You don’t have to spend a bundle to learn about protecting animals

A trip to the zoo is a fun adventure for the young and young at heart. Not only a place to see exotic animals, but zoos are also educational and often focus on conservation and research. And what’s more exciting than visiting the zoo—visiting a zoo where you can get in for free! Here are some zoos around the United States that offer free admission to visitors.

Lincoln Park Zoo | Chicago, IL

Founded over 150 years ago, Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois, started with two swans donated by Central Park Zoo in New York. Home to almost 200 different species, the zoo includes a bird house and center for African apes, along with a carousel and train ride. The grounds also include 1,000 varieties of plants to enjoy.


Related: Lincoln Park Zoo Is Free, but There Are Plenty More Reasons to Go

St. Louis Zoo | St. Louis, MO

An artifact from the 1904 World’s Fair was the beginning of Missouri’s St. Louis Zoo. With 500 species and 14,000 animals, the zoo has six distinct areas where the animals reside. It also supports WildCare Institutes worldwide to help with animal conservation and sustainability.


Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens | Hilo, HI

When someone visits Hawai’i, they might not think of going to the zoo. But a visit to Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens is well worth it. Home to animals you might see on the mainland, such as spider monkeys, Pana’ewa is also home to endangered animals native to the island. Located on 12 acres, it’s the only zoo in the United States in a tropical rainforest—so bring your poncho!


Bronx Zoo | Bronx, NY

Offering free admission every Wednesday, the Bronx Zoo is located on 265 acres and is the largest zoo in a metro area in the U.S. Home to more than 10,000 animals, the zoo has an aquatic bird house, a bison range, and recreations of the Himalayas and Madagascar. And don’t miss architectural features on the grounds, such as the Rainey Memorial Gates, the Zoo Center built in 1908, and the Rockefeller Fountain, originally a landmark in Italy.


Como Park Zoo & Conservatory | St. Paul, MN

Botanical gardens, animals, and public art make up the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. Located in St. Paul, Minnesota, and over 100 years old, the founders created the park to give city residents a place to enjoy the outdoors. The zoo includes a variety of animals, including giraffes, zebras, large cats, and polar bears. The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory has many different species of plants visitors can enjoy, including orchids and a Japanese garden with bonsai. And keep an eye out for the many full-sized sculptures throughout the grounds.


Cape May County Park & Zoo | Cape May, NJ

Capybaras, snow leopards, and oryx are some of the exotic animals that make up Cape May County Park & Zoo. Located in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, the zoo works with conservation groups worldwide to help preserve species and educate visitors.


Smithsonian National Zoo | Washington, DC

Originally founded to help preserve the American bison, the Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute sits on 163 acres. Research at the zoo has helped reintroduce endangered species to the wild and educate its over 2 million visitors annually about the 1,800 animals that live there. Located in Washington, D.C., the National Zoo is one of only three zoos in the United States permitted to have giant pandas.


Henry Vilas Zoo | Madison, WI

Located in Madison, Wisconsin, the Henry Vilas Zoo was founded in honor of a young boy who died young. With its first exhibits created in 1911, the zoo is home to more than 650 animals from five continents. With 20 considered endangered, critically endangered, or vulnerable, visiting Henry Vilas Zoo allows visitors to see animals they might never get a chance to learn about firsthand.


Salisbury Zoo | Salisbury, MD

Nicknamed “The Best Little Zoo In North America,” Salisbury Zoo began accidentally. In the 1950s, city employees started finding animals once cared for by humans but abandoned in the city park. The employees made enclosures for these animals, and as word got out, residents started donating more animals, including a black bear, owls, and peacocks. Eventually, the city of Salisbury, Maryland, decided to create an official park, and the Salisbury Zoo was born. Today the zoo and its conservation mission educate visitors about the 40 species that live there.


Lee Richardson Zoo | Garden City, KS

On over 50 acres, the Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City, Kansas, aims to educate visitors about animal conservation. Offering visitors the opportunity to walk through the zoo, which is always free, or drive through, free on Wednesdays, provides a unique perspective to see the hundreds of animals and habitats that make up the park. Broken into different areas, including the North American Plains, Wild Asia, and South American Pampas, Lee Richardson Zoo offers a view of a wide variety of animals from around the world.


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