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Best zoo in each state

Discussion in 'United States' started by Arizona Docent, 20 Jul 2015.

  1. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Alabama – Birmingham Zoo
    Alaska – Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
    Arizona – Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
    Arkansas – Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
    California – San Diego Safari Park
    Colorado – Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
    Connecticut – Beardsley Zoo
    Delaware – Brandywine Zoo
    Florida – Zoo Miami
    Georgia – Zoo Atlanta
    Hawaii – Honolulu Zoo
    Idaho – Zoo Boise
    Illinois – Brookfield Zoo
    Indiana – Indianapolis Zoo
    Iowa – Blank Park Zoo
    Kansas – Sedgwick County Zoo
    Kentucky – Louisville Zoo
    Louisiana – Audubon Zoo
    Maine – York's Wild Kingdom
    Maryland – Maryland Zoo
    Massachusetts – Franklin Park Zoo
    Michigan – Binder Park Zoo
    Minnesota – Minnesota Zoo
    Mississippi – Jackson Zoo
    Missouri – St Louis Zoo
    Montana – Zoo Montana
    Nebraska – Henry Doorly Zoo
    Nevada – Animal Ark
    New Hampshire – Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
    New Jersey – Turtle Back Zoo
    New Mexico – Abq Biopark Zoo (formerly Rio Grande Zoo)
    New York – Bronx Zoo
    North Carolina – North Carolina Zoo
    North Dakota – Red River Zoo
    Ohio – Columbus Zoo
    Oklahoma – Oklahoma City Zoo
    Oregon – Oregon Zoo
    Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium
    Rhode Island – Roger Williams Park Zoo
    South Carolina – Riverbanks Zoo
    South Dakota – Great Plains Zoo
    Tennessee – Memphis Zoo
    Texas – Dallas Zoo
    Utah – Hogle Zoo
    Vermont – Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center
    Virginia – Virginia Zoo
    Washington – Northwest Trek
    West Virginia – West Virginia State Wildlife Center
    Wisconsin – New Zoo
    Wyoming – Terry Bison Ranch
     
  2. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Here is my opinion on the single best zoo in each of the fifty United States.

    In some cases it is an informed opinion based on regional visits and in some cases it is a guess based on internet photos.

    I am excluding aquariums, although I fudged this rule for Vermont because that is the only zoological facility in the state. Wyoming also has no real zoological park so I listed the closest equivalent I could find.

    You are welcome to respond with disagreements, but please pick only one zoo for each state. Do NOT say well this one is strong in this area and that one is strong in this area, just pick one!
     
  3. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    As I've been to around 80% of these zoos I must say that I enjoyed reading your list. Everyone has their own opinion and most of what you have I'd 100% agree with. Some quibbles though:

    Washington - this needs to be Woodland Park Zoo for sure as it is one of the most acclaimed zoos in the country.

    Colorado - Denver in a heartbeat. Tim Brown (700 zoos) and myself (320 zoos after this latest road trip) both have Denver as one of the 10 best U.S. zoos.

    Pennsylvania - Philadelphia edges out Pittsburgh.
     
  4. jusko88

    jusko88 Well-Known Member

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    AD Just one question, why Pittsburgh for the State of Pennsylvania?
     
  5. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    I have been to (and like) Philadelphia and have not been to Pittsburgh. It was just a gut feeling based on photos that Pittsburgh has larger exhibits.

    As discussed elsewhere, Denver is the one area where I seem to stand alone against the mass of ZooChat. My cousin and I visited for half a day after two days at Cheyenne Mountain and we both agreed it was one of the worst large zoos we have seen. Tiny (I mean tiny) big cat cages and row upon row of generic hoofstock yards. Just square plots with a wall. Honestly I do not know what any of you see in that zoo. This was before the new Asia opening, which I am sure improves things, but from what I have seen online Asia is still not that great. There is absolutely, positively, no way whatsoever that I would ever in my wildest dreams consider Denver a top twenty US zoo.
     
  6. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    My case for Denver:):

    - Predator Ridge is an award-winning, excellent section
    - fantastic gift shop and restaurants
    - Primate Panorama is something like 7 acres of mainly very good exhibits; with primates arguably being the most popular animals at most zoos this area is awesome
    - Tropical Discovery is a major Reptile House (something like 85 species) and also an aquarium at the same time
    - Toyota Elephant Passage was a great $50 million addition
    - Hoofstock yards are large and well-liked by many ungulate fans
    - Huge collection of animals that rivals Houston, San Diego, Bronx, Saint Louis, etc.

    However, it is great to have diversity with opinions. Some folks think Disney's Animal Kingdom is a top 10 zoo. Others love Busch Gardens because it has great animal exhibits as well as rollercoasters. C'est la vie.
     
  7. bigfoot410

    bigfoot410 Well-Known Member

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    For states where I have been to at least one zoo:
    Arizona- Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (agree!)
    California- San Diego Wild Animal Park (agree, even though it only slightly edges the San Diego Zoo)
    Florida- Disney's Animal Kingdom (Zoo Miami is also great but the African areas of DAK are spectacular)
    Georgia- Zoo Atlanta (agree, only zoo I have been to in Georgia as well)
    Illinois- Brookfield Zoo (agree, however I have only been to Lincoln Park)
    Minnesota- Minnesota Zoo (agree, no brainer)
    New Jersey- Cape May Zoo (nice little zoo)
    New York- Bronx Zoo (agree, another no brainer)
    Pennsylvania- Philadelphia Zoo (I give it the slight edge to Pittsburgh)
    Rhode Island- Roger Williams Zoo (agree, not really any other choices)
    Virginia- Virginia Zoo (agree)
    Washington- Woodland Park Zoo (Northwest Trek looks great, but Woodland is one of my favorites!)

    I think you nailed 90% of your choices; some could argue Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin. I wonder if anyone would argue Ohio or Tennessee as well (I wouldn't for those two)
     
  8. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    @Bigfoot410 - what are the other choices in Indiana?
     
  9. bigfoot410

    bigfoot410 Well-Known Member

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    Fort Wayne Children's Zoo I believe would be a contender for best in Indiana
     
  10. loxodonta

    loxodonta Well-Known Member

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    For Massachusetts it's the ever improving Southwicks zoo, not 10 years behind FPZ
     
  11. Pleistohorse

    Pleistohorse Well-Known Member

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    I was gonna suggest Southwicks as well. Franklin Park is maybe even third...after Stone Zoo (personal preference regarding collection).

    I have not been to Southwicks in 12 years...but even then quality was much improved...and it kinda reminded me of the old summer-time glamour the, regionally legendary, Catskills Game Farm (upstate New York) and Bensons Animal Park (New Hampshire) once displayed to me...
     
  12. Jaguarundi

    Jaguarundi Active Member

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    How is the San Diego Zoo not the best zoo in California? SDWAP is no doubt one of my 5 or 6 favorite Zoos in the US, but the experience had at the zoo is far better
     
  13. bigfoot410

    bigfoot410 Well-Known Member

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    I think San Diego Zoo vs Wild Animal Park is just about taste. I loved the large field exhibits and the expansiveness of the park compared to the zoo. The lion and cheetah exhibits were also top notch as was the large herd of elephants. The zoo has amazing exhibits too (especially the birds, primates and reptiles), so I think it was the hardest decision to make. Maybe after Africa Rocks I will think differently.
     
  14. bigfoot410

    bigfoot410 Well-Known Member

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    I have never been to Southwick's and there is very little information on its website; is it really good? Franklin Park and Stone have some good areas and need more development; so I wouldn't know which of the three would be the best.
     
  15. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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    I would have said Denver for Colorado, Philadelphia for Pennsylvania, Woodland Park for Washington, and Detroit for Michigan. Otherwise, the rest make good sense to me, including Dallas and Indianapolis (although Houston could be a contender for Texas). I haven't been to any zoos in Wisconsin, but based on my knowledge, I would have said Henry Vilas. Not very large, but has a strong collection of animals and is free.

    I was surprised to see Turpentine Creek as the Arkansas nominee; I volunteered there while on vacation once. I've never seen anyone on this site mention it. Have you been there, Arizona Docent?
     
  16. GraysonDP

    GraysonDP Well-Known Member

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    I liked a lot of the list but the two I felt were clearly wrong were Michigan and Washington. In my book, Detroit Zoo is one of the best and most underrated zoos in the country. It has America's best polar bear exhibit, arguably its best reptile house, and great exhibits for chimpanzees, gorillas, penguins, zebras, warthogs, African birds, bison, pronghorn, tapir, and many many more. Yes the grottos for the bears and tigers are outdated and the giraffe and rhino exhibits are not state-of-the-art but this is a great zoo and while Binder Park has the excellent Wild Africa and a few other noteworthy exhibits its collection pales in comparison. Woodland Park Zoo is also one of the best in the country (although illegitimate pejorative screams and rants from activists have tried to say otherwise) and has a very high standard of exhibitry. I can see why you say Denver is overrated but would probably still pick it to top Colorado.
     
  17. GraysonDP

    GraysonDP Well-Known Member

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    Also I would put Southwicks in front of Franklin Park and Montgomery in front of Birmingham.
     
  18. Pleistohorse

    Pleistohorse Well-Known Member

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    I've been thinking a lot regarding wether The Alaska Zoo or the Alaska Wildlife
    Conservation Center should be considered The Best. Alaska Zoo has a greater
    Collection of Alaskan Wildife--minus only the Bison and the Wapiti. Both organizations have strong conservation ethics. If it comes down to exhibit size and ease
    Of photography AWCC wins hands down. Outstanding Brown Bear exhibit. Stunning location. It would be no contest at all really were the AWCC establish a Grey Wolf exhibit. I love Alaska Zoo though...both species of mountain ungulate on exhibit. Very nice cat exhibits. I guess I generally like to consider them companion facilities and view them that way. My quibble with both is that they lack the vision to create a knockout Pliestocene Berengia exhibit...Lions, Guanacos (I know), Saiga, Wisent, Eurasian Lynx, Asses, Horses. Wasting a great opportunity for high latitude/altitude domestics as well. In a draw: Bison are one of my favorite animals. AWCC wins. Good choice.
     
  19. GraysonDP

    GraysonDP Well-Known Member

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    While I like Memphis, I think Nashville Zoo is the best one in Tennessee. I love almost all of the Nashville Zoo except for the zebra, eland, and ostrich exhibit, which while find is not very naturalistic and rather boring. It does have its collection limitations but boasts excellent exhibits for African elephants, giraffes, tigers, alligators, kangaroos, Baird's tapirs, meerkats, clouded leopards, cougars, and red pandas among others. While Memphis has a few nice exhibits (Cat Country, Northwest Passage, Teton Trek, China), it also has many deeply flawed ones (the pachyderm exhibits suck and the African hoof stock/primate ones are nothing to write home about.)
     
    Last edited: 24 Jul 2015
  20. Gulo gulo

    Gulo gulo Well-Known Member

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    How is the Andean bear exhibit excellent when it's not even built yet?