Wild and Wonderful: 10 Best Zoos in Florida

Jen Cullerton Johnson Avatar

Baby giraffe and mom at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, one of the best zoos in Florida
View animals close-up aboard Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Photo credit: Walt Disney World/David Roark, photographer

Want to have fun and learn about animal behavior and botanical gardens? Visit a zoo. Florida is a hot spot for great zoos showcasing diverse and endangered species, wild animal adventures and botanical garden encounters. The best zoos in Florida are home to long-necked giraffes, a herd of African elephants, playful manatees and lounging big cats, like lions and tigers. At some, you can even zipline, hike and cruise through exotic animal encounters.

Florida zoos are teeming with wildlife; that’s why the Sunshine State is one of the best places to visit for safari and theme park fun, amazing shopping and extensive dining options.

If you’ve got a bucket list of exotic must-see animals, then head to Florida’s zoos. From alligators to sloths, we found that each zoo has unique interactive experiences for everyone. Here’s a list of Florida’s Top 10 Zoos.

Read More: 25 Best Zoos in the US

SheBuysTravel Tip: Always check the zoo website before your visit. You may need to buy tickets or make reservations ahead of your stay. Requirements can change without notice.

People kayaking at Expedition Africa at the Brevard Zoo.
Paddles Up. Kayak tour at the Brevard Zoo. Photo credit: Brevard Zoo

1. Brevard Zoo, Melbourne

If you crave adventure and wild animal encounters, head to Brevard Zoo. With more than 900 animals, you will see alligators, rhinos, flamingos and more. The zoo is divided into five designed areas: Expedition Africa, Wild Florida, Lands to Change, Caribbean Train and Rainforest Revealed. Take a self-guided tour or join group experiences that will give you the rare opportunity to pet rhinos and touch the soft backs of stingrays.

Kayak through the African expedition and pass rhinos, zebras, cheetahs and lemurs. Afterward, take the Brevard Zoo experience to the next level at Treetop Trek, a separately ticketed attraction adjacent to the zoo. At Treetop Trek, there are five aerial obstacle courses. Zipline past spider monkeys, giant otters, crocodiles and gators. Plan on a full day’s visit.

Highlights of Brevard Zoo

  • Feed the giraffe and small parrots
  • Children’s zoo
  • Extensive play areas, including Indian River, play lagoon
  • Zookeeper chats with daily animal encounters
  • Ample food stalls, parking and discounts on ticket packages
Pink flamingos gather in a group
The beautiful flamingos of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. Photo credit Adobe Stock

2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Orlando

No visit is complete to Disney Orlando without a stop at one of the largest theme parks in the world, the famous Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s not only a great theme park, it’s one of the best zoos in the USA.

With more than 2,000 animals representing 300 unique species, this is the place to see lions, giraffes and orangutans. Also of note are the abundant plant species. 

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park has a ton of rides and interactive attractions. One TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “we were able to ride on a dinosaur, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safari, Na’vi Journey and Expedition Everest and used the rides to learn about the animals.”  Here’s how to get the most out of one day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. And here’s how to get discounted tickets to Disney World

Highlights Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

  • Disney characters on hand for interaction and entertainment
  • Exotic animal shows and informative zookeeper talks.
  • Extensive dining and restaurant options from vegan food trucks to a full course meal.
  • Asian Tigers, African Lions and Western Lowland Gorilla interactive exhibits offer ways to connect with exotic animals and learn about Disney’s commitment to conservation and animal care.
Two alligators rest together at Gatorland
Watching the world go by at Gatorland. Photo credit: Gatorland

3. Gatorland, Orlando

Gatorland is a one-way ticket to a wild Florida adventure. Meet some of the most dangerous reptiles on the planet. Animal encounters include endangered species of crocodiles, alligators, snakes and exotic birds, not to mention wild cats and bobcats.

Gatorland is more than just gators. It is a haven for bird lovers and amphibians. First, enjoy Parrot Playground and Flamingo Island. Then head over to the 10-acre wetlands and breeding marsh. Try Gatorland’s famous Gator Night Shine. It’s a night tour where you look for alligators armed with only a flashlight and gator snacks. Plan on a full day of gator adventure.

Highlights of Gatorland

  • Zookeeper lectures on diverse and extinct species
  • Special photography passes for bird watchers for exclusive views
  • Zipline adventures
  • Be a Trainer for a Day and learn what it takes to be a dangerous animal trainer
Lions walks at Lion Country Safari
Lions walks in the Lion Country Safari. Photo credit: Boone, Lion Country Safari

4. Lion Country Safari, Loxahatchee

Lion Country Safari, the only drive-through safari in Florida, ratchets up the drive-through safari experience. Exotic animals are abundant in its seven designed areas. Those include recreations of National Parks in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia. Listen closely to the audio self-guided safari tour for fantastic animal details.

Don’t miss Adventure Park, home to several children’s play areas and amusement park rides, including a roller coaster and train ride. Birds are everywhere in the zoo. Be on the lookout for flamingos, parrots and ostriches. Cool off at the Safari Splash Sprayground water park. Grab an adult drink over at Cafe Roar.

When Floridian Tim Jones visited with his kids, they spent about an hour driving through Lion Country Safari — and his kids asked for a second drive through! Plan on a visit for half a day, more if you bring kids who will want to spend time at the Safari Sprayground water park.

Highlights of Lion Country Safari

  • Zookeeper talks and animal encounters for all audiences
  • Premium Package Experience includes painting with the giraffes and birds (your choice). Reservations are required for the Premium Experience. Check website.
  • Great shopping with four different shops with Lion Country toys and souvenirs
  • Variety of restaurants with full service or snacks
 Giant tortoise walks on the grass at Zoo Miami.
Giant tortoise walks on the grass at Zoo Miami. Photo credit: Zoo Miami

 5. Zoo Miami, Miami

One of the oldest and largest zoos in Florida, Zoo Miami is the only subtropical zoo in the continental USA. With more than 3,000 animals representing more than 500 different species, the zoo showcases primates, manatees, zebras and hippos. Particular emphasis is placed on wildlife and conservation efforts in the Everglades. Zoo Miami also offers a children’s zoo and rest areas.

Zoo Miami hosts private wildlife encounters. Meet giant tortoises and learn about their habitat. Also inspiring is the colorful and inviting art at Zoo Miami. Plan a visit for two-three hours; add more time if you plan to stop at the water parks.

Highlights of Zoo Miami

  • Giraffe, camel, rhino and parrot feedings
  • River rides, safari tram tours, pedal boats and wildlife carousel
  • Meet the Zookeeper and Wildlife Presentations scheduled every half an hour

Read More: 8 Best Miami Hotels for Families

Mother and baby rhino pose at the ZooTampa.
Mother and baby rhino pose at the ZooTampa at Lowry Park. Photo Credit ZooTampa

6. ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Tampa

With 65 acres and more than 1,300 animals, ZooTampa is world-renowned for its mission to reduce, rehabilitate and care for wild animals. Stroll through and see Florida panthers, manatees and African penguins. You’ll have a blast at Roaring Spring water adventure and Expedition Wildlife Safari, where you’ll see African animals, like hippos, gorillas and lemurs up close.

Special ticketed Signature Encounters include behind the scenes encounters with animals, such as rhinos, elephants and manatees. The Paint with Elephants Program is a particularly special experience. Don’t forget to look up and see the bird exhibits.

It’s one of the best things to do in Tampa. One TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “I recommend Roaring Spring water adventure and Expedition Wildlife Safari to see African animals up close.” Plan on spending two-three hours. The zoo suggests downloading the ZooTampa app to help plan your adventure.

Highlights of ZooTampa at Lowry Park

  • Wildlife Explorer Quest is a hands-on educational experience for children as they tour ZooTampa
  • Adoption programs where families can adopt an animal
  • Various dining options, including Macaw’s Landing Cafe and Beer and Wine Garden

7. Jacksonville Zoo and Garden, Jacksonville

Adventure awaits in exploring animal wellness care at the Jacksonville Zoo. With 73 acres and 1,000 plants and 2,000 animals, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is one of only seven zoos in the United States with an animal wellness team. Find the clinic on-site and visitors can see how a medical team keeps animals in good health.

With vibrant botanical gardens filled with abundant flowers and fauna from native Florida, Asia and Africa, take time to smell the roses (literally). Then fire up, jump on the safari train to see more animals and head to the 4-D theater for the newest films on animal conservation.

Stay for two-three hours for the whole Jacksonville Zoo experience.

Highlights of Jacksonville Zoo and Garden

  • Uniquely designed exhibit showcasing pelicans, wild cats and birds
  • Several child play areas
  • Unique dining options and ample parking
  • Mobility devices and stroller rentals are available
Florida black bear walks in his natural habitat.
Florida & Botanical Gardens black bear in his natural habitat. Photo credit: Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens

8. Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Sanford

Located north of Orlando, Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens is on 116 acres and is home to 350 diverse and endangered animals, representing more than 100 species. Shaded areas to walk help you enjoy natural animal habitats. Central Florida Zoo offers a unique one-of-a-kind experience called Create your Own ZOOventure designed by you and a zookeeper. Check the zoo’s website for more details.

Sign up for either the Planet Safari Tour or the Endangered Species Tour and become fascinated by the Central Florida Zoo’s contribution to animal conservation. From warthogs, lions and leopards to sloths, lemurs and otters, explore the many diverse and endangered species at your leisure. Plan on staying two-three hours.

Highlights of Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens

  • Zipline and 3 obstacle courses
  • Wharton Smith Tropical Splash Ground water park
  • Rhino encounters, giraffe feedings and Barnyard Buddies, a petting zoo
Close up of a Blue macaw.
Hanging out at the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society. Photo credit: Adobe Stock

9. Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, West Palm Beach

Cool off from the heat at the Palm Beach Gardens & Conservation Society. Walk along shaded paths and take in exotic animals and abundant botanical gardens. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a sloth in the trees, a baby elephant near her mother or hear a lion roar.

Make sure to book a behind-the-scenes animal experience. On TripAdvisor reviewer noted that “the jaguars and tigers were favorites, but the tapir swimming below the footbridge was a nice surprise.” Set aside two-three hours to tour Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society.

Highlights of Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society

  • Free daily parking
  • Several full-service restaurants and food trucks for various dietary needs
  • 11 daily animal shows
  • Zookeeper talks
Close up of a lion’s face.
A lion looks on at Naples Zoo. Photo credit: Naples Zoo

10. Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, Naples

With its mature botanical gardens with various plant species and wild animal adventure, there is an array of exotic birds, including flamingos, parrots and penguins. Check out the Wild Encounters, with its behind-the-scenes guided experiences, such as paint with the giraffes, feed the lemurs or attend a training session on a Florida panther.

Take the Primate Expedition Cruise, a boat cruise around the zoo’s main attraction, Lake Victoria, and its many islands. Grab a closer look at primates like monkeys and apes. Plan a stay for two-three hours, more if you plan on reserving a Wild Encounter. Check the zoo’s website for reservation details.

Highlights of Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

  • Zookeeper talks and in-depth gardening demonstrations
  • Wildlife shows in the Safari Canyon Open-Air Theater
  • Alligator feedings
  • Safari Squad Program, an educational play area for children three-five years old
Jen Cullerton Johnson Avatar
As an educator, creative writer and Digital Media Specialist at Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange (CCRx), I apply my M.Ed. in Curriculum and Development and my passion for eco-social justice to create and manage impactful content that promotes the reuse of creative materials for education and community benefit. I have over four years of experience in developing, executing, and overseeing communication and writing strategies that support the values and goals of CCRx and its partners, such as Books on Benches and Green Literacy.org. I have a proven track record of identifying and resolving communication challenges, fostering a collaborative mindset, and initiating change management plans that enhance the effectiveness and appeal of CCRx’s content. I also provide thought leadership and best practices for content development, optimization, and alignment with educational institutions and environmental stewardship. Additionally, I have published multiple books and teaching units on the inspiring story of environmentalist Wangari Maathai and the importance of green literacy for young readers.
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