Have you ever watched the Madagascar movies? Lemurs and King Julian from Madagascar will surely make you smile! I won’t promise you that you’ll meet King Julian himself here in the best zoo in the US, in Kansas, but our lemurs and other friendly and exotic animals are sure to make your Tanganyika Wildlife Park experience incredible and unforgettable.
Founded in 2008 and home to over 500 animals from more than 100 species, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, Tanganyika Wildlife Park is a popular destination for animal enthusiasts.
This Wichita Kansas Zoo is known for its interactive and immersive animal experiences, which allow visitors to get up close and personal with various exotic animals. The park offers:
- Interactive animal encounters
- Guided tours
- Animal exhibits
- Conservation efforts
- Unique experiences
- Scenic setting
With all these offerings, one could argue that Tanganyika could be the best zoo in the US, as we offer a unique and educational experience for visitors of all ages while contributing to conservation efforts to help protect wildlife.
However, it is important to note that there are many zoos and wildlife parks throughout the United States, each with unique offerings and strengths. Visitors should research and determine which zoo or park best fits their interests and values. In any case, throughout this blog post, we will bring you a list of the best zoos in the country and winners from previous years. Come with us!
How the Best Zoo in the US Is Chosen
Since 2014 (although not held in 2015 and 2016), US Today has held a contest to define the top 10 zoos in the United States. In a contest called “10Best,” US Today invites a team of travel experts to nominate places that stand out in animal care and interaction with humans. Once a list of 10 names has been created, readers can vote for their favorites once per category, per day. In March, the winner of 2023 was announced. As you can see here, Kansas still hasn’t managed to place a zoo in the top 10 finalists:
No. 1: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium – Omaha, Nebraska
Henry Doorly Zoo offers one-of-a-kind exhibits to guests. Among its most notable attractions is the largest inland desert in the world. In it, you can see meerkats, vipers, rattlesnakes, and inland taipans, originally from Australia and known as the most venomous land snake in the world. There is also a 28-acre exhibit called African Grasslands, designed to showcase animals native to the African continent, including giraffes, elephants, lions, cheetahs, and sable antelopes.
No. 2: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden – Cincinnati, Ohio
This zoo is one of the oldest in the United States and features Fiona (the world-famous hippopotamus) as its main attraction. In addition, Cincinnati offers the possibility of watching a race of cheetahs, considered the fastest land animal in the world, capable of reaching a speed of 68 mph. There are also exhibitions, such as Night Hunters, which presents nocturnal predators, including felines, and Manatee Springs, which deals with the conservation of the Florida manatee.
No. 3: Brevard Zoo – Melbourne, Florida
The Brevard Zoo is home to more than 900 animals, and some of its main attractions involve zip-lining through emulated South American jungles; kayaking across a makeshift African savanna, or kayaking through one of Florida’s swamps.
No. 4: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo – Colorado Springs, Colorado
This zoo in Colorado presents tourists with more than 750 animals, with 170 species from all over the world. Its main attraction is the African Rift Valley exhibit, which features one of the world’s largest giraffe herds in a zoo. There are also African lions and meerkats. Rocky Mountain shows visitors a variety of regional species, such as eagles, bobcats, elk, grizzly bears, mountain lions, porcupines, and Mexican gray wolves.
No. 5: Brookfield Zoo – Brookfield, Illinois
The hallmark of this Illinois zoo is its focus on animal care, conservation of the natural world, and animal education. Brookfield presents tourists with more than 2,400 animals among about 500 species.
No. 6: ZooTampa at Lowry Park – Tampa, Florida
This second Florida zoo in the Top-10 covers an area of 56 acres and is home to various endangered species from Asia and Africa, as well as Australia and Florida. ZooTampa has as its best work the rescue and rehabilitation of animal species. Tampa presents as a unique event the Day of Discovery, a morning dedicated to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. On this day, these visitors have unique opportunities related to animal encounters, explore and learn with guided tours.
No. 7: Audubon Zoo – New Orleans, Louisiana
Located in historic uptown New Orleans, the Audubon Zoo allows tourists to experience the wildlife of the place, featuring animals such as Amur leopards and orangutans. Once there, you won’t like to miss the award-winning Louisiana Swamp attraction, an exhibit that links the Cajun culture with the plants and animals of the surrounding habitats. In this exhibit, you will find red foxes, blue crabs, black bears, alligators, water snakes, and a host of animals that live in the swamp.
No. 8: Saint Louis Zoo – St. Louis, Missouri
One of the main features of this zoo in Missouri is that it is free to the public, allowing you to see more than 600 species up close. Once on site, the award-winning Sea Lion Sound is something you definitely won’t want to miss.
No. 9: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium – Powell, Ohio
At this Ohio Zoo, wild species from continents such as Asia, Australia, Africa, and North America put on a show. With more than 10,000 animals representing 600 species, at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, you will find African lions, Amur Tigers, Asian Elephant, Bald Eagle, Bornean Orangutan, California Sea Lion, Florida Manatees, Koalas, Mandrill, Polar Bear, Tasmanian Devil and much more.
No. 10: Indianapolis Zoo – Indianapolis, Indiana
Visitors can see lions, tigers, and bears at this Indianapolis zoo. As unique experiences seen at this zoo, we can mention bathing elephants and even watching penguins paint art. Through its policy of efforts to save wildlife and wild places at risk, Indianapolis Zoo uses the admission fee from its visitors, who know that they are contributing to the future of these animals and their natural habitats.
What Makes a Zoo the Best Zoo in THE US?
Running since 2014, the winner in the “Best US Zoo” contest category for 10-Best Readers’ Choice, year by year, are:
- 2014: Toledo Zoo – Toledo, Ohio;
- 2017: Saint Louis Zoo – St. Louis, Missouri;
- 2018: Saint Louis Zoo – St. Louis, Missouri;
- 2019: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden – Cincinnati, Ohio;
- 2020: Fort Worth Zoo – Fort Worth, Texas;
- 2021: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden – Cincinnati, Ohio;
- 2022: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden – Cincinnati, Ohio;
- 2023: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium – Omaha, Nebraska;
Unfortunately, no Kansas zoo has made the top-10 finalists list since the contest’s inception.
Choosing the best zoo in the US among hundreds of options is a challenging task. Visiting zoos is a personal decision for many, and their choice depends on their tastes. Some prefer the more prominent zoos, which offer thousands of animals as attractions and hundreds of species.
Others may prefer smaller zoos with specific or individualized attractions that make them feel closer to nature and wildlife. In most of these smaller zoos, visitors can touch the animals and even feed them, providing interactions that will live long in the memory.
It’s worth noting that Kansas has 18 zoos that offer its visitors numerous attractions and unforgettable experiences. These experiences help bring families together, put smiles on children’s faces, and make us thrilled!
Here at Tanganyika Wildlife Park, we believe that one of the best ways to become the best zoo in America is to provide experiences that stay in the hearts and minds of visitors. In Wichita, Kansas, Tanganyika enjoys bringing families in and bringing them closer to wildlife. To that end, we offer the chance to get up close and touch a kangaroo, feed giraffes, and swim with penguins!
Besides being able to touch and feed animals, Tanganyika offers unique experiences that will stay in people’s memories forever. An example of this is the birthday parties that can be organized in our space, as well as weddings, providing you and your guests to be surrounded by wildlife while fulfilling the dream of joining your partner for the rest of your lives.
When Will a Wichita Kansas Zoo Make the List?
Although the Wichita Kansas Zoo has excellent animal exhibits and educational programs, its entry into USA Today’s list of the best zoos in the US is likely to take some time. Before the contest begins, an initial shortlist is created by zoo enthusiasts, travel bloggers, and industry leaders. As it becomes impossible to visit all the zoos in the US, they choose those with bigger names and budgets, more familiar, and more common tourist destinations.
After that, they narrow down the list based on a variety of factors, including the quality and diversity of animal exhibits, visitor experience, conservation initiatives, and overall reputation, among others. Another major factor is that since the choice is made by readers, the bigger the zoo, the more visitors. The more visitors, the more votes received.
This being the case, while the Wichita Kansas Zoo has made strides in recent years to improve in these areas, it still has some ways to go to compete with other top-tier zoos in the country.
That being said, we believe USA Today is missing out by not including Tanganyika Wildlife Park on their list. Tanganyika is an exceptional wildlife park that offers a unique and immersive experience for visitors. With its focus on conservation and interactive animal encounters, Tanganyika has created a fun and educational environment that is sure to delight visitors of all ages.
Whether you are swimming with otters, hand-feeding a giraffe, or watching playful lemurs, Tanganyika is a unique experience that should not be missed. We have one of the largest giraffe herds in the US and have bred more baby giraffes than all but one other zoo. Tanganyika has a clouded leopard breeding and conservation program that has contributed to 10% of the U.S.’s clouded leopard population diversity. Breed critically endangered species like the mountain bongo, amur leopard, and red-ruffed lemurs.
While it may not have the same size and scale as some of the largest zoos in the country, we believe Tanganyika deserves to be recognized as one of the best zoos in the US.
At Tanganyika Wildlife Park, visitors are treated to a plethora of exclusive experiences that are simply unmatched anywhere else. From taking a dip with penguins to finding yourself in the middle of a lemur scent dispute, this Wichita Kansas Zoo offers a variety of unique encounters that are sure to leave a lasting impression.
Visitors can get up close and personal with giraffes, marveling at the bumps on their tongues, or peeking inside a penguin’s mouth for an unforgettable glimpse. For those looking to add some melody to their visit, singing along with a lorikeet is a must, as is hearing the infectious laughter of a kookaburra. And if walking amongst kangaroos is on your bucket list, Tanganyika Wildlife Park has got you covered. These are just a few of the extraordinary experiences that await visitors to this exceptional Kansas Zoo, which undoubtedly deserves a place on the list of the best zoos in the state.
In summary, Tanganyika Wildlife Park is the best Kansas Zoo for its unique animal encounters, commitment to conservation, educational programs, interactive experiences, beautiful settings, and exceptional visitor experience.
If you’re looking for the best Kansas Zoo, Tanganyika Wildlife Park should be at the top of your list. Come visit us! Buy your tickets here!
About the Author:
Matheus Filipe is a journalist with five-plus years of experience writing from Ipatinga, Brazil. In his spare time, he volunteers to help non-profits with their efforts. We’re grateful to have his help here at Tanganyika! Thanks, Matheus.