While Disney’s Animal Kingdom may look like mostly a theme park with tons of animal-spotting opportunities, it’s a legitimate zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This means that it not only meets all sorts of ethical and animal welfare standards, but also contributes to conservation and scientific progress.
According to Insider Monkey (via Yahoo), Animal Kingdom also happens to be the best zoo to visit in the entire country. The criteria for making this decision included the number of animals and the range of species in the park, as well as visitor statistics and reviews. So a zoo could still rank high even if it doesn’t house some 12,000 creatures, like the seventh-placed Saint Louis Zoo. Animal Kingdom only has around 2,000. That said, it also attracts millions of guests who may not just be going to see animals.
Zoo enthusiasts who don’t want to buy Disney tickets might consider heading to the Midwest instead. Eight of the top 20 zoos are located in the region, from the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha in second place to the Detroit Zoo in 17th. Ohio has two: the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. New York City also nabbed two on the list – the Bronx Zoo took third place, surpassing the smaller Central Park Zoo in Manhattan by a good 15 spots.
The main takeaway is that no matter where you are in the continental United States, there’s probably a pretty fun zoo somewhere within driving distance. The Pacific Northwest has Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, the Southwest has Fort Worth Texas Zoo, and more. Check out the full list below to find one near you, and check out Insider Monkey’s breakdown here.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park // Bay Lake, Florida
- Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium // Omaha, Nebraska
- Bronx Zoo // The Bronx, New York
- San Diego Zoo // San Diego, California
- Zoo Miami // Miami, Florida
- Columbus Zoo and Aquarium // Powell, Ohio
- St. Louis Zoo // St. Louis, Missouri
- Fort Worth Zoo // Fort Worth, Texas
- Denver Zoo // Denver, Colorado
- Indianapolis Zoo // Indianapolis, Indiana
- Smithsonian National Zoo // Washington, DC
- Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden // Cincinnati, Ohio
- San Diego Zoo Safari Park // Escondido, CA
- Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium // Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Sedgwick County Zoo // Wichita, Kansas
- Brookfield Zoo // Brookfield, Illinois
- Detroit Zoo // Royal Oak, Michigan
- Central Park Zoo // New York, New York
- The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens // Palm Desert, California
- Woodland Park Zoo // Seattle, Washington