Guide to the Best Zoos in Texas

Take a walk on the wild(life) side

Gorilla
Richard N Edelen / Getty Images

When you think of Texas, what comes to mind probably includes cowboys, ranches, Gulf Coast beaches, and wide expanses of prairie. And don't forget about barbecue, Mexican food, and sophisticated cities like Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. And of course, everything's big in Texas. What might surprise you on a trip to the Lone Star State is the abundance of world-class zoos you'll discover there. From Brownsville's Gladys Porter Zoo on the Mexican border to the illustrious San Antonio Zoo to the one-of-a-kind Texas Zoo in Victoria, there are a variety of settings in which to view native and exotic wildlife in the great state of Texas.

  • 01 of 10
    Chilean Flamingo
    Gerardo Santos/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

    Brownsville's Gladys Porter Zoo first opened its doors in 1971. Since then the zoo has garnered international acclaim for its impressive list of species and unique exhibits. Check out the South American Free-Flight Aviary, with its unusual birds in a tropical rainforest habitat. Macaw Canyon is a replica of a canyon in Mexico and is home to military and blue and yellow macaws, along with crested caracaras and king vultures.

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    One of the largest zoos in the nation, the San Antonio Zoo houses more than 3,500 animals, making it a must-see for kids and adults alike. Besides having a look at the zoo's exotic animals, the kids will love a ride on the train and the carousel.

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    Located next to Hermann Park near Houston's famed Medical District, the Houston Zoo has been giving Houston area residents and visitors close-up views of exotic wildlife since 1922. Check out the African Forest, bird habitats, the Hoofed Run, and the children's zoo, among many other outstanding exhibits.

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    Located in Victoria, the Texas Zoo is dedicated to the "conservation of Texas fauna and flora" and has numerous displays showcasing native Texas wildlife. Victoria is in the Golden Crescent of South Texas and is equidistant from Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Corpus Christi.

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  • 05 of 10
    Austin Zoo 2016
    MarkScottAustinTX/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Formed in 1994, the Austin Zoo has grown every year since its formation and now draws more than 200,000 visitors annually. Introduce your kids to lions, tigers, and bears, along with monkeys, wolves, genets, cockatoos, peacocks, tortoises, and that all-time kid favorite, turtles. It's Texas, so don't forget to stop by to see the longhorn cattle and pot-bellied pig. 

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    Zebras - Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
    Rhonda Rubin/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

    Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is a 400-acre drive-through safari located in the Texas Hill Country, just outside of San Antonio. The ranch showcases a variety of exotic species like rhinos, lemurs, zebras, camels, and ostriches.

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    Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
    LegendZ3/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    This 1,700-acre wildlife center, located in Glen Rose, 60 miles southwest of Fort Worth, is dedicated to preserving and protecting endangered and threatened species. Visitors can view more than​ 1,000 animals from their own car or on guided tours.

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    Sand Cat at El Paso Zoo
    Greg Heartsfield/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Few folks realize this border city is home to one of the most impressive zoos in the state. Don't miss your chance to see it while you're in town. It has a huge green space that's home to exotic animals from all around the world.

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  • 09 of 10

    Founded in 1888, the Dallas Zoo is Texas' oldest zoo. In addition, its 95 acres of displays make it Texas' largest zoo in terms of land mass. Check out the Cheetah Encounter, Lemur Lookout, the Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari, and the children's zoo, and take a ride on the T-Rex Express mini-train for an adventure-filled day.

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    Visitors to the Fort Worth Zoo will be transfixed by its wonderful exhibits, which include Raptor Canyon to Koala Outback, and attractions such as Tasmanian Tower and the virtual safari.