The Best Zoos in America

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15. Zoo Miami
> Location: Miami, Florida

Also known as the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, Zoo Miami is both the largest and oldest zoological garden in Florida. The only sub-tropical zoo in the continental United States, the climate of South Florida allows the zoo to house a large variety of animals from Asia, Australia and Africa, making it unique in America. There are more than 3,000 animals representing over 500 different species on 750 acres. It also has over 1,000 species of trees, palms and other plants.

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14. Oakland Zoo
> Location: Oakland, California

Home to over 700 animals, both native and exotic, visitors can explore the Oakland Zoo geographically through the ecosystems of the animals’ native habitats. The zoo is located in the 525-acre Knowland Park, and features beautiful views of the Bay Area and plenty of fun activities for kids — from a butterfly garden to rides. These rides include a roller coaster, endangered species carousel, and train. A new feature, the gondola, takes visitors up a hill to new animal habitats, a children’s play area, a cafe, and the great views. All part of the California Trail project, the zoo highlights how the role of humans has shaped the ecology of the local area.

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13. San Diego Zoo Safari Park
> Location: Escondido, California

Promising “an active, hands-on safari experience,” the San Diego Zoo Safari Park allows visitors to experience animals roaming around in their natural habitats. The nonprofit wildlife sanctuary features over 3,000 animals representing more than 300 species across 1,800 acres. Over half of the park’s land is set aside as protected native species habitat. Visitors can choose from several different safari adventures at the park, from a caravan truck to a zip line, or a jungle ropes safari to an overnight option. The Safari Park, along with the San Diego Zoo, also just premiered its own reality TV program on Animal Planet this summer, called “The Zoo: San Diego,” which promises to give a behind-the-scenes look at the facilities.

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12. Wildhaven Ranch
> Location: Cedar Glen, California

This nonprofit wildlife sanctuary and education and visitation center is operated by the San Bernardino Mountains Wildlife Society to help endangered and indigenous wild animals in the local mountains. Only open to the public with a reservation, the Wildhaven Ranch offers several programs and private tours. These include a Wings N’ Things tour where visitors can have an “up close and personal” experience with magnificent birds of prey such as eagles, hawks, falcons, owls and raptors as well as native snakes; a Bear Watch tour; and a Paws N’ Claws tour with indigenous mammals such as bobcat, raccoon, fox, coyote, deer, and bear.

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11. Busch Wildlife Sanctuary
> Location: Jupiter, Florida

A non-profit organization, the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Jupiter, Florida, offers both educational opportunities and rescue and rehabilitative services for animals. This combination of learning center and wildlife hospital allows the public to learn about nature up close, in the animals’ natural habitats. The sanctuary features nature trails through pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, and cypress wetlands, and native animals, such as eagles, panthers, crocodiles, foxes, snakes and bears. Medical and rehabilitative care is provided to almost 5,000 injured wild animals each year, and gives animals that may be too injured to return to the wild a safe sanctuary. Admission is free to walk-in visitors, but donations are welcomed.