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Visiting the Zoo – Biggest Zoos in the World

biggest zoos

Zoos are one of the most popular attractions in the world, attracting over 700 million annual visitors. Some zoos are small, with only a few animals, and others are large, covering thousands of acres with thousands of species. Zoos are perfect for visitors of all ages and circumstances, whether as a family, on a solo trip, with a significant other, or with friends. You can visit zoos close to your hometown or when visiting other cities.

Each zoo has their own unique flavors, attractions, animals, and rules, so in this article we’ll give you the basics of what to know when planning to visit a zoo, as well two lists compiling the biggest zoos in the world and the biggest zoos in the U.S.


Things to Know About Zoos


The first record we have of zookeeping dates to 1500 B.C. when Queen Hatshepsut started collecting animals from all over Africa and bringing them into Egypt. These old zoos were more like museums where animals were kept and displayed as a show of power and wealth, without a sense of animal conservation. This mindset has since changed. The first modern zoo opened in Paris, France in 1793. The modern style of zoos created habits that resembled the animals’ natural conditions as closely as possible. Animals were not kept for mere entertainment anymore, but for conservation and science.


The power and importance of zoos was not far behind in the new world. The first U.S. Zoo was opened in Philadelphia in 1874. To date it is still one of the most important American zoos in protecting and breeding endangered animals.  Today, 54% of zoos in the United States are non-profit.


Why are Zoos Important?


Zoos aren’t just for entertainment or for the protection of rare species. Zoos play an important scientific role in helping humanity understand the natural world. Zoos show us the roles, abilities and powers of both plant and animal life, helping us to improve and protect the plant. Zoos also allow a controlled environment to learn from animal behavior and understand the delicate balance of life.


Why Visit Zoos?


Zoos are an awesome attraction to see when visiting any city because they’re never too busy and you can take everything at your own pace. They’re awesome for families with young children, as children tend to love animals. Zoos are also awesome for solo travelers who want some time to enjoy being outside and relax a bit. They make an amazing date option for couples that you can extend as long or cut as short as you want.  Almost every zoo offers special adult-only nightlife events for those who want something different to do in the evening.


Just about every big city has its own zoo, which is what makes it one of the most universal attractions in the world. No matter where you go, each zoo is unique in its setup and attractions that mean you’ll always get something unique. Whether as a day trip or as part of a bigger schedule, zoos are worth considering for your vacation plans.

.wild zoo ohio

How to Plan a Trip to the Zoo


Aside from the zoo, there are a couple things to keep in mind. A zoo-trip can be an all-day trip, or part of a larger city-wide visit. You’ll want to be aware of parking (which you can avoid by using public transportation).


As far as food goes, you can eat in a zoo’s restaurant, or at other nearby places (make sure to check out exclusive MySittiVacation dining deals here). Most zoos are surrounded by other awesome attractions and tours which you’ll also want to check out and pair onto the trip. MySittiVacations can help you with that too, just type in the city to MySittiVacations and click “things to do” to find options and money saving promotions near you.


What to Pack for the Zoo


Even as a daytrip, it’s important to know what to bring to the zoo. What you bring really makes a difference in your overall zoo experience. Any sort of discomfort will quickly ruin your trip, so make sure to plan.


  • Strollers/carriers for children (even if they know how to walk–little legs get tired quickly)
  • Snacks (Check the zoo’s snack policy beforehand-some don’t allow you to bring in food)
  • Water/water-bottles
  • Comfortable shoes. Zoos are a lot of standing and walking.
  • Sunscreen, hats, raincoats, jackets, and umbrellas, depending on the weather.
  • Pennies and Quarters– penny pressing machines are a cheap and fun souvenir for children and adults alike. (Usually, you will need 2 quarters for payment, and 1 shiny penny to press)
  • A zoo-approved camera (a phone camera works nice).
  • Hand sanitizer and wipes
  • Approved snacks
  • Sun hats. Sun zaps energy quickly.


Do’s and Don’ts of Visiting a Zoo


  • Eat beforehand. Everyone is in a better mood when fed, and you’ll be less tempted to buy overpriced zoo-food. Some zoos allow you to bring your own food in, others do not.
  • Check the weather beforehand. Animals are more dormant in the heat and hide inside when it rains.
  • Buy tickets in advance if you can. Some zoos are so busy that tickets sell out quickly and won’t allow walk-ins. (To save money on tickets and get access to special deals check out the MySittiVacations. Just choose your city, select “deals”, and look for discounts on Zoo tickets.
  • As always, don’t feed the animals.
  • Don’t take pictures of light-sensitive animals. These areas are always marked.
  • Don’t tap the glass or make loud noises. This upsets animals.


What to Look for When Deciding What Zoos to Visit


While zoos are important, not all zoos are created equal. Some have better habits for their animals and more space to play. Some have better exhibits for visitors to be able to see the zoo’s animals.

 indira gandhi zoological

Number of Species vs. Number of Animals


When considering zoos, you’ll also want to take a special look at the number of species a zoo has. A zoo with more species–even if fewer total animals–means that the zoo has a lot of variety. These zoos, even if smaller in land-area, tend to be more interesting to visitors. If you have a zoo with more animals but less species, this means that the zoo has several of a single species which is interesting for single, sometimes large, exhibits, but has overall less variety.


Zoo Size – Developed Acres


There are two things you’ll want to look at when deciding which zoos to visit: Exhibits and developed acres. A zoo’s total size and its developed acres are quite different. While acres refer to the total amount of land owned by the zoo, develop acres refers to the actual amount of that land that the zoo uses and makes accessible for scientific and visitor purposes. Even if a zoo covers thousands of acres, chances are you’ll only be able to see a small fraction of them.


Number of Exhibits


Exhibits don’t accurately tell you how much a zoo must see as every zoo counts their exhibits differently. Some zoos count each enclosure as an exhibit while some count an entire themed section as the exhibit. If you’re interested in knowing how much a zoo must see, the best way to get a good measure is to look at the number of different species.


Best Time of Day to Visit a Zoo


While every animal has different sleeping, eating, and weather preferences, the best way to get the most of your zoo trip is to visit in the morning. Most animals in outdoor exhibits are active in the morning, especially when the weather is cooler and overcast. Sunny or rainy days drive animals to hide and they won’t be very active.


Some zoos have feeding schedules listed. If you’re okay watching animals eat (be considerate of small children), these are times when you can really see animals move.


Annual Visitors


Knowing how many people visit each zoo each year provides an easy way to gauge how busy it will be. 2 million annual visitors equal about 7,000 visitors a day. If the zoo is big enough, there’ll be enough space for everyone to walk and see animals comfortably, but in smaller zoos, this means you’ll have to fight crowds to see the animals.




Most people don’t usually think of hotels when looking at zoos, but lodging is an important part of any trip away from home. When planning your trips, the MySittiVacations hotel deal finder can help you find cheap hotels or bed and breakfast options for your stay. It’s easy to use, just type in the city where you want to stay and let us do the work for you finding the best prices for the best comfort. Check the hotel finder here.


10 Biggest Zoos in the U.S. (Biggest to Smallest)

 san diago park


The United States is home to several of the world’s biggest and most popular zoos. This list ranks the 10 biggest zoos according to acres. While this list is nice to compare a zoo’s geographical footprint, it isn’t the only thing to consider when traveling. Usually, a zoo has much less developed area than total area which means visitors may have access to only a small portion of the total zoo. Area also doesn’t include the number of licensed animals each zoo has under its care (and strays and rodents don’t count).


  1. The Wilds – Ohio

Animals: 300

Species: 25

Annual Visitors: 115,000

Size: 9,154 acres


  1. San Diego Zoo Safari Park – California

Animals: 3,000

Species: 300

Annual Visitors: 1.5 million

Size: 1,819 acres


  1. North Carolina Zoo – North Carolina

Animals: 1,600

Species: 250

Annual Visitors: 860,000

Size: 2,600 acres


  1. Living Desert Zoo and Gardens – California

Animals: 450

Species: 150

Annual Visitors: 500,000

Size: 1,800 acres


  1. Zoo Miami – Florida

Animals: 3,000

Species: 500

Annual Visitors: 1 million

Size: 750 acres


  1. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium – Ohio

 Animals: 10,000

Species: 575

Annual Visitors: 2 million

Size: 588 acres


  1. Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Florida

Animals: 2,000

Species: 300

Annual Visitors: 13.8 million visitors

Size: 540 acres


  1. The Bronx Zoo – New York

Animals: 17,000

Species: 700

Annual Visitors: 2 million

Size: 265 acres

  1. Brookfield Zoo – Illinois

Animals: 2,300

Species: 450

Annual Visitors: 2 million

Size: 216 acres


  1. Smithsonian National Zoological Park – Washington D.C.

Animals: 2,000

Species: 390

Annual Visitors: 2 million

Size: 163



36 Biggest Zoos in the World (Biggest to Smallest)


india zoo


When it comes to zoos, land area doesn’t always mean tourist friendly. That said, it is interesting to know how zoos compare to each other. We start with the largest zoo in the world and go from there. As you’ll see by this list, India and the United States are home to the largest zoos in the world.


  1. The Wilds – Cumberland, Ohio, U.S.

Animals: 300

Species: 25

Annual Visitors: 115,000

Size: 9,154 acres (3,704 ha)


  1. Sri Venkateshwara Zoological Park – Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India

Animals: 1,016

Species: 82

Annual Visitors: 620,000

Size: 5,532 acres (2,239 ha)


  1. San Diego Zoo Safari Park – Escondido, California, U.S.

Animals: 3,600

Species: 300

Annual Visitors: 2 million

Size: 2,819 acres (1140 ha)


  1. North Carolina Zoo – Asheboro, North Carolina, U.S.

Animals: 1,600

Species: 250

Annual Visitors: 800,000

Size: 2,600 acres (1052 ha)


  1. Arignar Anna Zoological Park – Vandalur, Tamil Nadu, India

Animals: 2,644

Species: 171

Annual Visitors: 2.04 million

Size: 1,490 acres (602 ha)


  1. Living Desert Zoo and Gardens – Palm Desert, California, U.S.

Animals: 450

Species: 150

Annual Visitors: 500,000

Size: 1,270 acres (513 ha)


  1. Nandankanan Zoological Park – Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India

Animals: 2,700

Species: 157

Annual Visitors: 2.6 million

Size: 1,080 acres (437 ha)


  1. Zoo Miami – Miami, Florida, U.S.

Animals: 3,000 / 1,000 plant species

Species: 500

Annual Visitors: 1 million

Size: 750 acres (324 ha)


  1. Toronto Zoo – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Animals: 5,000

Species: 460

Annual Visitors: 1.3 million

Size: 710 acres (287 ha)


  1. Indira Gandhi Zoological Park – Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India

Animals: 850

Species: 85

Annual Visitors: 10 million

Size: 625 acres (253 ha)


  1. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium – Powell, Ohio, U.S. 

Animals: 10,000

Species: 575

Annual Visitors: 2 million

Size: 590 acres (234 ha)


  1. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park – Bay Lake, Florida, U.S.

Animals: 2,000

Species: 300

Annual Visitors: 13.8 million

Size: 540 acres (218 ha)


  1. Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden – Guwahati, Assam, India

Animals: 895

Species: 113

Annual Visitors: 450,000

Size: 433 acres (175 ha)


  1. Nehru Zoological Park – Hyderabad, Telangana, India

Animals: 1,550

Species: 100

Annual Visitors: 2.5 million

Size: 380 acres (154 ha)


  1. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay – Tampa, Florida, U.S.

Animals: 12,000

Species: 200

Annual Visitors: 4.1 million

Size: 335 acres (136 ha)


  1. The Bronx Zoo – The Bronx, New York, U.S.

Animals: 17,000

Species: 700

Annual Visitors: 2 million

Size: 265 acres (107 ha)


  1. Mysuru Zoo or Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens – Mysuru (Mysore), Karnataka, India

 Animals: 1,450

Species: 156

Annual Visitors: 75,000

Size: 245 acres (99 ha)


  1. Beijing Zoo – Beijing, China

Animals: 14,500

Species: 950

Annual Visitors: 5 million

Size: 222 acres (90 ha)


  1. Brookfield Zoo – Brookfield, Illinois, U.S.

Animals: 2,300

Species: 450

Annual Visitors: 2 million

Size: 216 acres (87 ha)


  1. Pretoria Zoo or National Zoological Gardens of Africa – Daspoort, Pretoria, South Africa

Animals: 9,087

Species: 705

Annual Visitors: 600,000

Size: 210 acres (85 ha)


  1. National Zoological Park, Delhi, India

Animals: 1,347

Species: 127

Annual Visitors:

Size: 176 acres (71 ha)


  1. Riverbanks Zoo and Garden – Columbia, South Carolina, U.S.

Animals: 2,000

Species: 350

Annual Visitors:

Size: 170 acres (69 ha)


  1. Smithsonian National Zoological Park – Washington D.C., U.S.

Animals: 2,000

Species: 390

Annual Visitors: 2 million

Size: 163 acres (66 ha)


  1. Los Angeles Zoo – Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Animals: 1,400

Species: 270

Annual Visitors: 1.8 million

Size: 133 acres (54 ha)


  1. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium – Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.

Animals: 17,000

Species: 1,000

Annual Visitors: 2 million

Size: 130 acres (53 ha)


  1. Chester Zoo – Upton, Cheshire, England


Animals: 35,000!

Species: 500

Annual Visitors: 1.6 million

Size: 130 acres (51 ha)


  1. Detroit Zoo – Royal Oak, Michigan, U.S.

Animals: 3,300

Species: 233

Annual Visitors: 1.5 million

Size: 125 acres (51 ha)


  1. Dallas Zoo – Dallas, Texas, U.S.

Animals: 2,000

Species: 406

Annual Visitors: 1 million

Size: 106 acres (43 ha)


  1. Louis Zoo – St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.

Animals: 15,000

Species: 500

Annual Visitors: 3 million

Size: 90 acres (36 ha)


  1. Berlin Zoological Garden – Berlin, Germany

Animals: 20,200

Species: 1,373

Annual Visitors: 3.57 million

Size: 86 acres (35 ha)


  1. Denver Zoo – Denver, Colorado, U.S.

Animals: 3,000

Species: 300

Annual Visitors: 1 million

Size: 80 acres (32 ha)


  1. Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Animals: 8,000

Species: 600

Annual Visitors: 1 million

Size: 77 acres (32 ha)


  1. Memphis Zoo – Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.

Animals: 3,500

Species: 500

Annual Visitors: 1 million

Size: 76 acres (31 ha)


  1. Oregon Zoo – Portland, Oregon, U.S.

Animals: 1,800

Species: 232

Annual Visitors: 1.5 million

Size: 64 acres (26 ha)


  1. Moscow Zoo – Moscow, Russia

Animals: 8,270

Species: 1,267

Annual Visitors: 1.5 million

Size: 53 acres (22 ha)


  1. ZSL London Zoo – London, United Kingdom

Animals: 20,329

Species: 673

Annual Visitors: 1.25 million

Size: 36 acres (15 ha)


This is not the most complete list of zoos, as after the Dallas Zoo, there are dozens of zoos all about the same size. We put the zoos we thought the most relevant. It’s also important to know that the exact number of animals and species is always changing in zoos (births, deaths, selling, and trading are common), so the numbers given are the closest approximations. All annual visitor statistics are pre-covid averages.

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