Comprehensive Look at Florida Zoos
The state of Florida is most famous for its theme parks, but many travelers will be pleasantly surprised to find out Florida also houses some of the world’s most famous zoos and animal attractions. The following is a comprehensive list of Florida’s best zoos.
Traveling to Florida offers a host of opportunities for family fun and Florida zoos are some of the world’s most unique and spectacular. Discover that zoos are more than just “lions and tigers and bears” with a visit to Florida’s 20-plus zoos accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and others.
The tropical Florida weather allows for comfortable travel year-round and its many zoos accommodate visitors by the millions every year. So when traveling to the southern United States and looking into Florida attractions, be sure to schedule a visit to one of Florida’s best zoos.
Trek through the only walking safari in Northeast Florida and traverse the Range of the Jaguar, crawling with sleek, majestic jaguars and exhibiting more than 100 stunning jungle animals at the Jacksonville Zoo. Or, journey to West Palm Beach and surround yourself with some of the grandest and most picturesque land mammals on earth as you drive your car through Lion Country Safari’s “cageless zoo,” the first of its kind in America. For hands-on family fun, bring your loved ones to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, ranked “No. 1 Zoo in the United States for Kids” by Child Magazine, and feed Florida Stingrays in one of several interactive exhibits.
Zoos of NORTHWEST FLORIDA
Over 900 animals are surrounded by botanical gardens. You can get a close-up look at bears, tigers, rhinos, zebras, playful primates, and sleek otters. Avian Alley at The ZOO is a walk-through exhibit that provides visitors with an interactive experience with birds, including ibis, spoonbills, hammerkops and curassows. Take a ride on the Safari Line – a train ride through over 30 acres of free-roaming wildlife.
Zoos of NORTHEAST FLORIDA
Jacksonville Florida Zoo
Over 2,000 rare and exotic animals and over 1,000 unique plant species on 73 picturesque acres. “Range of the Jaguar” is an award-winning attraction in a unique neo-tropical rainforest setting featuring jaguars and other Central and South American animals. The Wild Florida attraction includes 2.5 acres of natural wetlands consisting of native animals and plants.
The Zoo opened in the Springfield area of Jacksonville on May 12, 1914, and began with the donation of one red deer fawn. Several animals were added later and initially “Monkey Island” was the zoo’s focal attraction. On July 19, 1925, the Municipal Zoo, as it was then known, relocated to its present site on the Trout River. Starting with 37.5 acres, the Zoo continued to grow, reaching the over 90 acres it encompasses today. Jacksonville Florida Zoo is famous for its extravagant botanical gardens and extensively adapted animal enclosures. For admission and more information visit Jacksonville Florida Zoo.
St. Augustine Alligator Farm
The century-old St. Augustine Alligator Farm (1893) crawls with 2,700 gators and crocodiles, the only facility in the world housing every species of crocodilian.
Zoos of CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA
An exciting family adventure park offering an array of fascinating attractions based on exotic encounters with the African continent. Busch Gardens offers a unique blend of thrilling rides, one of the country’s premier zoos featuring more than 2,700 animals, live shows, restaurants, shops and games. The park’s thousands of critters include white Bengal tigers, giraffes, zebras and elephants; and the Rhino Rally safari offers a good view with built-in thrill factors.
Lowry Park Zoo
Recognized as the #1 family-friendly zoo in the United States by Child magazine, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo features more than 1,600 animals on 56 acres of lush, natural habitats in seven main exhibit areas: Asian Domain, Primate World, Manatee and Aquatic Center, Native Florida Wildlife Center, Free-Flight Aviary, Wallaroo Station children’s zoo, and the new Safari Africa. Also at the zoo are water play areas, rides, educational shows and restaurants.
Zoos of CENTRAL FLORIDA
Central Florida Zoological Park
Sanford on Lake Monroe
Hundreds of rare and endangered animals including cheetahs, elephants, leopards and baboons are on display at this educational zoological park. Kids will enjoy seeing animals they’ve only been able to read about and explore hands-on exhibits. A miniature train circles the zoo and makes for a fun way to tour the park.
Central Florida Zoo (CFZ) is located in Sanford, just east of Orlando. One of Florida’s largest zoos, CFZ houses over 400 animals. CFZ attributes its record-breaking crowds to the park’s versatility of attractions. CFZ host not only a highly popular animal attraction, but with entrance, you can also enjoy their splash water park, a laser tag field, Zoom Air (a combination rope bridge and an elevated zip line that offers riders an extensive aerial view of the zoo and park), and much, much more. For more information, admission fees, and directions to the zoo visit the Central Florida Zoo website.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Exotic animals from Africa and Asia make their home in this theme park that’s “not-a-zoo”. Families can enjoy the realistic, wild-animal Kilimanjaro Safari and ride Asian rapids together during the Kali River Rapids raft ride.
Home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles, some of which have appeared in movies, television shows and commercials. The 57-year-old park combines a petting zoo, bird sanctuary, mini-water park, eco-tour, and action-packed outdoor entertainment, including daily alligator wrestlin’ shows.
Reptile World Serpentarium
St. Cloud, outside Orlando
Visitors to this roadside attraction can watch through a window (twice daily), as snake handler George Van Horn extracts venom from a deadly cobra or Florida cottonmouth. Afterward, kids can’t help but marvel at the serpentarium’s collection of 700-plus snakes, including a gigantic Burmese python and a deadly green mamba from East Africa. Outside, some talkative parrots provide comic relief.
The world’s most popular marine life adventure park features 200 acres (80 hectares) of sea-themed shows, attractions and rides, including Kraken, Orlando’s longest, tallest, and fastest floorless roller coaster. The Waterfront is a 5-acre (2-hectare) village infused with the sights, sounds, flavor, and festivity of the most vibrant cities by the sea. Shows and animal exhibits include polar bears, killer and beluga whales, manatees, sea lions, penguins, dolphins, and more.
Christmas (7 miles west of Titusville, 17 miles east of Orlando)
A 20-acre park and wildlife sanctuary which is dedicated to “eco-tourism”. It provides close encounters with native wildlife while visitors explore the ecology, biology, and history of the area. The park tours and shows each run four times a day. Some of the animals are alligators, crocodiles, turtles, snakes, monkeys, Macaws, skunks, panthers, bears and deer.
Zoos of CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA
Visitors can hand-feed giraffes, kayak through the man-made river or ride the train through a lush savanna viewing an aviary of African and Australian birds. It is the only Zoo in the United States with on-site kayaking and an educational Zoo School. “Expedition Africa” places guests in the wilds of Africa with nose-to-nose meetings with exotic animals.
In a sparsely recognized area, located on Florida’s Space Coast, is the Brevard Zoo, in the city of Melbourne. The Brevard Zoo is relatively extravagant with well over 100 exhibits and shows, and the zoo prides itself on animal education. Another advantage to this central, east coast zoo is that the animals can live comfortably outside, year-round, and can be readily viewed in their most natural habitat. For information visit the Brevard Zoo website.
Zoos of SOUTHWEST FLORIDA
Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
Discover a world of wildlife in the heart of Naples. Explore a full day of fun shows, cruise through islands of monkeys, get close to animals from alligators to zebras inside a nationally accredited zoo and historic 52-acre botanical garden. Panther Glade allows visitors to get up close to America’s large cat as well as the two rare and beautiful Indochinese Tigers. The Zoo also has a multimedia show, Serpents: Fangs & Fiction, to educate guests on the positive impact of these misunderstood reptiles.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens
One of Florida’s oldest attractions and the area’s only zoological park, with lush, tropical grounds and winding brick pathways. Waiting just around every curve of the walkway is another interesting exotic plant or tree and sometimes even a new animal exhibit to discover. Don’t miss the Bird of Prey Show with their own in-house falconer or the Shell Museum, located right next to the snack bar. A wide variety of animals call Jungle Gardens home including flamingos, peacocks, monkeys, alligators, and even a giant Aldabra tortoise named Roscoe.
Zoos of SOUTHEAST FLORIDA
One of the most unusual “zoos” in the world, is dedicated to the study, care and display of astonishingly beautiful butterflies from all over the globe. Butterfly World includes a farm, where these delicate creatures are raised, several aviaries where thousands of butterflies fly freely, a tropical rain forest, hanging gardens, a museum, a hummingbird aviary, an English Rose Garden, a Secret Garden and even a gift shop featuring butterfly memorabilia.
Everglades Alligator Farm
This attraction invites visitors to enjoy an exhilarating airboat tour into the surrounding Everglades and a stroll around the farm to see the alligators, crocodiles, caimans, and wildlife that reside there, as well as a great display of local and exotic snakes.
Lion Country Safari
America’s first drive-through cageless zoo. It provides a habitat in which many endangered or threatened species live and reproduce, including the southern White Rhinoceros, African Elephant, and Chimpanzee.
One of the world’s great zoos and the only one in the continental United States located in a subtropical climate, Metrozoo features the American Bankers Family Aviary Wings of Asia exhibit. The aviary is home to more than 300 birds representing 70 species of exotic, rare and endangered Asian birds in a large free-flight area that feels like an Asian jungle. Another popular attraction at the zoo is Dr. Wilde’s World, including a new Wild Earth Jeep Simulator where guests can take a virtual African safari.
Metro Zoo in Miami houses more than 1,200 wild animals in a cageless setting that closely duplicates the animals’ natural habitats. The Metro Zoo is reminiscent of what it would be like to embark on a wide-open plains African safari. The zoo boasts large, open-air exhibits that allow visitors to enjoy magnificent wildlife in a safe yet remarkably close vicinity.
Owned and operated by the DuMond family for three generations, Monkey Jungle is home to 400 primates, most running free on a 30-acre reserve. It is one of the few protected habitats for endangered primates in the United States and the only one that the general public can explore.
Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park
Home to animals such as Bengal tigers, jaguars, exotic parrots, a Komodo dragon, and a 4-foot-long capybara from South America, the largest rodent in the world. Two black bears have found a home there too. Over 900 animals from Florida, South and Central America, Asia, and Australia. live in tropical landscaped habitats. The Tropics of the Americas showcases Mayan culture and animals (jaguars, bush dogs, and giant anteaters).
Parrot Jungle Island
A 18.6-acre theme park that is home to more than 3,000 exotic animals and 500 species of plants. Here, visitors enjoy animal stage shows, one-of-a-kind interactive aviaries, plant nurseries, jungle trails, a petting farm, and educational exhibits, as well as world-famous parrot shows, a new Serpentarium and Jungle Theater, an Everglades Habitat, and many more – all nestled on a lush tropical island.
Traveling to Florida and Animal Attractions
These are Florida’s most highly rated and largest zoos, but Florida has an extensive list of other animal attractions as well. When traveling south through Florida a vacationer could conceivably visit an animal-themed attraction every day for weeks.
Animal lovers often consider Florida the ideal vacation destination due to the state’s many animal-themed attractions. The following is a list of some fun and fascinating attractions that are slightly smaller in size and bound to be less crowded.
Top Ten Florida Animal Attractions:
- Palm Beach Zoo, Palm Beach
- Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, Naples
- Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa
- Gulf Breeze Zoo in Pensacola
- Lion Country Safari, West Palm Beach
- Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Sarasota
- Silver Springs Nature Park, Ocala
- Miami Seaquarium, Miami
- Key West Aquarium, Key West
- Jungle Adventures Nature Park, Christmas
And for those interested in specific animal rescues or wildlife sanctuaries traveling to Florida offers:
- Santa Fe Community College Teaching Zoo, Gainesville
- Butterfly World, Coconut Creek
- Everglades Animal Farm, Florida City
- St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, St. Augustine
- Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key
- Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Boca Raton
- Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota
- Big Cat Rescue, Tampa
- White Oak Conservation Society, Yulee
- Sixteen Hands Horse Sanctuary, Myakka City
- Peace River Wildlife Center, Punta Gorda
So whether you wish to plan your vacation entirely around visiting Florida’s animal attractions or simply add a few Florida Zoos to your travel plans, the aforementioned animal attractions are sure to please.