The Best Small Zoos In America

One place you can visit and expect the same kind of fun but always get a different experience is the zoo. Every park offers different local wildlife and an ecosystem. There is a lot more to zoos than a place where people go to see creatures they won't in an urban environment. They are also often what preserves wildlife and informs people, especially children, of unique life in unpopulated parts of the world.

Buttonwood Park Zoo, Massachusetts

This ten-acre zoo, the 12th oldest in the country, is located in the center of Buttonwood Park. It is home to black bears, mountain lions, river otters, bald eagles, seals, elephants...and a lot of friendly farm animals that the kids will love to meet.

Bearizona Wildlife Park, Arizona

Fancy a safari in Arizona? This is where you go. The park offers drive-through experience. You can see wolves, bears, bison, mountain goats, to name a few, in their natural habitat from the comfort of your car. Visitors are allowed to enjoy the park at their own pace.

Alaska Zoo in Anchorage

The zoo is located on 25 acres of the Anchorage Hillside. The zoo opened in 1969 (then the Alaska Children's Zoo) as a place to care for orphaned and injured wildlife in Alaska. You'll see brown and black bears, polar bears, wolverines, flying squirrel, Amur tiger, snow leopards, and many more.

Smoky Mountain Deer Farm, Tennessee

The barnyard environment is nestled in a 140 acre foothills setting. You can walk among them and hand-feed these delicate animals. Interact with camels, kangaroos, zebra, goats, reindeer, Rocky Mountain Elk, deer, miniature horses, and more. Horse lovers will also get a chance to ride their own horse.

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, Texas

The 400-acre safari park on the northern outskirts of San Antonio is one of Texas' most recognized family attractions. The safari trek covers miles of the scenic Texas Hill Country. Walk-a-bout on the wild side and get up close giraffes. Don't miss the Lemur Island, the habitat of the Ring-tailed lemurs native of Madagascar.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores

You'll get a chance to see about 600 exotic animals including lions, tigers, reptiles, kangaroos...There is also a petting zoo along with seasonal animal encounters and many interactive animal shows. The Mining Sluice is the newest attraction. See fossils, gems and minerals at the station.

Lion Country Safari, Florida

This is Florida's only drive-through safari. The walk-through amusement park is located on over 600 acres in Palm Beach County. Enjoy encounters, animal feeding experiences, 5 rides, and a water sprayground.

Philadelphia Zoo, Pennsylvania

The 42-acre garden takes care of over 1,300 animals, many of them rare and/or endangered. The zoo is introducing the first-ever Wild Nights. On July 17 and July 31 adults can get a beer or seasonal cocktail while journeying through the campus. You will also enjoy animal meet-and-greets, keeper chats, music, and dancing.

Roosevelt Park Zoo in Minot, North Dakota

The Roosevelt Park Zoo, established in 1920, is home to more than 200 mammals, birds, and reptiles from all around the globe. The Japanese serow and African penguins are a hit, especially with the kids.

San Diego Zoo Safari, California

Caravan, cheetah, cart, jungle ropes, flightline, behind-the-scenes, roar & snore, ultimate safari...Your options for going on a safari are seemingly endless. The San Diego 3-for-1 Pass is valid for one visit per attraction—three total visits—by the same person on any and all days.

Wagon Trails Animal Park in Ohio

Visit this nice 60-acre park, founded in 2000, to see free-roaming wildlife. There is also a petting zoo and aviary. The park, which was featured in USA TODAY'S "10 Great Places for a North American Safari," takes pride in the fact that animals occupy acres-large enclosures rather than small pens like at traditional zoos.

Bayou Pierre Alligator Park in Natchitoches, Louisiana

You are invited to explore the world of the American Alligator. The 8-acre park is an authentic Cajun countryside. Enjoy Cajun music, cuisine, the world-famous Louisiana "Joie de Vivre" and gators! You can feed, touch, and even take picture with them.

Big Bear Alpine Zoo in Big Bear Lake, California

This is one of two Alpine zoos in the country. It's known for its rehab and release of local Alpine species, offering injured, orphaned and imprinted wild animals a safe home. The zoo has a grizzly bear exhibit. The zoo is located in the San Bernardino National Forest at an elevation of 7,140 feet.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado

This is the highest zoo in the country located at an elevation of 6,800 feet above sea level. It's also America's only mountain zoo. There are more than 30 species of endangered animals. The most popular animals are probably the giraffes. You can hand-feed them!

The Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka

The zoo, established in 1980, is located on 17 acres, bordering the Tongass National Forest and the Indian River. It provides medical treatment to 100- 200 injured bald eagles and other birds. The other goal is to teach people about the state's birds and environmental conservation.

Bear Country USA in South Dakota

This is a seasonal drive-through wildlife park when you can drive and see wolves, black bears, mountain lions, elk, to name a few. The 20 species of North American mammals roam in large natural exhibits. Larger species live freely throughout 250 acres park.

National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C.

Not that small, but it's worth a mention. The Smithsonian's National Zoo, which is often simply referred to as the National Zoo, is one of the capitals' most popular tourist attractions. It is always free of charge and open 364 days a year. This is one of the oldest zoos in the entire country.

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Nebraska

Not so small, but it's certainly among the very best. Enjoy 160 acres of exhibits and gardens including seven acres of indoor exhibits. Thousands of animals from around the world await. The zoo is home to the world's largest indoor desert, the Desert Dome. It is located under the world's largest glazed geodesic dome, and has become a landmark for Omaha.