How Many Zoos Are in the U.S.?

By Tim Zimmer; Updated June 08, 2017

Lions, tigers and bears: Learn more about some of the best U.S. zoos

How Many Zoos Are in the U.S.?

Looking for an adventure? You're in luck, because the U.S. has some of the largest and most diverse zoos in the world. In the U.S. alone, there are well over 2,400 zoos spanning multiple cities and landscapes. From the Bronx Zoo in New York to the San Diego Zoo in California, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more exotic and “wild” adventure with family and friends.

What is the largest zoo in the United States?

It might come as a surprise, but the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska, which houses more than 17,000 animals and nearly 1,000 species across 130 acres, is the nation's largest zoo if you combine its area with the number of species it contains. As one of the world's best zoos, it also houses the world's largest indoor desert under a massive 84,000-square-foot geodesic dome. The Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium and the Eugene T. Mahoney Kingdoms of the Night – the world's largest nocturnal exhibit – are also some of the zoo's many must-see exhibits.

How many people visit zoos?

According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a nonprofit accreditation organization, approximately 183 million people visit an accredited zoo every year. Some of the most popular zoos in the country as of this writing include the San Diego Zoo (3.2 million annual visitors), the Lincoln Park Zoo (3 million visitors annually), the St. Louis Zoo (2.9 million annual visitors), the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (2.4 million annual visitors) and the Brookfield Zoo (2.3 million visitors annually). More than 12 million students explore an accredited zoo each year on field trips.

Best zoos and tips for “zoo-goers”

Ready to start your outdoor expedition? Great! When deciding what to do or where to go, it's important to plan your visit in advance.

Best zoos in the U.S.

Lucky for you, the U.S. has some of the best zoos in the world. Some of the most-distinguished zoological parks include the San Diego Zoo, the St. Louis Zoo, the Henry Doorly Zoo, the Bronx Zoo and the Philadelphia Zoo, to name a few. However, make sure to do your homework before making the trip; a great zoo might be just a few miles away!

How to prepare for your adventure

When you decide what zoo to visit, it's pivotal to have a game plan. Make sure to browse the zoo's website beforehand to determine which exhibits you want to see first. Bring plenty of sunscreen (if it's a warm summer day), snacks and water, so you don't need to take a pit stop at the (often overpriced) food courts. Since you'll be on your feet all day, wear comfortable clothes and shoes. When you arrive, pick up a park map to get your bearings and locate the restrooms for a quick break. Once you have these essentials, you're all set. Enjoy your "wild" journey!

About the Author

Tim Zimmer