 to 11, $32 for college students and seniors 60+, and $34 for adults. The New England Aquarium is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest subway stop is Aquarium.

  • Address: 1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110

17. New York Aquarium — Brooklyn, New York

New York Aquarium
Image Credit: lost pov via Unsplash

First opened in 1896, the New York Aquarium, currently in Brooklyn, is the oldest continuously running facility of its kind in the country.

Today, the site is home to hundreds of birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles that call the water home. Some of the most beloved animals on-site are the black-footed penguins, the green moray eels, and the sand tiger sharks.

Add-ons are available for select visits to create a more hands-on experience. Wild encounters with penguins, sea lions, and even sharks and behind-the-scenes tours are available. Make sure to book these experiences in advance and check the age requirements.

Education is one of the aquarium’s most important missions. To promote interest in ocean life, the facility is equipped to host field trips, family events, and even private parties for kids and adults.

Admission is free for children under 3 and members. Ticket prices range between $25.95 and $27.95 for children 3 to 12, between $27.95  and $29.95 for seniors 65+, and between $29.95 and $32.95 for adults. The New York Aquarium is open daily from 10 a.m. and closes between 4.30 p.m. and 6 p.m., depending on the time of year. The nearest subway stop is West 8 Street-NY Aquarium.

  • Address: 602 Surf Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11224

18. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium — Omaha, Nebraska

Omahas Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Image Credit: Brian Stalter via Unsplash

With over a dozen exhibits, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium showcases animals that call both land and sea home. Desert Dome, Berniece Grewcock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion, and Asian Highlands are just a few of the exhibit spaces on the property.

The Lied Jungle is particularly popular. It is the largest indoor rainforest structure in the U.S. and is home to tropical animals from South America, Asia, and Africa.

This zoo is one of Omaha’s most beloved spaces and also one of the most educational. Conservation is particularly important to the facility, and the zoo sponsors many projects, from animal nutrition research to conserving animal genes. Several special events are also held at the zoo, including lock-in sleepovers and field trips for school-aged kids.

Admission is free for children under 3. Ticket prices vary by season. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from April through October and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the rest of the year. The nearest transit stop is 13th and Bert Murphy Avenue NE.

  • Address: 3701 S. 10th St., Omaha, NE 68107

19. Oregon Coast Aquarium — Newport, Oregon

Oregon Coast Aquarium
Image Credit: Oregon Coast Aquarium

Newport’s Oregon Coast Aquarium aims to help conserve the Pacific coastline and the animals that call it home. Housing both indoor and outdoor exhibits, the space is divided into 11 wings, though some may be closed periodically for renovations or poor weather conditions.

Various species of octopus, sea otter, and puffin are just a few of the animals in the aquarium’s care. A few of the site’s residents have gained such a loyal fanbase that they’re even considered official facility ambassadors: Rocky the boa, Cuff and Link the pond turtles, Pudding the banana slug, and Hazel the kestrel.

Special events at the aquarium included lock-in sleepovers, animal encounters, and discussions with scientists about the importance of conservation and biodiversity. In addition to the permanent residents, the site runs a rehabilitation program for injured animals and beach clean-ups.

Admission is free for children under 3 and members, $15.95 for children 3 to 12, $19.95 for young adults 13 to 17 and seniors 65+, and $25.95 for adults. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Labor Day through Memorial Day and until 6 p.m. outside of that. The nearest bus stop is Aquarium.

  • Address: 2820 SE Ferry Slip Road, Newport, OR 97365

20. Oregon Zoo — Portland, Oregon

Oregon Zoo
Image Credit: Michael Durham via Oregon Zoo

Through its exhibits and research, the Oregon Zoo educates guests of all ages about the animal kingdom. The facility houses hundreds of animals, including the American black bear, cougar, polar bear, and sea otter.

To help further its mission of education, the zoo hosts several events meant to make learning fun. The “Cool Creature Crawl” is one of the most popular. Throughout the park, guests can hunt for 20 hand-painted signs and statues that represent some of the park’s residents.

Additionally, discussions with zoo keepers and animal counters are regular parts of the facility’s event calendar. With advance notice, private events can also be planned and hosted at the zoo.

General admission is free for members and children under 2, $19 for children 2 to 11, $22 for military personnel, and $24 for adults. All tickets must be purchased online before arriving at the zoo. Oregon Zoo is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The nearest station is Washington Park MAX Station.

  • Address: 4001 SW Canyon Road, Portland, OR 97221

21. Saint Louis Zoo — St. Louis, Missouri

Saint Louis Zoo
Image Credit: Joshua J. Cotten via Unsplash

With over 16,000 animals housed on the property, the Saint Louis Zoo aims to conserve wildlife from the Americas and around the world. Currently, the space is divided into 6 wings meant to emulate the natural habitats of the zoo’s residents.

As a result, African lions, American flamingos, and southern stingrays, among many other species, can thrive at the facility. Though the zoo’s main focus is education and preservation, the facility also makes strides to create an inclusive community for St. Louis residents and out-of-town visitors.

To help meet this goal, the zoo hosts and sponsors special events, ranging from educational panels to races and concerts, that bring people together while supporting the animal kingdom. The Saint Louis Zoo also works with local schools to get kids interested in biology and zoology.

General admission is free for everyone. Certain on-site attractions require the purchase of an additional ticket. The Saint Louis Zoo has varying opening hours based on the season. The nearest bus stop is Fine Arts at St. Louis Zoo.

  • Address: 1 Government Drive, St. Louis, MO 63110

22. San Diego Zoo — San Diego, California

San Diego Zoo
Image Credit: KC Welch via Unsplash

San Diego Zoo is one of the most famous facilities of its kind in the world. The zoo houses over 14,000 animals from 700 rare and endangered species. Penguins, pandas, bald eagles, and axolotls are just a few of the many animals that call the zoo home.

San Diego’s Zoo Wildlife Alliance is divided into 2 wings. The zoo has traditional exhibits and smaller artificial habitats for residents. The Safari Park, on the other hand, allows animals a little more space to roam in a more natural environment. 

Part of the zoo’s fame comes from the immense dedication that’s been taken to conserve the species cared for on the premises. Additionally, all the habitats are meticulously designed to ensure the welfare of the animals. This park is also famous for its renowned research facilities.

Admission is free for children under 3, $62 for kids 3 to 12, and $72 for adults with online ticket purchases. San Diego Zoo has varying opening hours. The nearest bus stop is Park Boulevard and Zoo Place.

  • Address: 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101

23. Seattle Aquarium — Seattle, Washington

Seattle Aquarium
Image Credit: Bruce Warrington via Unsplash

Seattle Aquarium’s main mission is to preserve and curate an interest in the plants and animals that call the Pacific Ocean home. The facility cares for birds, fish, invertebrates, and mammals, all of which can naturally be found near the coast. Tufted puffins, dogfish, anemones, and sea otters are just a few of the species housed here.

In addition to the on-site exhibits, the facility also hosts several events and programs meant to boost interest in learning about the ocean. Some of these programs are aimed at researchers, but others are open to the public, including school-aged visitors. With advance notice, a private event on the premises is also possible.

Admission is free for children under 4. Ticket prices vary by day. Seattle Aquarium is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest light rail station is University Street.

  • Address: 1483 Alaskan Way Pier 59, Seattle, WA 98101

24. Shedd Aquarium — Chicago, Illinois

Shedd Aquarium
Image Credit: Lance Anderson via Unsplash

Though tucked away in land-locked Illinois, the Shedd Aquarium is home to thousands of fish, mammals, reptiles, and birds that call the coast home. Zebra sharks, green sea turtles, and beluga whales are just a few of the animals in the Shedd’s care.

Shedd Aquarium’s primary focus is to help those who live far away from the ocean get interested in its preservation. This is done through traditional aquarium visits and the numerous special events scheduled in the facility’s calendar.

These include daily events like animal encounters and special tours, which are usually appropriate for all guests 6 and up, as well as more social events like concerts and volunteer clean-up days. Shedd even sponsors special trips that take participants to international destinations to work alongside the facility’s research staff. On-site internships are also available.

Admission is free for children under 3 and members. Tickets start at $19.95 for adult Chicago residents. Shedd uses a surge pricing format, so prices change from day to day. Shedd Aquarium opening hours vary, so it’s best to check its calendar for the day of your visit. The nearest bus stop is Solidarity Drive and Aquarium.

  • Address: 1200 S DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605

25. Smithsonian’s National Zoo — Washington, DC.

Smithsonians National Zoo
Image Credit: Stephen Walker via Unsplash

Smithsonian’s National Zoo is, at its core, a conservation institute meant to help preserve species from around the globe.

Currently, over 2,200 animals are housed at the facility. These species include African pancake tortoises, alpacas, and caracal lynxes. These animals are divided into 14 exhibit wings to ensure they’re all housed in suitable habitats that mimic their natural environments.

The zoo also has several other attractions, including a carousel, playground, and artificial tide pool, which are particularly popular with children. Special events are also frequently hosted on the premises to enrich the visit experience for guests of all ages.

The Smithsonian’s zoo facility also sponsors several conservation, education, and research projects. Some initiatives are reserved for scientists, but others are open to the public.

Admission is free for all visitors, but all guests must have an entry pass. Smithsonian’s National Zoo is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Connecticut Avenue Northwest and Zoo Entrance.

  • Address: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008

How To Get Free or Reduced Admission to U.S. Zoos and Aquariums

The AZA Reciprocal Admissions Program offers visitors a chance to visit participating national and international zoos and aquariums at free or discounted rates. By choosing a “Home” zoo or aquarium, members can receive between 50% and 100% off admission and other benefits at select locations, such as discounts at gift shops or concession stands.

Facilities currently accredited by AZA include Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Houston Zoo, John G. Shedd Aquarium, and many more. Participation is subject to change; please verify participating museums and entry conditions before your visit.

The Museums for All program offers free or reduced admission to zoos, aquariums, and museums throughout the U.S. for those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits). Participating attractions include the Birch Aquarium, Oklahoma City Zoological Park and Botanical Garden, Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium, San Francisco Zoo & Gardens, and many more.

Final Thoughts

There’s no shortage of zoos and aquariums in the U.S. worth following. After all, the country is home to some of the most extensive animal facilities in the world. Whether you’re an animal lover or traveling with an aspiring vet or zoologist, there’s a zoo or aquarium in the U.S. worth seeing. We hope this list has helped you narrow down your options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the biggest zoo in the U.S.?

The largest zoo in the U.S. by area is the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. The biggest city zoo is the Bronx Zoo in New York. The San Diego Zoo is one of the largest in the country by animal population.

What zoo has the most animals in the U.S.?

The San Diego Zoo has one of the largest animal populations in the country. However, there are dozens of zoos across the country that are home to thousands of animals. These animals are usually divided between residents and animal rehabilitation cases.

What is the biggest aquarium in the U.S.?

The Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the U.S. It’s also one of the largest in the world. Disney World is also home to sizable aquariums. The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is also one of the largest and oldest in the U.S.

Why is San Diego Zoo so famous?

The San Diego Zoo is famous for a few reasons. It has one of the largest animal populations in the country, meaning people can see species from around the world. Additionally, the zoo is also famous for its dedication to international animal conservation.

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About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.


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