Top 7 American Cities for Animal Lovers

Family Travel on 04.25.12
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Photo: Britt Reints

Lions, tigers, and bears are just the beginning in these wild American cities. Discover everything from alligators to elephant seals, and bison roaming the parks. Fair warning: your kids will probably come home demanding another pet.

1. Washington, D.C.

Pandas in Washington DC
Photo: Woodley Wondeworks/Creative Commons

The National Zoo is a must-see for any animal lover. It's one of the few places in the world you can see a panda up close, although it's not guaranteed the marsupials will be out during your visit. Even if Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and Tai Shan aren't receiving visitors, you can still enjoy all kinds of animals from all over the world. The best part? Admission is free!

2. Orlando, Florida

Killer whale at SeaWorld in Orlando
Photo: Britt Reints

You won't find a zoo in Orlando city limits, but you can check out one all sorts of marine life at Sea World, and in between the whale shows you can hop on a thrill ride. Disney's Animal Kingdom also mixes animal encounters with amusement park rides and you can swim with dolphins at nearby Discovery Cove. If coasters aren't your thing, head to Gatorland to learn more about alligators and crocodiles, or take a trip to one of the nearby springs for a chance to see all sorts of wildlife.

3. San Diego, California

pandas in San Diego
Photo: Kjunstorm/Creative Commons

Another pack of pandas can be found on the West Coast at the San Diego Zoo. This zoo also has red pandas and nearly 900 other species for your kids to see. There's also a SeaWorld in San Diego and a big old ocean nearby that we hear is brimming with animals.

4. Columbus, Ohio

gorilla at columbus zoo
Photo: Todd Poling/Creative Commons

Arguably one of the best zoos in America is found in Columbus, Ohio. You may not have heard of the zoo, but chances are you're familiar with Jack Hanna, television's favorite animal expert and resident Director Emeritus at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

5. San Francisco, California

san francisco aquarium
Photo: Allie Caulfield/Creative Commons

Point Reyes National Seashore, home to elephant seals and a myriad of birds and other animals, is just 30-miles north of San Francisco. In the city itself you can see a herd of buffalo roaming through Golden Gate Park. You can also visit the San Francisco Zoo, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Aquarium of the Bay, and learn about all sorts of wildlife at the California Academy of Sciences.

6. Fort Worth, Texas

birds at fort worth zoo
Photo: Joseph Burglund/Creative Commons

The Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge is just 17 miles from downtown Fort Worth and features 3,600 acres of protected land. Visitors here may run across bison, deer, bobcats, or the occasional poisonous snake. Fort Worth is also home to an impressive zoo that houses nearly 7,000 animals.

7. Bloomington, Minnesota

eagle in Minnesota
Photo: Derek Bakken/Creative Commons

Minnesota's Twin Cities area is a great home base for animal lovers, especially if you prefer the winged variety. The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is 15 miles outside of Minneapolis in Bloomington and home to 226 species of birds and another 50 types of mammals. Bloomington also features the Mall of America, which houses the SeaLife Aquarium. A few miles away, the Minnesota Zoo in St. Paul will give you a glimpse of the more exotic, including lions, tigers, and bears.

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