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Visit a Free Zoo

Spend time with the family at a free zoo

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What child doesn't love a trip to the zoo, with its exotic animals, interactive exhibits and love of the outdoors? While admission fees have risen sharply at many zoos across the country, there are still a few that have managed to remain a free zoo.

Of course, no admission fees doesn't always mean no fees for anything. Some of these zoos will charge fees for parking or for some specialized exhibits, such as children's zoos or a show. Food prices might also be on the high side for your budget and on the low side of quality. So, be sure to check before your visit to see what other fees might be charged and which ones you might be willing to pay.

Below is a list of zoos that charge no admission fee and are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Zoos that undergo the accreditation process are reviewed by a panel of experts to see whether they meet a high set of standards (such as requirements for animal care, conservation and education). Although there are a few other zoos that charge no admission fees, they may not have gone through a rigorous accreditation process and, so, were not included on this list.

Illinois

Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago

Located on 49 acres along Chicago’s beautiful lakefront, the Lincoln Park Zoo is home to more than 1,100 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians as well as thousands of fish and insects. The zoo, which opened its doors in 1868, also operates one of the country’s largest zoo-based conservation and science programs. More than 3 million people visit the zoo each year.

Kansas

David Traylor Zoo of Emporia
Emporia

The David Traylor Zoo of Emporia is a small zoo that is part of Soden’s Grove Park, which also includes a small train that’s available for rides in the summer. Noted for extensive landscaping and horticulture features, the zoo offers natural exhibits and features exotic birds, red foxes, cougars, prairie dogs and more.

Hutchinson Zoo
Hutchinson

Most of the Hutchinson Zoo’s 160 animals are native to Kansas, with one building that features animals from around the world. The zoo was the first one in Kansas to exhibit the Black-Footed Ferret, a highly endangered North American species. The zoo is also a participant in the Species Survival Program, a program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that works to ensure the survival of selected animal species.

Lee Richardson Zoo
Garden City

With almost 200,000 visitors annually, the Lee Richardson Zoo is a popular plce to view more than 200 animals representating 110 species. Admission is free to visitors who walk through the zoo’s 110-acres; a one-time $3 vehicle fee is charged to drive through the zoo (or $10 for unlimited drive-throughs).

Maryland

Salisbury Zoo
Salisbury

Founded in 1954, the Salisbury Zoo offers naturalistic enclosures for species native to North, Central and South America. In 2010, the zoo began a new style of education, incorporating hands-on teaching sessions with smaller groups and increased interactions.

Minnesota

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
St. Paul

Open every day of the year, the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory seeks to fulfill is mission “to inspire the public to value the presence of living things.” The zoo first started with three deers more than a century ago; today, it has grown to feature more than 25 habitats.

Missouri

Saint Louis Zoo
St. Louis

The Saint Louis Zoo celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010. More than 3 million people annually visit the zoo’s 24,000 animals, many of which are exotic, rare or endangered. In 2011, the zoo is expected to welcome back its popular stingray exhibit, which gives visitors the opportunity to touch and feed the animals.

New Jersey

Cape May County Park and Zoo
Cape May Court House

The Saint Louis Zoo celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010. More than 3 million people annually visit the zoo’s 24,000 animals, many of which are exotic, rare or endangered. In 2011, the zoo is expected to welcome back its popular stingray exhibit, which gives visitors the opportunity to touch and feed the animals.

Washington DC

Smithsonian National Zoological Park
Cape May Court House

Located on 163 acres in the heart of Washington DC, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park (also referred to as the National Zoo) is home to nearly 2,000 animals and more than 400 species. Its best known residents are the lovable panda bears, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang. The National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institution, which includes 18 museums and galleries.

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