5 best zoos and aquariums to visit
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Attention animal lovers: Gather up your pack (read: family) and migrate to some of the country’s best animal exhibits. Watch penguins waddle about, get a rare and up-close glimpse of Giant Pandas and even feed giraffes.
We’ve teamed with TripAdvisor to scout out zoos and aquariums so magnificent you’ll want to plan a vacation with these majestic animal kingdoms in mind.
Once you’ve found a destination, you can use TripAdvisor to plan your trip — everything from booking flights, hotel reservations and activities to using their app when you’re on-the-go. TripAdvisor reviewers will steer you in the right direction, shedding light on must-see exhibits, as well as the best hotels and restaurants.
With the help of TripAdvisor reviewers, we’ve scouted out aquariums that make a splash and zoos that you’ll want to monkey around in.
A trio of Giant Pandas are a huge draw at this must-visit zoo that TripAdvisor reviewers rate as No. 1. The zoo, in 1996, worked out an agreement with China to house the pandas, who lumber about in trees, climbing structure and air-conditioned bedrooms. Once you leave, you can keep up with the pandas via the Panda Cam. Other attractions at the zoo include koalas, polar bears and elephant. Oh, and be sure to meet “Sunny,” a komodo dragon that lives in the Reptile House. TripAdvisor reviewers laud the San Diego Zoo as the best they’ve visited and bucket-list worthy. “We loved the San Diego Zoo trip,” one reviewer wrote. “Got to be 10′ away from a cheetah on a leash as it was being moved to its exhibit area with its helper dog along side. Kids loved that.”
The zoo’s baby gorillas Obi and Ubuntu are a hoot and the playful duo warrant a visit to Zoo Knoxville alone. But, the zoo is also No. 1 for Red Panda conservation and feature great exhibit for children, like an interactive area where you can play with goats. The zoo has a cute sense of humor, too. An exhibit that houses nocturnal animals is dubbed the Nightclub. A TripAdvisor reviewer says it’s one of the best zoos for small children because of the play area. “The giraffe feeding experience is one of the best I’ve seen. Add two baby gorillas to all that and it adds up to a great day,” the reviewer writes.
This famed aquarium took up residence in a former sardine cannery on Cannery Row on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Visitors will get a rare glimpse of bluefin and yellowfin tuna as it’s one of a few sites in the world to have them on exhibit. TripAdvisor reviewers are impressed with the aquarium’s scenic setting on the ocean and the educational presentations. “It is worth a trip to Monterey just to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium,” one reviewer writes. “Wonderful displays convey the wonder and beauty of marine life, but are educational as well. It is not just about otters and big fish but displays of jellyfish, inter-tidal invertebrates, plankton and the amazing kelp forest.”
Visitors love the animals St. Louis Zoo from the butterflies fluttering about in the insectarium to zebras foals that elicit aww’s. But a big perk: Admission is free, though some exhibits cost money. The 90-acre zoo boasts 18,000 animals, making it one of the biggest zoos in the country. Zookeepers are creative, too. Recently, orangutans and chimpanzees enjoyed a little foam party or “spa day” with kid-friendly, edible bubbles. “I’ve been to a lot of zoos all over the country, and this one is one of the best,” a TripAdviser reviewer recently wrote. “Better yet, admission is free! They have all your basic zoo animals, plus some that you don’t see as often, like penguins, a polar bear, and stingrays.”
TripAdvisor reviewers rave it’s the best aquarium they’ve ever been to. “Lots of exhibits and lots of things to do and see,” one says. The whale sharks and manta rays were amazing.” And, in fact, the aquarium is the largest in the western hemisphere with thousands of species swimming about in 10 million gallons of marine and salt water. The aquarium is divided up into five galleries and houses everything from popular bottlenose dolphins and sea otters and African penguins to exotic Japanese spider crabs and clownfish.