Want to feed a giraffe or watch a rhino wallow in the mud? If you are planning a trip to and looking for the best zoo, look no further! This blog post will discuss how people choose the best zoo for their journey, what makes a zoo the best, and our top picks for the best zoo in the US. From award-winning exhibits, up-close animal experiences, conservation efforts, and the overall visitor experience, we will explore all factors contributing to a zoo being the best. So if you're ready to discover the best zoo in the US, keep reading!

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Will a Wichita Kansas Zoo make the list? 

Kansas is home to some of the best zoos in the country, and before we explore the top zoos in the United States, let's take a look at the fantastic animal experiences available right in our backyard. There’s one Wichita Kansas Zoo that is a must-see destination for animal lovers. Tanganyika Wildlife Park offers a variety of unique experiences that you can’t find anywhere else, including

  • Swim with penguins
  • Getting stuck in the middle of a lemur stink fight
  • Getting so close to a giraffe that you can see the bumps on its tongue
  • Discovering what the inside of a penguin's mouth looks like
  • Singing songs with a lorikeet
  • Hearing a kookaburra laugh
  • Walking amongst kangaroos

These are only a few examples of the fantastic experiences that await visitors at this Wichita Kansas Zoo, making it one of the best zoos in Kansas.

Tanganyika Penguin Swim

What is the best Kansas Zoo? 

Kansas boasts 18 zoos, and we can’t possibly choose which one is best. So, instead, we’re going to list all the accredited and certified zoos in Kansas and what makes them the best Kansas Zoo! 

Tanganyika Wildlife Park - Goddard

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This is the only Kansas zoo that is both ZAA-accredited and AHA certified. This Wichita zoo provides families with screen-free memories full of animal encounters that make you say wow. It’s the only zoo in the world where you can feed lorikeets, touch a rhino's nose, get stuck in the middle of a lemur stink fight, high-5 an owl monkey, and swim with a penguin. Plus, the knowledgeable and friendly staff at this Wichita, Kansas, zoo will make you feel like a VIP, and customers rave about the clean and open facility. 

Tanganyika Wildlife Park

Tanganyika Wildlife Park is an exotic destination just 15 minutes from downtown. This premiere event facility is located in Goddard, on the west side of Wichita, and features three venue spaces that can accommodate a…

David Traylor Zoo - Emporia

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This zoo is one of the smallest accredited zoos in the nation and is home to nearly 400 birds, mammals, and reptiles. See native Kansas Wildlife like bald eagles, prairie dogs, mountain lions, birds, and more. This small community zoo aims to foster a love for wildlife and fulfill the zoo’s obligations to conservation, education, and research. The best news is that this Kansas zoo is FREE.

David Traylor Zoo of Emporia

One of the smallest accredited zoos in the country. Nearly 400 specimens of birds, mammals and reptiles representing more than 80 species are exhibited in natural habitats. The zoo features both a drive-by area and a…

Hutchinson Zoo - Hutchinson

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The Hutchinson Zoo opened its doors in 1986 and is more than a zoo. They opened the Wildcare Center in 2011, taking in and rehabilitating native wildlife. With a focus on Kansas wildlife, some of the most popular exhibits include river otters and red foxes. Their conservation efforts include work with the endangered black-footed ferret, one of the most endangered species in North America

Hutchinson Zoo

At the HUTCHINSON ZOO children can enjoy climbing a spider web, milking a cow, excavating fossils and getting a special prairie dog's eye view of the zoo. Visitors to the Zoo will experience Kansas native animals in…

Lee Richardson Zoo - Garden City

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This Kansas Zoo is home to hundreds of native and exotic animals. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredits it. The zoo features over 50 acres of landscaped grounds, spacious animal habitats, walking paths, playgrounds, and picnic areas. The zoo is committed to conservation and offers educational programs and events to share its love of wildlife with visitors. The zoo is open year-round and is free to pedestrians, while vehicle admission is $10.

Lee Richardson Zoo & Safari Shoppe

Beautiful grounds and fascinating creatures from all over the globe. Over 300 animals are displayed within the 47-acre grounds. The zoo is designed for fun, learning, and discovery and is accessible by foot, car, or…

Rolling Hills Zoo - Salina

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When you visit this zoo, you’ll see a variety of animals, including lions, tigers, bears, and primates. The zoo is known for its impressive animal exhibits and commitment to conservation. Breeding programs for southern white rhino and scimitar-horned oryx. The museum at Rolling Hills immerses you while state-of-the-art animatronics narrate stories about the balance of life.

Rolling Hills Zoo

Rolling Hills Zoo is a 65 acre zoological park nestled among the Smoky Hills of Saline County just outside of Salina, and inhabits 120 different species of animals. With one of the world’s premier collections of full…

Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita

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This Wichita Kansas Zoo is one of the largest in the state. It is home to over 3,000 animals and 500 different species. It also boasts numerous state-of-the-art exhibits, such as the African Plains exhibit, Reed Family Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley Exhibit, and the L.W. Clapp Giraffe Encounter.

Sedgwick County Zoo

Come face to face with the wildest animals from around the world. Get to know the gorillas and elephants of Africa. Visit bison and bears native to North America. See eye to eye with endangered orangutans and tigers from…

Sunset Zoological Park - Manhattan

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Named the Best Kansas Zoo by Yahoo Travel, this zoo is home to over 200 animals, from anteaters to wallabies. With a backdrop of the Flint Hills, this zoo can also give you a workout due to the steep terrain. Their Kanas Paraguay Partners work in the Latin American country to restore habitat and support conservation. 

Sunset Zoo

Manhattan’s wildest destination is more than just a park. Sunset Zoo is brimming with creative educational offerings and is the perfect place to host your next celebration or business meeting. Home to over 150 animals…

Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center - Topeka

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In addition to seeing animals like elephants, lemurs, African wild dogs, orangutans, and tigers, this Kansas zoo will also immerse you in botanical gardens. They pride themselves on their innovative approach to welfare, green practices, and citizen science programs.

Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center

Experience conservation in action at the Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center! Encounter animals from around the world, including elephants, orangutans, hippos, and of course lions, tigers, and bears – oh my!…

How the Best Zoo in the US is chosen.

Some publications allow people to vote on the best zoo in the US. For example, USA Today has an annual "10Best" contest where readers can vote for their favorite zoos in various categories, including the best zoo in the US. For this contest, a panel of experts partnered with the publication to pick nominees for the best zoo in the US. Then the public chooses a winner by voting. 

Our favorite thing about this list is that they share who is on their expert panel. In 2021, USA Today’s expert panel included two zoo professionals and four travel bloggers. While that panel couldn’t possibly have visited every zoo in the US before choosing (there are over 400 zoos and sanctuaries in the US), we think they did a pretty good job. 

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What makes a zoo the best zoo in the US? 

It can be challenging to determine since every individual enjoys different aspects of a zoo. Some think a small Kansas zoo like Tanganyika Wildlife Park, with hands-on animal interactions, makes for the best zoo in the US. Others love prominent zoos with thousands of animals that take all day to explore, like a world-famous zoo in California. Zoos that focus on breeding and conservation, like the large breeding facility outside of Columbus, are other favorite zoos. 

The Best Zoo in the US contest held by USA Today considers award-winning exhibits, outstanding conservation efforts, and guest enjoyment. We agree all of these things are important, but we also have to consider the purpose of zoos. Connecting people with wildlife. 

No zoos in Kansas have made the Best Zoo in the US list yet. However, the state boasts 18 zoos and wildlife parks, so there is still plenty to see and do! Overall, it would be a big challenge to try and visit EVERY zoo in the US, so we think the way USA Today compiles its list is a great way to choose the best zoo in the US. 

At Tanganyika Wildlife Park, they believe that to be the best zoo in the US, you have to provide experiences that touch the heart. This Wichita Kansas Zoo thinks the most effective way to educate and inspire people is by engaging their emotions and creating a personal connection. When you and your child giggle as the giraffe’s long tongue wraps around the lettuce in your hand, or when you touch the soft fur of a kangaroo, you create a personal connection. When people's hearts are touched by something, they are more likely to remember and be influenced by the experience.

Visit Some of the Best Zoos in the US right here in Kansas

If you’re looking for the best zoo in the US, Kansas is home to several outstanding facilities that offer a wide variety of animals, educational programs, and conservation initiatives. These zoos are popular attractions in the state and are great destinations for families and animal lovers. Whether you want to swim with a penguin or have a lemur on your lap, visitors to any Kansas Zoo can see various animals. They can also create meaningful connections with wildlife, creating memories with their families and inspiring future generations to care for nature. Whether you're a resident of the state or just visiting, check out one of these top-rated zoos for a fun and educational day out.

Explore more Zoos in Kansas by viewing the 2023 Travel Guide.