The 10 Best Zoos for Kids

Lions, Tigers, Bears...Oh My!


The Toledo Zoo

Zoos have given millions of children the chance to see elephants, giraffes, bears, and other animals in person. But the most family-friendly ones aren't just about looking at wildlife and moving on. The latest trend: interactive features -- from puppet shows and plays to question-and-answer sessions with veterinarians to opportunities for feeding and petting animals -- aimed at providing children with a memorable experience.

To determine which zoos offer the widest array of animal species and hands-on activities for your whole clan, Child embarked on a five-month investigation of the more than 150 institutions belonging to the American Zoo & Aquarium Association, the first endeavor of its kind. Each member was sent a 64-question survey -- developed by our panel of experts. The categories included the number and quality of exhibits, presence of a children's zoo (a several-acre area designed just for kids), educational programs for school trips and summer vacation, staff-to-visitor ratios, animal care, family conveniences (such as many restrooms with diaper-changing tables), conservation efforts, security and safety measures, and more.

What we found was impressive. The majority of zoos find creative ways to involve children -- in fact, there was only a small margin separating the leader from the 10th-place finisher. Interestingly, too, the bigger zoos aren't necessarily the better ones. Most of our winning zoos are mid-size and make excellent use of their resources to intrigue children.

From a zoo where toddlers can take a stroller tour given by a naturalist to one that sought the yearlong counsel of more than a dozen kids in planning a new exhibit, the top 10 winners -- all of which have a lovely children's zoo -- are featured here.

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