Midwest Marvels: A Journey Through the Region’s Top Zoos

Discover the Midwest's Best Zoos: A Journey of Conservation and Adventure

best zoos in the midwest

Nestled within America’s heartland, the Midwest is a testament to nature’s rich biodiversity. From the majestic black bears roaming its dense forests to the mountain lions stalking its rugged terrains, this region boasts a plethora of wildlife that showcases the intricate tapestry of North American ecosystems.

However, the Midwest’s dedication to celebrating its diverse fauna isn’t limited to its vast wilderness. The region’s top zoos are conservation, education, and recreation beacons.

Zoos have historically played pivotal roles in our societies. They serve as recreational hubs where families come together for a day of excitement and learning and as centers of education that foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world’s wildlife.

Moreover, with the pressing challenges that many species face today, zoos in the Midwest have taken up the mantle of conservation, working tirelessly to protect endangered animals and their habitats.

The Criteria for Selection

In our exploration of the Midwest’s top zoos, certain criteria stand out, underscoring what makes a zoo truly exceptional:

  1. Size and Variety of Animal Species: A zoo’s charm often lies in its diversity of animals. From polar bears of the icy north to spider monkeys of South America, a vast collection offers visitors a chance to travel the globe without leaving the Midwest.
  2. Conservation Efforts and Programs: The best zoos in the Midwest are not just about showcasing animals but also about preserving them. Successful animal conservationists run initiatives that help protect species from the brink of extinction, ensuring that future generations will be able to witness the marvels of our planet’s biodiversity.
  3. Visitor Experience and Educational Programs: A memorable visit to the zoo transcends merely viewing animals. Hands-on experiences, interactive children’s activities, and educational presentations enrich the journey. Zoos like the Indianapolis or Lincoln Park Zoo offer dynamic encounters catering to the entire family.
  4. Awards and Recognitions: Recognition by peers and authorities in the form of awards speaks volumes about a zoo’s commitment to excellence. Whether it’s an animal conservation award or accolades for educational programs, such honors attest to the zoo’s dedication to its mission.

As we delve deeper into our journey through the best zoos in the Midwest, these criteria guide our path, highlighting the best the region offers us as we embark on this exciting adventure!

Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, Illinois


Overview and History:

Brookfield Zoo opened its doors in 1934 in Chicago. Since then, it has been a favorite spot for families to see exciting animals worldwide.

Notable Exhibits and Species:

This zoo has many cool animals! Visitors can see polar bears, brown bears, and even various animals from Africa. The Brookfield Zoo also has special areas where you can see animals like gray wolves and spider monkeys.

Conservation and Research:

Brookfield Zoo isn’t just about showing off animals. They also work hard to protect them. The zoo has programs to help save wild animals and their homes.

Visitor Experiences and Amenities:

Families can enjoy hands-on experiences, like feeding giraffes. There are also shows and places to eat. Kids and parents can learn about animals and have a fun day out.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Columbus, Ohio


Overview and History:

The Columbus Zoo started in 1927. It’s not just a zoo; it also has a big aquarium. Over the years, it has grown a lot and now has animals from places like Africa and the North Pole.

Unique Attractions:

The “Heart of Africa” is a special place in the zoo where visitors feel like they’re in Africa. They can see lions, giraffes, and more. The “Polar Frontier” is another cool spot to watch polar bears play and swim.

Conservation Efforts:

This zoo cares about animals everywhere. They help animals in the wild and teach people how to protect them. The zoo’s work has a big effect all over the world.

Special Events and Educational Programs:

The Columbus Zoo has fun events all year. There are shows, classes for kids, and special days where you can meet the animals up close. It’s a great place to learn and have fun!

Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Omaha, Nebraska


Overview and History:

The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium opened its doors in 1894 in Omaha. Over the years, it has become a renowned institution known far and wide for its incredible exhibits.

Cool Features:

One of the most breathtaking parts of the zoo is the “Desert Dome” – the world’s largest indoor desert exhibit. It transports visitors to desert landscapes worldwide, all under one roof! Not to be outdone, the “Lied Jungle” stands proud as the largest indoor rainforest exhibit in North America, allowing visitors to wander amid lush greenery and exotic creatures.

Conservation and Breeding:

Henry Doorly Zoo is a leader in protecting animals. They’ve set up programs to help animals breed and to ensure their safety. The zoo also educates the public about the importance of conservation and how they can help.

Visitor Experiences and Stuff to Do:

The zoo offers endless entertainment With various shows, hands-on activities, and unique sleepovers. And when hunger strikes, several eateries are there to satisfy.

Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley, Minnesota


Overview and History:

Established in 1978 in Apple Valley, the Minnesota Zoo aimed to give animals spacious, naturalistic homes, making the visitor’s experience feel like a genuine wild journey.

Special Places to See:

“Northern Lights Wildlife Habitat” is a must-visit, showcasing stunning creatures from the Arctic and subarctic regions. Meanwhile, the “Tropics Trail” immerses visitors in a warm, jungle-like environment filled with diverse species. Don’t forget also to explore the “Primate Trail,” “African Savanna,” and “Asian Forest” to encounter animals from various continents.

Helping Animals:

The Minnesota Zoo collaborates with various organizations to conserve wildlife. They focus on the animals’ welfare in their care and actively participate in broader conservation efforts.

Learning and Fun Events:

The zoo boasts a variety of programs designed for both kids and families. From engaging classes and riveting animal shows to special-themed days, it’s all about blending education with fun!

Indianapolis Zoo, Indianapolis, Indiana


Overview and History:

The Indianapolis Zoo started in 1964. It’s a place where families from all over come to see amazing animals and learn about nature.

Cool Features:

There are two super awesome spots in this zoo. The “Dolphin Pavilion” is where dolphins jump and play in the water. Then, there’s the “White River Gardens” – a beautiful area with many plants and flowers.

Helping Animals:

This zoo isn’t just about showing off animals. They do a lot to help animals in the wild. They research, find ways to protect them, and teach people how to do the same.

Fun Things to Do:

You can do more than look at animals. There are shows, rides, and special events. Plus, there are some cool places to eat when you get hungry.

Other Awesome Zoos to Check Out:


  • Kansas City Zoo in Kansas City, Missouri: This big zoo has many animals.
  • Milwaukee County Zoo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Another fun place with cool animals and shows.
  • Toledo Zoo in Toledo, Ohio: They have special events and a lot of history.
  • Saint Louis Zoo in St. Louis, Missouri: This zoo is known for its big efforts to help animals in the wild.

Why Zoos Are Super Important Today

Helping Endangered Animals:

Some animals are at risk of disappearing forever. Zoos have special programs that help these animals have babies and stay safe.

Teaching Us About Animals:

Zoos teach us a lot! They have programs and events where we can learn about animals and how to protect them.

Helping the Community:

Zoos aren’t just good for animals. They’re good for towns and cities too. When people visit zoos, they also spend money in the area. This helps businesses and makes the community better.


Midwest’s Amazing Efforts:

The Midwest isn’t just about farms and fields. It’s a place that cares about all the animals in the world, big and small. They work hard to keep every creature safe and show us how wonderful nature is.

A Little Nudge:

Visiting these zoos is more than just a fun day out. We help these places do even more good work every time we go. So, the next time you think of a cool place to visit, consider one of these awesome zoos. You’ll have fun, learn something new, and support a great cause!

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