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Best Zoos in Texas: 7 Places to Meet Wild Animals in the Flesh!

Gloria Stanfield
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by Gloria Stanfield

Aside from its cowboy culture and delectable Tex-Mex cuisine, Texas is also home to some of the world’s most diverse landscapes. This makes the region an ideal place for wildlife to thrive.

If you’re a fan of exotic animals and want quality time to explore nature, the best zoos in Texas can give you that experience. Here are the Top seven Texas zoos you should include in your itinerary.

1. Houston Zoo

Houston Zoo is home to over 6,000 animals from around 900 different species. It’s also one of Texas’s leading wildlife parks that attracts close to two million visitors annually.

Houston Zoo
Houston Zoo

With its 14 wildlife exhibits, you’ll have more than enough areas to explore for the entire day! The zoo also has cafes and food trucks spread around its 55-acre space to ensure you don’t starve on your tour.

Apart from exciting animal encounters, the zoo has 49 active animal conservation projects across 27 countries. These projects aim to rescue and provide wildlife support, like veterinary care for injured animals.

  • Must-See Animals: Southern White Rhinoceros, Komodo Dragons, Okapi, Red Panda, and Malayan Tiger.
  • Trivia: Houston Zoo celebrated its 100th birthday on April 30, 2022.

2. Dallas Zoo

Dallas Zoo is home to over 2,000 animals from over 400 species. It’s a kid-friendly environment where children can learn and interact with the wild through adventure camps and other activities like giraffe feeding.

Dallas Zoo
Dallas Zoo

If the zoo’s 106-acre place sounds too big to explore, it offers a T-Rex Express Mini-train ride that drives you through its main attractions.

Other activities to check out include a 90-minute guided tour with free elephant feeding sessions, training sessions with hippos, and a private Wild Encounters show featuring amazing creatures like tamanduas and ground hornbills.

  • Must-See Animals: African and Asian Elephants, Gazelles, Sumatran Tigers, and Gorillas.
  • Trivia: Dallas Zoo is the oldest zoo and the largest zoological park in Texas.

3. Fort Worth Zoo

Housing an impressive 7,000 native and exotic animals, including 68 endangered species, Fort Worth Zoo has become a top favorite for solo, group, and family tours all year round.

Elephants in Fort Worth Zoo
Elephants in Fort Worth Zoo Texas

It offers many incredible attractions like the Reptile House, Wildlife Carousel, and Safari Splash, where you can chill in a shaded lounge chair.

You can also chat with zookeepers or join educational programs to learn more about the endangered wildlife of Fort Worth Zoo.

After the tour, you can drop by the zoo’s gift shop to purchase souvenirs or tap a staff member to give you more info on how to adopt animals.

  • Must-See Animals: Bonobo, Harpy Eagle, and Storm’s Stork.
  • Trivia: Fort Worth botanical garden is nearby and houses a fascinating collection of plants and colorful flowers.

4. San Antonio Zoo

San Antonio Zoo is home to over 3,500 animals and boasts one of the world’s most extensive bird collections under its care. This makes the zoo ideal for bird enthusiasts who want to witness various bird species in one place.

The zoo offers Behind-The-Scenes tours that bring you up close to animals like rhinos, hippos, and Aldabra tortoises. You can pet or feed them with the help of a zookeeper who’ll also give you tips on approaching the animals safely.

Its Butterfly Garden is one unique attraction you should check if you’re interested to see a wide variety of your favorite colorful-winged species.

  • Must-See Animals: Jaguars, Kangaroos, Flamingos, and Rhinos.
  • Trivia: San Antonio Zoo has a 4D theater showing kid-friendly, animal-themed movies you can enjoy with your little ones during your visit.

5. Exotic Resort Zoo

Exotic Resort Zoo is a privately-owned Safari Park housing around 600 animals, including 45 exotic species.

You can tour the area using its classic tractor-tram setup, where you get to join other guests. If you want an exclusive experience, the zoo caters to private guided tours, provided you book ahead. Those who want a DIY tour using their vehicle can opt for the Drive-thru Safari tour.

There’s also a petting zoo where you can feed domestic animals by hand. While activities are limited to sightseeing and feeding, Exotic Resort remains an excellent pick, especially for those who want to stay overnight.

It offers a variety of Safari cabin rentals with different themes and locations to fit your preference.

  • Must-See Animals: Antelopes, Camels, Buffalos, Wallabies, and Emus.
  • Trivia: Exotic Resort caters to special events like company outings, birthdays, and school field trips.

6. Texas State Aquarium

Are you a fan of marine wildlife? The Texas State Aquarium is perfect for anyone who wants to witness a diverse exhibit of aquatic creatures on top of some exotic terrestrial animals.

There’s a Dolphin Bay attraction where you get up close and personal with the zoo’s four bottlenose dolphins. You can opt for the top-level visit to witness the mammals’ incredible airborne acrobatics or go to the Underwater Observation Area and see them swimming through an acrylic window.

The Texas State Aquarium is also committed to wildlife conservation projects, offering several activities for guests interested in joining their mission. Popular events include Adopt-a-Beach coastwide cleanups and Wildlife Care, Conservation, and Research Fund.

  • Must-See Animals: Sharks, Sea Turtles, Otters, Sloths, and Dolphins.
  • Trivia: The zoo’s Jungle exhibit takes you to a real-life experience of the Yucatan Peninsula’s lush jungles with closeup animal encounters, such as the Scarlet Ibis, Vampire Bat, and Rainbow Boa.

7. Austin Zoo

Austin Zoo is a non-profit rescue zoo that houses over 300 animals from 100 species. Its six areas divide its animals into Cats, Mammals, Primates, Birds, Reptiles & Amphibians, and Domestic Animals.

While smaller in animal variety and area size than the other zoos on our list, this location is a top favorite for guests with a heart for animal rescue and rehabilitation.

The creatures in this zoo were rescued from harsh living conditions or abusive owners. Some exotic species you’ll meet have been laboratory research animals seized from animal cruelty cases.

Austin Zoo’s priority has always been its animals’ safety and comfort, so there might be instances when you won’t see some species on your tour. However, its varied attractions, like the Primate Palace and aviaries, offer a worthwhile learning experience.

There are also picnic areas and feeding zoo locations, allowing kids to interact with animals up close.

  • Must-See Animals: African Lions, Cougars, Lemurs, Porcupines, and Black Bears.
  • Trivia: Austin Zoo offers Scavenger Hunts and Scout Programs for children to help broaden their knowledge of animal behaviors and habitats.

Bonus Picks

Looking for more wildlife park adventures in Texas? Here are three bonus places to check on your visit:

  • Cameron Park Zoo: Experience an Asian forest adventure with waterfalls, ponds, and lakes. Meet exotic lizards and reptile species native to New Zealand.
  • Caldwell Zoo: Get the best bird-watching experience with its Wild Bird Walkabout exhibit. Meet raptors and squirrel monkeys and enjoy personal encounters with penguins and black bears.
  • Gladys Porter Zoo: Meet animals from around the globe while touring its four designated locations—Africa, Tropical America, Asia, and Indo-Australia! Don’t miss its botanical garden featuring plants and flowers unique to Southern Texas.


Spending time at the best zoos in Texas is a fun and interactive way to meet exotic and endangered animals up close.

Beef up your itinerary and explore the fascinating world of wildlife’s natural environment! Join educational camps, ride a zoo train, or visit botanical gardens on your next tour.

Have you had the chance to visit any zoo on our list? Share your experience in the comments, or shout out anything we’ve missed!

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