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America's Most Popular Zoos: Top 41

Discussion in 'United States' started by snowleopard, 26 Nov 2016.

  1. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Earlier this week I posted a popular thread that provided details on 35 European zoos that all have at least one million annual visitors (according to the book Zooming in on Europe's Zoos). Now I've compiled a list of 41 zoos in the USA that all have annual attendance numbers of one million or greater. I already had a master list that I researched from several years ago and there are 5 additional zoos that I've added this time around as they receive one million visitors or are projected to in the next year. Those 5 additional zoos are Atlanta, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami and Pittsburgh. I spent a couple of hours "Googling" information and many of my original numbers did not need to be significantly altered. However, the zoos with major gains in recent years include Lincoln Park, Houston, Riverbanks, Toledo and Dallas.

    Somewhat astonishingly, the United States has approximately 20 aquariums and aquatic theme parks that all receive at least one million or more annual visitors, meaning that in reality at least 60 zoological attractions in the country attain that goal. The world's #1 zoo nation?

    I've visited all 41 of these zoos and in fact 15 of them more than once.

    Disney’s Animal Kingdom – 11 million
    Busch Gardens Tampa – 4.3 million
    Lincoln Park Zoo – 3.6 million (free zoo)
    Saint Louis Zoo – 3.5 million (free zoo)
    San Diego Zoo – 3.3 million
    Houston Zoo – 2.5 million
    Columbus Zoo – 2.4 million
    National Zoo – 2.3 million (free zoo)
    Brookfield Zoo – 2.2 million
    Bronx Zoo – 2.1 million
    Como Park Zoo – 2 million (free zoo)
    Denver Zoo – 2 million
    Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo – 1.9 million
    Oregon Zoo – 1.7 million
    Los Angeles Zoo – 1.6 million
    Cincinnati Zoo – 1.5 million
    Detroit Zoo – 1.5 million
    Milwaukee County Zoo – 1.4 million
    Philadelphia Zoo – 1.4 million
    Phoenix Zoo – 1.4 million
    Cleveland Zoo – 1.3 million
    Minnesota Zoo – 1.3 million
    Riverbanks Zoo – 1.3 million
    San Diego Zoo Safari Park – 1.3 million
    Toledo Zoo – 1.3 million
    Woodland Park Zoo – 1.3 million
    Indianapolis Zoo – 1.2 million
    Utah’s Hogle Zoo – 1.2 million
    Central Park Zoo – 1.1 million (on only 6 acres!)
    Dallas Zoo – 1.1 million
    Fort Worth Zoo – 1.1 million
    Lowry Park Zoo – 1.1 million
    Memphis Zoo – 1.1 million
    Jacksonville Zoo – 1 million
    Kansas City Zoo – 1 million
    Louisville Zoo – 1 million
    Oklahoma City Zoo – 1 million
    Pittsburgh Zoo – 1 million
    San Antonio Zoo – 1 million
    Zoo Atlanta – 1 million
    Zoo Miami – 1 million
     
  2. ericnielsenpdx

    ericnielsenpdx Active Member

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    I'm grateful to say I've been to 19 of the European zoos on the top list plus Antwerp, Frankfurt and Dresden on the almost-made top list, and to ALL 41 of the top US zoos (most several times). Having volunteered, interned or worked at six US zoos has made visiting zoos, aviaries and wildlife Parks , plus seeing animals in the wild a priority.
     
  3. Pleistohorse

    Pleistohorse Well-Known Member

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    I've been to 10 of the most popular American Zoos.

    This summer I hope to contribute to the attendance records of St Louis, Memphis, Riverbanks, Indianapolis, Columbus, and Cincinatti. As well as Nashville, Knoxville, and North Carolina.

    Aside from the Tennessee Zoos, it will be my first time visiting each.
     
  4. blospz

    blospz Well-Known Member

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    How do they take annual attendance for zoos with free admission? How do they keep track who comes in and out of the zoo?
     
  5. Zygodactyl

    Zygodactyl Well-Known Member

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    @blospz :

    The National Zoo still has turnstiles, I imagine both for record keeping and because there's likely a maximum capacity for fire prevention reasons. I was talking to some people from Tyler today who said that the Tyler Zoo was free until two years ago, and people would line up two hours before it opened to be sure of getting in before capacity was reached.
     
  6. blospz

    blospz Well-Known Member

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    I am a frequent visitor of the Smithsonian National Zoo and they no longer have turnstiles at any of their entrances. They also have joggers who will use their paths, I'm curious if they are considered part of the attendance.
     
  7. Zygodactyl

    Zygodactyl Well-Known Member

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    I haven't been to the National Zoo in almost two decades, but I swear they had turnstiles when I was there.
     
  8. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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    Kiang just posted in the Omaha thread that HDZ hit the 2 million mark this year with their new exhibit opening.
     
  9. Zygodactyl

    Zygodactyl Well-Known Member

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    I'm surprised Miami isn't more popular, considering that it's the most visited US city by foreign travelers, popular with American travelers, and it's an absolutely amazing zoo (sadly, the City of Miami sold off the only undeveloped land near it, so future expansion will be severely limited), especially in terms of its some really clever innovations in its beautifully laid-out exhibits and the sheer variety of birds it has.

    Even if you don't appreciate the large variety of birds they have and the innovation in its exhibits (the bat exhibit is ahead of its time even today), they have two kinds of otters, every big cat except snow leopards and Sunda clouded leopards (they still don't acknowledge them as a distinct species), three kinds of bear, rhinoceri, giraffes, and okapis, two kinds of elephant, three kinds of great ape, tons of hoofstock, komodo dragons, koalas, and a harpy eagle, all of which should appeal to the average zoogoer.
     
  10. Nikola Chavkosk

    Nikola Chavkosk Well-Known Member

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    The differences of attendances between San Diego Zoo and Los Angeles Zoo are huge, yet I consider Los Angeles Zoo also very beautifull or almost as much as interesting as San Diego Zoo. Why is that, despite Los Angeles and it's metropolitan area population is far more numerous than San Diego's.
     
  11. Zygodactyl

    Zygodactyl Well-Known Member

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    The San Diego zoo has bonobos, kagu, kea, horned parakeets, and two amazing walk-in aviaries which include--among other things--crested coua and great blue turacos. What does the Los Angeles Zoo have that competes with that?
     
  12. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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    @Zygodactyl : LA Zoo has giant otters, mountain tapirs, Gray's monitors, and false gharials... those are pretty competitive in my opinion.

    @Nikola Chavkosk : Los Angeles does have far more people than San Diego, but I'll bet that many Angelenos choose to visit San Diego instead. As to why there is a huge difference, there are probably several reasons. One that I'll bring up again is the reputation of San Diego Zoo. It is quite famous, and because of this, it is a more popular tourist attraction than LA Zoo. People think of going to the zoo as something to do in San Diego, and don't in Los Angeles because it doesn't have the same reputation.

    Along that same line of thinking, I'll bring up another reason: Los Angeles is famous for many other things and people usually come here to do those other things. Studio tours, Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica, the Getty Villa, Beverly Hills, La Brea Tar Pits, LACMA, and Venice Beach are all here and it is these kinds of attractions that draw tourists to LA. San Diego has several interesting things too, but the Zoo is up there for them. LA Zoo is not.
     
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  13. NSU42

    NSU42 Well-Known Member

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    A little off topic, but this list reminds me of one put out by tripadvisor or USCityTraveler a couple years ago, but was labeled "best zoos in the US." Meaning that the small Comp Zoo was ranked above the Minnesota Zoo. The author displayed no common sense in seeing that obviously the free zoo would have larger attendance over the other in a major urban area. Obviously that's not what is going on here, but the lists are very similar.
     
  14. BlackRhino

    BlackRhino Well-Known Member

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    Is anyone else surprised by Riverbanks getting over 1.3 million visitors? I find it pretty surprising considering Columbia's smaller population size.
     
  15. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    If I had to select 3 out of the 41 zoos that perhaps cause surprise it would be these ones:

    Riverbanks Zoo: The metropolitan population of Columbia, South Carolina, is around 800,000 but the city itself is not very large and the zoo now has 1.3 million annual visitors.

    Toledo Zoo: The metropolitan population of Toledo, Ohio, is around 700,000 but the zoo has been receiving more than a million annual visitors for years and in fact with the $25 million aquarium revamp attendance has shot up to 1.3 million.

    Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo: The metropolitan population of Omaha, Nebraska, is around 900,000 (60th largest in the USA) but the zoo hit 2 million visitors this year and there are only 7 zoos (that charge admission) that receive more visitors. The main reason is that Omaha is close to being the greatest zoo in the country and seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

    I find zoo attendance numbers fascinating because in the nation's 3 largest cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago) the zoos of Bronx, L.A. and Brookfield all have numbers lower than anticipated. There is simply a tremendous number of competing attractions in those areas while in cities like Omaha, Toledo and Columbia the zoos are the #1 game in town.
     
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  16. MRJ

    MRJ Well-Known Member

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    San Diego Zoo is simply world famous. This is due to the excellent marketing job they have been doing for the last 60+ years. I'll give an example. My sister and her family lived in Kansas City for 2 years a few years back. They are not animal people and did not visit any local zoos. However when they travelled across country to do the west coast tourism thing San Diego Zoo was on their list. I'm not sure many of the zoo's visitors have ever heard of bonobos, kagu, kea, horned parakeets, crested coua and great blue turacos and probably care less. However they have heard that San Diego Zoo is the "best zoo in the world" and visit for the same reason people visit the Mona Lisa or the Sydney Opera House.
     
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  17. savethelephant

    savethelephant Well-Known Member

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    This doesn't surprise me in the slightest, and you even said it- Omaha is in the middle of no where. The zoo (of the top caliber in the country) is probably one of the few attractions (and certainly one of the best family-friendly ones) thus there are more visitors whereas in a metropolis there are hundreds of things to do on any given day
     
  18. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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    Location may also play a part in it. Brookfield and Bronx, at least, are not located near where most tourists go in Chicago and New York (and the Bronx, additionally, is located in the middle of a low-income area which further lowers their numbers). Brookfield's 2+ million overwhelmingly come from the ginormous Chicago suburbs it sits in. As for Los Angeles, it's not far from downtown, Hollywood, or the film studios, but I think SL hits it on the spot by saying most people choose to do other things in LA, where the zoo is most certainly not the primary attraction.

    Don't forget that Omaha not only draws visitors from its own city, but also from Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, and the rest of Nebraska as well. It has a large potential visitor "footprint", if you will. Same thing with Riverbanks, the only major zoo between Atlanta and Asheboro, North Carolina.
     
  19. junglejim

    junglejim Well-Known Member

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    I have been to the Toledo Zoo twice this year! Love the indoor African Elephant barn interior, the rest of the exhibit is pleasant viewing as well. The Bird House has a wonderful collection of birds many varieties not normally exhibited ( Golden- backed Woodpecker ). It's old, it's classic rock, the Reptile Building. Excellent collection of variety of reptiles. Major bonus is an enormous Saltwater Crocodile, and the very active Taipan (whom every time I visit is always moving around it's enclosure! The hidden jewel is the amphibian exhibit located in the Zoo Museum. This exhibit is a major treasure, and I have been to just about every zoo on the list, and Toledo's amphibian exhibit is head and shoulders above. I've got to watch the enormous Japanese Salamander move through it's enclosure ( an a very lovely enclosure ) Toledo has a rich collection of amphibans! Loved the mudpuppies too that came out to be photographed right in front of glass! I have a history with Toledo and the collection there is RICH. O, O, too they exhibit the lovely Grey Seal too. They don't have just one they have 3 of them.
     
  20. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I found out that one zoo should actually be removed from the list: Louisville. When I first compiled all of these numbers several years ago the zoo had just opened the ultra-expensive, Arctic-themed Glacier Run complex and was very close to hitting a million annual visitors in 2012. Since then the zoo has made only minor changes and thus attendance has actually dropped 100,000 and in 2016 there was a grand total of 850,000 visitors. With an expansion of the African-themed restaurant and renovation of the old Woolly Monkey exhibit (to become an "African Primate Exhibit" in 2017) there might be a small uptick in attendance but the zoo will clearly not hit a million visitors any time in the near future.