Did you know there are free zoos in the U.S.? Although these zoos are free, many of them rely on donations at the gate to pay staff and feed the animals so it’s best to give at least a small amount if you visit one of these zoos.
The following is a list of free zoos in the U.S.:
Cape May County Park & Zoo:
Address: 707 US-9 North, Cape May Court House, NJ
Established in 1978, the Cape May Country Park & Zoo is a 85-acre zoo in New Jersey. The zoo provides free admission although a donation is recommended at the entrance.
The zoo features over 85 exhibits with more than 550 animals of 250 species. These animals include black bears, monkeys, giraffe, red panda, lions, cheetahs and snow leopards.
The Cape May County Park & Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Como Park Zoo & Conservatory:
Address: 1225 Estabrook Dr, St Paul, MN
Established in 1897, the Como Park Zoo is a 17-acre zoo and conservatory in Minnesota. The zoo provides free admission although a donation is recommended at the entrance.
The zoo features over 1,700 animals of 66 species. These animals include giraffe, polar bears, wolves, arctic foxes, bison, tigers and monkeys.
Como Park Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
David Traylor Zoo of Emporia:
Address: 75 Soden Road, Emporia, KS
Established in 1978, the David Traylor Zoo is a small zoo in Kansas that provides free admission. The zoos features over 400 animals in its four exhibits on anthropods, birds, mammals and reptiles.
The David Traylor Zoo of Emporia is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Henry Vilas Zoo:
Address: 702 S Randall Ave, Madison, WI
Established in 1911, the Henry Vilas Zoo is a 28-acre public zoo in Wisconsin that provides free admission.
The zoo features over 650 animals including alligators, camels, capybara, polar bears, big cats, American bison, grizzly bear, giraffe and red pandas.
The Henry Vilas Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Lee Richardson Zoo:
Address: 312 E Finnup Dr, Garden City, KS
Established in 1927, the Lee Richardson Zoo is a 47-acre zoo in Kansas that visitors can either walk through or drive through.
The zoo provides free admission to pedestrians but charges $10 for drive-through admission. Drive-through admission is free on Wednesdays though.
The zoo features over 300 animals from 110 species including camels, giraffe, kangaroos, maned wolves, capybara, red pandas, sloth bears, Asian wild horses and jaguars.
The Lee Richardson Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Lincoln Park Zoo:
Address: 2204 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL
Established in 1868, the Lincoln Park Zoo is a 35-acre zoo in Illinois that provides free admission.
The zoo features over 1,100 animals from over 200 species including African painted dogs, black bears, bald eagles, camels, giraffe, Fennec foxes, zebras, polar bears, kangaroos, red pandas, wolves, snowy owls and big cats.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo And Gardens:
Address: 800 Stainback Hwy, Hilo, HI
Established in 1978, the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo And Gardens is a 12-acre zoo in Hawaii that provides free admission. It is the only zoo located in a rainforest.
The zoo features over 200 animals of 80 species including bengal tigers, monkeys, feral pigs and alligators and it is also home to a small petting zoo with rabbits, chickens, goats and guinea pigs.
The zoo is owned and operated by the county of Hawaii.
Saint Louis Zoo:
Address: 1 Government Square, St. Louis, MO
Established in 1910, the Saint Louis Zoo is a 90-acre zoo in Forest Park in Missouri that provides free admission.
The zoo features over 19,000 animals of 500 species including polar bears, elephants, capybara, grizzly bears, red pandas, giraffes, lemurs, wallaby, sloths and gorillas.
In 2017 and 2018, the zoo was named as the best zoo in the United States by USA Today.
In 2023, the zoo was named the 8th best U.S. Zoo in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards.
The Saint Louis Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Address: 755 S Park Dr, Salisbury, MD
Established in 1954, the Salisbury Zoo is a 12-acre zoo in Maryland. The zoo provides free admission although a donation is recommended at the entrance.
The zoo features over 100 animals including monkeys, sloths, bison, wolves and big cats.
The zoo is owned by the City of Salisbury and managed by the Salisbury Zoo Commission.
The National Zoo:
Address: 3001 Connecticut Ave, Washington D.C.
Established in 1889, the National Zoo is a 163-acre zoo in Washington D.C. that provides free admission (although entry passes are required.) The zoo is a part of the Smithsonian Institute and is federally funded.
The zoo features over 2,700 animals of 390 species including alligators, elephants, bison, wallaby, bobcats, Fennic foxes, giant pandas, wolves, Komodo dragon, red pandas, sloths, Przewalski’s horses and zebras.
The National Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
“Visit.” Smithsonian National Zoo, nationalzoo.si.edu/visit
Schneider, Joey. “Saint Louis Zoo Named 8th Best US Zoo in National Poll.” Saint Louis Zoos, 25 March. 2023, fox2now.com/news/missouri/saint-louis-zoo-named-8th-best-us-zoo-in-national-poll/
“Best Zoo Winners 2018.” USA Today 10 Best, 10best.com/awards/travel/best-zoo-2018/
“Hours and Prices.” Saint Louis Zoo, stlzoo.org/visit/hours-and-prices
“Welcome to Your Free Zoo.” Lincoln Park Zoo, lpzoo.org/visit/
“Visitors Map & Hours.” Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, comozooconservatory.org/visitors/visitor-map-hours/
“F.A.Q.s” Cape May County Park & Zoo, capemaycountynj.gov/1160/FAQs
“About Henry Villas.” Henry Villas Zoo, henryvilaszoo.gov/about-us/
“Hours & Admission.” Lee Richardson Zoo, leerichardsonzoo.org/hours
“AZA Accredited and Certified Members.” Association of Zoos and Aquariums, aza.org/inst-status?locale=en