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12 of the Best Florida Zoos and Animal Encounters

Who doesn’t love a good zoo? One of the great ways to take advantage of the amazing Florida weather is by visiting one of the Sunshine State’s many zoos.

The zoos in Florida are truly interactive experiences and will keep the whole family captivated for hours. You’ll find some native Florida species such as manatees and alligators, as well as elephants, giraffes and penguins.

Most zoos in Florida also have wonderful conservation programs that focus on education and effectively protecting endangered species. Are you ready to visit all of the best Florida zoos and animal exhibits?

Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens

Located at 3755 W. Seminole Blvd., Sanford, FL, this zoo opened in 1923 and was first known as the Sanford Zoo. Although it had humble beginnings with just a few animals, the zoo has grown to house over 500 animals.

Cost: Adults (12+) / $21.50 – Seniors (55+) / $17.95 – Children (3-12) / $15.75

The zoo includes giraffes, monkeys, cheetahs, alligators and many more. You also get the added bonus of beautiful and lush botanical gardens. Central Florida Zoo also features an aerial adventure course, Zoom Air Adventure Park, Children’s Zoo and the Southeast’s largest collection of venomous snakes and non-venomous reptiles. The Central Florida Zoo has amazing conservation efforts in terms of the Indigo Eastern Snake. 

Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens

The Jacksonville Zoo is located at 370 Zoo Parkway, Jacksonville and has over 2,000 animals, 1,000 plants and 117 acres of fun in the sun for the entire family.

Cost: TOTAL EXPERIENCE – Adults (13+) / $32.95 – Seniors (65+) / $30.95 – Children (3-12) / $25.95 – GENERAL ADMISSION – Adults (13+) / $24.95 – Seniors (65+) / $22.95 – Children (3-12) / $19.95

At the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens you can see flamingos, penguins, monkeys, jaguars and many more animals. The botanical gardens have beautiful plants that are integrated throughout the zoo and animal exhibits. The Jacksonville Zoo puts the animals wellness at the forefront of their operations because they believe it helps the animals thrive. In fact, their wellness department is one of the world’s top animal welfare programs. 

The Zoo donates a portion of every ticket and membership sold to conservation efforts. They support more than 45 plant and animal conservation programs, regionally and globally.

The best time to visit Jacksonville Zoo is as soon as they open. Early in the morning the animals are most active. As the day progresses and gets hotter, they tend to move to shaded areas and are sometimes hard to spot.

florida zoos

Lion Country Safari Park

Lion Country Safari Park is located at 2003 Lion Country Safari Park in Loxahatchee, FL. If you find yourself in the West Palm Beach area you’ll be close enough to check out the Lion Country Safari Park.

Lion Country Safari opened in the summer of 1967 in rural Western Palm Beach County with dozens of free-roaming lions and a few other species. The drive-through safari park is believed to be the first cageless zoo in the country, introducing a new concept in zoology and bringing the experience of an African game park to families.

Cost: Adults (10+) / $37.00 – Children (3-9) / $30.00

Admission tickets include ride through safari and Safari World Adventure Park. Tickets can be used up to 6 months after purchase.

This Florida zoo is on 600 acres of natural landscape and is home to 1,000 animals. The drive-thru safari tour takes around 90 minutes and is split into 7 sections. Cars can enter the safari until 4:30 p.m. The safari sections include: Las Pampas, Ruaha National Park, Gir Forest, Kalahari Bushveld, Gorongosa Reserve, Serengeti Plains and Hwange National Park. On your drive through the park you’ll get to see rhinos, zebras, chimpanzees, giraffes and lions.

The 55-acre adventure park includes rides, animal habitats and encounters, food, shopping and more. There’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy. You can also experience exclusive animal encounters including giraffe painting, Birds + Brushes painting and feeding flamingos. 

Zoo Tampa (Lowry Park)

The zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa, FL.

Cost: Adults (12+) / $44.95 – Children (3-11) / $34.95

Zoo Tampa, formerly known as Lowry Park Zoo, primarily focuses on conservation, education and research. This is one of the most popular zoos in the southwestern U.S. and for good reason.

This zoo has over 1 million visitors annually but don’t let that stop you from visiting. Zoo Tampa is also home to many endangered species including African elephants, white rhinos, as well as the elusive Florida panther and manatees.

The Zoo originated in the 1930’s as a municipal department with a small number of Florida native species. It grew gradually throughout the next four decades, but struggled to meet the developing professional standards of modern zoos. In 1982, community leaders created the Lowry Park Zoo Association to take over management of the Zoo for the City of Tampa with the goal of creating a world-class zoo through a public-private partnership.

The Zoo emphasizes endangered, threatened and vulnerable species from climates similar to that of the Tampa Bay region, with park areas devoted to Asia, Africa, Australia and Florida. Our animal habitats balance support for the maximum well-being of the animals with the importance of engaging our guests and inspiring them to protect and preserve wildlife. Random animal encounters, behind-the-scene tours, and other special personalized experiences expand the Zoo’s opportunities to provide unforgettable natural connections.

The animal encounters here are so much fun. Try mimosas with manatees, a giraffe meet and greet and yoga in the wild. 

Zoo Miami

As the largest and oldest zoo in Florida, Zoo Miami is a must visit! The zoo is located at 12400 SW 152nd Street in Miami.

Cost: Adults (13+) / $22.95 – Children (3-12) / $18.95

Zoo Miami (also known as The Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens) is the largest and oldest zoological garden in Florida and the only sub-tropical zoo in the continental United States. 

The zoo has over 340 acres and houses an impressive 3,000 animals for endless fun. The exhibits here include Mission Everglades, Wings Of Asia, Critter Connections, Amazon And Beyond and a brand new Conservation Center.

Zoo Miami’s lush, tropical, open-air exhibits replicate the animals’ natural habitats and allow you to enjoy beautiful and endangered wildlife at a safe, yet remarkably close range. The wide array of animal encounters at Zoo Miami, along with the experiences and rides, will be fun for the whole family. Enjoy the tortoise encounter, rhino feeding or take a spin in the water on a pedal boat. 

Palm Beach Zoo Map

Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Center

This zoo, located at 1301 Summit Blvd. in West Palm Beach, houses animals from Central, North and South America, as well as Australia, Africa and Asia.

Cost: Adults (13+) / $24.95 – Seniors (60+) / $22.95 – Children (3-12) / $18.95

On the 23 acres of lush tropical habitat you’ll discover 550 amazing animals. The zoo was started over 50 years ago and has grown from a small barn operation to one of the most popular zoos in Florida.

You can view koalas, tigers, cougars, sloths and flamingos. Check out the “Sleepy Sloth” experience where you can hang out with a two-toed sloth. There are also interactive play fountains, magical carousels and a safari train ride to keep the kids entertained. 

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Sarasota Jungle Gardens is located at 3701 Shore Road in Sarasota.

Cost: Adults (13+) / $21.99 – Children (3-12) / $14.999

These jungle gardens are family owned and while this zoo may be small it’s been in business since 1939. This 10 acre tropical oasis is specifically designed to captivate visitors of all ages.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens is home to more than 200 native and exotic animals including birds of prey, many different species of parrots and macaws, primates, small mammals, dozens of snakes, lizards, iguanas, alligators, crocodiles and other reptiles – many of them rescued or donated – including Florida’s noted pink flamingos.

You’ll discover interactive animal shows after taking-i reptiles like alligators, snakes and lizards. Or the cute lemurs and even a one eyed screech owl. The fun animal encounters at Sarasota Jungle Gardens are fun as you can hold a baby alligator or take a stroll through the rolling tropical landscape.

You can also hand feed flamingos and watch them strut their stuff! 

The Turtle Hospital

The Turtle Hospital is located in Marathon at 2369 Overseas Highway.

Cost: Adults / $30 – Children (4-6) / $15 – RESERVATIONS RECOMMENDED

This Florida Keys non-profit organization is dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles and runs on donations and funds from visitors. This is a working hospital so you must be on a guided tour in order to visit with the turtles.

All of the efforts of the hospital are to release these beautiful endangered turtles back in the wild after they are rehabilitated. You can learn how they do that by visiting the Turtle Hospital in Marathon.

The Turtle Hospital opened its doors in 1986 with four main goals: 1) rehab injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat, 2) educate the public through outreach programs and visit local schools, 3) conduct and assist with research aiding to sea turtles (in conjunction with state universities), and 4) work toward environmental legislation making the beaches and water safe and clean for sea turtles.

The Turtle Hospital treats a variety of ailments such as: intestinal impactions caused from ingestion of foreign materials or too many small crustaceans, shell damage caused by boat collisions, entanglement injuries from fishing gear and foreign matter and fibropapillomatosis, a disease that affects over half of the juvenile green sea turtle population around the world.

Naples Zoo At Caribbean Gardens

The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is located at 1590 Goodlette-Frank Rd., Naples.

Cost: Adults (13+) / $22.95 – Children (3-12) / $14.95

This nationally accredited zoo is one of the most popular family destinations in Florida. This 44 acre park began as a botanical garden in 1919. You can now observe tigers, lions, bears and leopards among others.

The zoo’s centerpiece attraction is Lake Victoria, and its many islands are teeming with endangered primates and aquatic species. The mature botanical gardens host plentiful exotic birdlife, reptiles, as well as Florida panthers, African lions and many others. Lively animal shows will keep the entire family entertained.

Combining conservation and recreation, Naples Zoo offers fun for every generation! 

Brevard Zoo

The Brevard Zoo is located at 8225 N. Wickham Road in Melbourne.

Cost: Adults (12+) / $26.95 – Seniors (65+) / $24.95 – Children (3-11) / $17.95

Started as a conservation passion project the Brevard Zoo is now 75 acres and home to over 650 animals. The zoo’s exhibits include Wild Florida, Rainforest Revealed, Expedition Africa and the Caribbean Trail.

The animal encounters include everything from zebras to giraffes to alligators. You can also kayak through Expedition Africa or visit the Sea Turtle Healing Center.

There’s so much to experience at Brevard Zoo. The lush, open-air habitats are home to over 900 animals from around the world. Take your Zoo visit to the next level with animal feedings, kayak tours, train rides, aerial adventures and more.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

2901 Osceola Parkway, Bay Lake, FL 34747 

Standard Theme Park Tickets – $109 per day 

Did you know that Walt Disney World has its own zoological park? Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park is unique because while it is a traditional theme park it also houses different species of animals. The welfare of the animals is a top priority at Animal Kingdom and you can really tell. Both kids and adults will enjoy a trip to the park’s many amazing attractions. Check out the themed area like Pandora, Africa and Asia. Make sure to catch the Tree Of Life show while visiting Animal Kingdom. 

Key West Butterfly And Nature Conservatory

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is located at 1316 Duval Street in Key West.

Cost: General Admission / $15 – Seniors (65+) and Military / $12 – Children (4-12) / $11

As you enter the magical world of butterflies take a relaxing stroll through the tropical paradise of the Key West Butterfly And Nature Sanctuary. Walk through the mystical environment filled with hundreds of butterflies, including 50 to 60 different species. You’ll also see an impressive array of tropical plants, colorful birds and cascading waterfalls as you are transported to another world. 

The diversity of size, shape, color, patterns and behavior make these delicate winged creatures a delight to see.


These Florida zoos and animal exhibits will have the whole family entertained for hours. Whether you choose a safari park, theme park or a traditional zoo, you can’t go wrong with these animal exhibits.

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