best zoos in the Midwest

Best Zoos in the Midwest for Families of Animal Lovers

Come by some of the best zoos in the Midwest when you are visiting the area. They have amazing facilities, various animal species, and amazing programs for the youngsters. You can have a full day of fun at one of these adventurous locations.

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Zoo visits allow children to successfully learn about animals, enhance cognitive growth, and cultivate empathy and compassion. Observing and talking about animals promotes interest in conservation and the knowledge that animals, like humans, have thoughts and emotions

1. Saint Louis zoo is one of the best zoos in the Midwest

St Louis Zoo

Saint Louis Zoo is the most amazing and diverse of all Midwest zoos, with over 12,000 animals. It is also a zoo that offers free entrance, with charges only for parking, carousel, Children’s Zoo, and stingray experience.

The little ones will enjoy the dinosaur exhibit the most. It includes gigantic dinosaur models, life-size triceratops, and a staged fossil excavation site. If you are visiting on Friday, end your visit with the Family Fun Friday Night, which includes long hours of animal exhibitions, live entertainment, food, and beverages.

The Lakeside Crossing region is the home to marine animals like seals and sea lions. When you visit the Wild, you will see penguins, red pandas, and more. In the Red Rocks region, you can see a variety of cats, including tigers and mountain lions.

 Address: 1 Government Dr, St. Louis, MO 63110, United States
 Hours: 8:00 am - 7:00 pm
 Cost: free 

2. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
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The Cincinnati Zoo has received several awards for its conservation activities and sustainability attempts. This zoo is also special because they were the ones to bring California Sumatran rhinoceros and sea lions for the first time to the United States. One of the biggest zoo’s breeding achievements is the famous Nile hippo which is visited by people from all over the world.

There are 20 animal habitats in the zoo, including The Rhino Reserve, and Lemur Lookout. The smaller kids will love the petting zoo with domestic animals. Every month, the zoo conducts unique events as well as kid-friendly programs and courses.

In the botanical garden, children can learn about the plant world and many unique plant species. Plant exhibitions highlight native flora, pollinators, and varied growing techniques. The fee for the entrance to the zoo varies, depending on the day.

 Address: 3400 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH 45220, United States
 Hours: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
 Cost: $-$$ 

3. Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo

This world-famous zoo covers 216 acres of land and houses over 2,000 animals. From lions and monkeys to penguins and a dolphin display, the kids will have a great day exploring.

Brookfield Zoo Summer Nights and Christmas season Holiday Magic Zoo Lights are two fantastic events you should not miss if you are in Chicago at the time. It’s difficult to know where to begin at the Brookfield Zoo because there are so many things to do, so it is best if you start by asking your kiddos what they want to see first.

The animals are housed in 20 displays, some of which are dedicated to African savannah species. Hand-feeding a giraffe is an experience your little ones will be very excited about. They can also see dolphins, participate in automobile safaris, and ride on the big carousel.

During Halloween, the zoo organizes fun events and parties. Children under the age of 11 are eligible for reduced admission fees, and parents may hire strollers to help carry their children easier.

There are several dining options in the Brookfield Zoo, including restaurants and picnic sites. If you bring your own lunch, there is a picnic area with a playground for the little ones on each side of the zoo.

Hamill Family Play Zoo is the best section for smaller children, especially on rainy days. This section of the zoo provides plenty of opportunities for pretend play, including a fake zoo office and a zoo kitchen where youngsters may pretend to be zookeepers.

While witnessing genuine lemurs play, children may dress up like lemurs. Kids receive water bottles in the greenhouse area and are able to shower all of the plants. There’s also face painting and a zoo with a variety of little animals to see.

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 Address: 8400 W 31st St, Brookfield, IL 60513, United States
 Hours: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
 Cost: $-$$ 

4. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Columbus Zoo
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This zoo is huge and it is home to 10,000 species of animals. There are several sections like North America, Asia Quest, Australia, and the Islands, Congo Expedition, Shores and Aquarium, Heart of Africa, and the Polar Frontier.

Even polar bears live here, neighboring some other popular species like kangaroos, lions, and, of course, gorillas. Listen to the zoo guides to learn about the zoo and its residents. The Arctic Fox and Polar Bear exhibits include, as the name suggests, arctic foxes and polar bears, while the Congo Expedition show has fascinating gorillas and leopards.

Other displays replicate North American, Asian, and Australian environments, allowing you to go around the world without having to fly. Some of the unique experiences include elephant bathing, cheetah encounters, walks with wallabies, and sea lion cruises, to name a few.

Except for the animals, this zoo was home to Jack Hanna, an incredible animal lover and director of the zoo from 1978 until his retirement.

Jack and the Columbus Zoo have used his notable appearances on Good Morning America and the Late Show with David Letterman, as well as his own Emmy-winning television series, to teach a global audience about the natural world.

The various species, habitats, and immersive experiences that define today’s Columbus Zoo would not exist without his efforts and imaginative leadership. If you ask the guides about him, they will tell you more and share some insights.

 Address: 4850 W Powell Rd, Powell, OH 43065, United States
 Hours: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
 Cost: $-$$ 

5. Henry Doorly Zoo

Henry Doorly Zoo
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The Henry Doorly Zoo was founded in 1898 as Riverview Park, a small park with 120 animals. The zoo has developed steadily throughout the years, but it has truly taken off in the last 25 years, becoming a world-class zoo and one of the best zoos in the Midwest.

Without leaving the US, you will travel from the North American Rainforest to the African Grasslands and Asian Highlands. Henry Doorly Zoo, which is located on a 160-acre plot of land, features the largest exhibits of African wildlife in the US.

Don’t miss out on the African Grasslands which cover a third of the zoo’s spaces and is home to lions, tigers, cheetahs, and giraffes, among others. Six elephants have five acres of this part allocated to them, allowing them to freely play, wander, and work.

The Desert Dome, which opened in 2002, is the world’s biggest indoor desert. Plant and animal life from three different deserts throughout the world are on display. The Kingdoms of the Night, located beneath the Desert Dome, is the world’s biggest nocturnal display.

Animals like the sloth bear, red panda, and takin may be found in the Asian Highlands. The Scott Aquarium, Gorilla Valley, and Meadowlark Theater are among the other spectacular displays. The sea lion show, and the Butterfly and Insect Pavilion, are all things that kids will enjoy.

 Address: 3701 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68107, United States
 Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
 Cost: $-$$ 

6. Lincoln Park Zoo

lincoln park zoo
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This Chicago zoo houses rhinos, giraffes, gorillas, chimps, and polar bears, who are some of the most popular residents among the up to 200 distinct species found there. You can also see some smaller animals like frogs and penguins and many local animal species.

You can sign up for a variety of children’s activities, nature walks, and zoo camps that last from one to three days. Since the zoo is in the center of the city it is easy to walk there and visit whenever you are in Chicago.

They can participate in activities such as monkey cognition and care, seal training, and polar bear feeding and training. Animal keepers discuss how they care for their animals through targeted training and enrichment activities during the training.

Lincoln Park Zoo is full of interesting attractions too. You can try a ride in Lionel Trail which has piqued the interest of model train enthusiasts since the company’s founding in 1900. Toddlers and smaller children can enjoy the colorful Endangered Species Carousel, which is a famous Chicago landmark featuring 48 hand-carved animals like baby gorillas, wild dogs, zebras, and more.

 Address: 2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614, United States
 Hours: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
 Cost: $-$$ 

7. John Ball Zoo

john ball zoo
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The John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids is a good option for a half-day zoo visit. The zoo in Michigan is home to chimps, flamingos, and other unusual animals, and can be walked around in less than three hours. There are also other activities and tours available that can fill up your day, so make your plans and reservations ahead of time.

The first thing you should see is the Wild Way Trail where your kids can look out for howler monkeys, lemurs, and parrots. This beautiful trail ends at Red’s Hobby Farm, an interactive children’s petting zoo.

After that, visit the Budgie Aviary for more hands-on animal interaction, where youngsters can feed birds. Keep a lookout for other species such as bears and tigers. A totally different world is shown in Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium, where you can see exotic fish and other aquatic species.

Aside from feeding and seeing animals, the zoo has children’s play areas, a ropes course, and a zip line. You can also choose between the guided tours that include 45 educational walks with a knowledgeable guide through North America and Aquarium, Natural Treasures and Chimpanzees, Red Pandas, and Meerkats. Guided tours, as well as Stroller Safari and Twilight Tours, are organized in time when there are no other visitors and you have the entire zoo to yourself.

 Address: 1300 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504, United States
 Hours: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
 Cost: $-$$ 

8. Indianapolis Zoo

indianapolis zoo
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The Indianapolis Zoo is a must-see if you are visiting the city with your family. The most fascinating part of the zoo, which brings in visitors from all over the world, is the Orangutan Center.

The institution is home to orangutans that have been rescued from dangerous situations. The cutting-edge facility has canopied towers that resemble forest environments. Orangutans are likely to be found dangling over your head, just like in the wild, on 80-foot heights.

The zoo offers unforgettable experiences for children including touching dog sharks, feeding giraffes, and flamingos, bathing an elephant, meeting a sloth, and swimming with dolphins are all options. The sessions of the zoo include plains, desert, forest, and aquatic world.

Animal Chats are dedicated to teaching children about wild animals and the natural world. For those braver, there is a Dolphin In-Water experience where the visitors can come to close contact with these magnificent creatures. Feeding giraffes, swimming with dolphins, and attending presentations are all the reasons to love this zoo.

 Address: 1200 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46222, United States
 Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
 Cost: $-$$ 

9. Kansas City Zoo

Kansas City Zoo
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The Kansas City Zoo first opened its doors in 1909 with only a few animals. It has since grown to become one of the best zoos in the Midwest, with exhibits like Helzberg Penguin Plaza or interactive Stingray Bay.

Visitors can take part in daily elephant painting demonstrations, sea lion performances, zookeeper talks, and as well as safari boat cruises over the African Plains. You can also sign up for amazing overnight campouts in various exhibits for children aged 6 and above.

It is almost impossible to see everything in one day in this 202-acre park. More than 1,300 animals live here, including hippos, crocodiles, and lowland gorillas. There is an Australian exhibit featuring dingoes, an aviary, and kangaroos you should not miss. If you can, reserve two days for this zoo and take your time to enjoy every corner of it.

 Address: 6800 Zoo Dr, Kansas City, MO 64132, United States
 Hours: 9:30 am - 4:00 pm
 Cost: $-$$ 

10. Detroit Zoo

Detroit Zoo
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This is a fantastic spot for teens, but kids of all ages and their parents can enjoy a full day of exploring this 125-acre zoo that has around 2,400 animals. Here you can see polar animals, red pandas, dinosaur exhibits, and so much more. The Detroit Zoo, which was founded in 1928, is one of America’s oldest zoos.

The Polk Penguin Conservation Center is the most popular area and consists of 12 habitats. The aquatic section is the biggest, making it a suitable environment for penguins and other aquatic species you can see swimming, eating, and interacting with each other.

The Tauber Family Railroad, a carousel, a cinema, a playground, and other exhibitions are also available at the zoo. Despite the multiple divisions, the structure is rather simple to explore. Visitors can either bring their own food and drinks or eat at the zoo’s restaurant, which serves a complete menu.

This zoo organizes events for kids and adults, from Polar Beers, and Spooky Spirits, to Senior Day and Party for the Planet. If you prefer a relaxing afternoon, grab some snacks and have a picnic at Rissman PlayVenture, a playground. Youngsters can climb through a spider web, crawl into animal tunnels, and participate in imaginative play.

 Address: 8450 W 10 Mile Rd, Royal Oak, MI 48067, United States
 Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
 Cost: $-$$ 
best zoos in the Midwest


Best zoos in the Midwest are spread evenly so you can have a nice road trip and visit them all. Make a note where they are located. And on your next trip make sure you take your kiddos to some of these amazing locations.

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