Learn all about animals at the 10 best zoos in the U.S.

North America is home to hundreds of zoological parks, including more than 200 facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Short of heading out into the world's wild places, nothing beats a visit to the zoo to foster an appreciation for the striking animal diversity of our planet. 

You may wonder which zoos are the best to visit. So, 10Best asked readers to vote for the best zoos for four weeks, and these are the top 10 winners.

No. 10: Denver Zoo – Denver, Colorado. Upon entering the Denver Zoo, visitors experience one of its most innovative exhibits, Predator Ridge. Here, African wild dogs, lions and spotted hyenas rotate through three exhibits where zookeeper presentations show off the animals’ amazing natural abilities. Equally impressive is the 10-acre Elephant Passage, where two miles of trails take guests past Asian elephants, Malayan tapirs and one-horned rhinos in five different habitats.

No. 9: Dallas Zoo – Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Zoo is the largest zoo in Texas with 106 acres. Founded in 1888, the zoo features 2,000 animals, representing 430 species (not including fish), of which approximately 150 are part of the AZA Species Survival Plans. The Dallas Zoo’s world-renowned Giants of the Savanna habitat is the only one in the nation to mix elephants with giraffes and other savanna animals in the same habitat. The Dallas Zoo is dedicated to creating a better world for animals, and has a wildlife conservation mission that far exceeds Texas.

No. 8: Saint Louis Zoo – Saint Louis, Missouri. Situated within the nation’s largest urban park, the free-to-the-public St. Louis Zoo features a stunning diversity of animals – more than 600 species in total. The zoo is divided into six zones, including Lakeside Crossing where the award-winning Sea Lion Sound combines a stellar exhibit experience with educational presentations and shows. 

No. 7: Audubon Zoo – New Orleans, Louisiana. The Audubon Zoo, situated in historic uptown New Orleans, is ranked as one of the city's top things to do and offers visitors personal encounters with wildlife, including highly endangered whooping cranes, Amur leopards and orangutans.  Be sure to check out the award-winning Louisiana Swamp recreation, an exhibit linking the region’s distinct Cajun culture with the plants and animals of the surrounding habitats. Here you will have the chance to observe black bears, alligators, red foxes, blue crabs, water snakes and a host of other animals with a view into the daily lives of those who rely on the swamp for a living. 

No. 6: Brevard Zoo – Melbourne, Florida. Home to more than 880 animals, the AZA-accredited Brevard Zoo takes the zoo-going experience to adventurous new levels. Guests can kayak through the African savanna, zip line through the jungles of South America or paddle boat through a restored Florida wetland. 

No. 5: Nashville Zoo – Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville Zoo, located just six miles south of Downtown Nashville, is home to more than 3,000 animals and more than 350 species. Each year, the zoo has more than a million visitors pass through their gates and is one of Tennessee's top attractions. This AZA-accredited facility is actively engaged in regular conservation efforts and offers guests unique experiences that help them learn about animal care, behavior and protection.  

No. 4: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo – Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs connects visitors with more than 750 animals representing 170 species from all corners of the globe. The African Rift Valley exhibit is home to the largest zoo giraffe herd in the world, as well as red river hogs, meerkats, African lions and colobus monkeys. Rocky Mountain Wild hosts regional species, such as moose, grizzly bears, mountain lions, river otters, porcupine, Mexican gray wolves, bald eagles and lynx. A ski lift offers stellar views over Colorado Springs.

No. 3: Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium – Omaha, Nebraska. Continued investments have allowed Henry Doorly Zoo to continue to offer one-of-a-kind exhibits to guests, including the world’s largest indoor desert where arid plants and animals – meerkats, peccaries, quail, gila monsters, death adders, rattlesnakes and inland taipan, the world’s most venomous snake – are visible inside a geodesic dome year-round in the heart of the Midwest. The $73-million African Grasslands exhibit features 28 acres of habitats and exhibit spaces for giraffe, elephants, lions, cheetahs and sable antelope.

No. 2: Fort Worth Zoo – Fort Worth, Texas. Established in 1909, the Fort Worth Zoo is the oldest continuously operated zoo in Texas and home to more than 540 animal species from around the world. More than 100 of those species are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan and 68 are endangered or threatened. An international leader in Asian elephant conservation, the zoo recently opened the all-new Elephant Springs – home to a multi-generational herd of seven Asian elephants and greater one-horned rhinos. This new area includes multiple lush green spaces and numerous watering holes, including a 400,000-gallon river for the herd to submerge and swim.

No. 1: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden – Cincinnati, Ohio. The Cincinnati Zoo (one of the oldest zoos in the nation) brings visitors nose-to-nose with a range of exciting animals. Guests can view hippos underwater (including world-famous hippo Fiona), pop up in a bubble amid meerkats or watch cheetahs racing at top speeds. The multi-sensory Night Hunters exhibit hosts cats and other nocturnal predators, while Manatee Springs seeks the long-term conservation of the Florida manatee by encouraging guests to observe these gentle giants.

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