The largest zoo in Florida and the only tropical zoo in the entire country, it’s no wonder people from all over flock to Zoo Miami. Also known as the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, the 750-acre Zoo Miami first opened over 70 years ago in the Crandon Park area of Key Biscayne. Decades later, in 1980, the zoo moved south to where the Richmond Naval Air Station used to be. Though there have been trials and tribulations, like Hurricane Andrew, which caused incredible devastation to the area in 1992, Zoo Miami has continued to grow and flourish and is now home to over 3,000 animals. Zoo Miami was one of the first free-range zoos in the country (exhibits are cageless) and is home to a variety of animals from all over the world, including Asia, Australia, and Africa.
How to Visit
Zoo Miami is open every day of the year from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a few exceptions. Call for holiday hours; the last ticket is usually sold an hour before closing time.
Tickets are always free for Zoo members and children under the age of 2 (parking is also free for everyone). For children ages 3 to 12, admission is $18.95 and for guests 13 and over admission is $22.95. Sales tax is not included and Zoo Miami doesn’t offer rain checks or refunds, either. Your best bet when the weather is less than amazing is to grab a raincoat and brave the storm, unless there’s thunder and lightning, of course. The zoo offers group discounts if your party consists of 10 or more people. This is a nice perk if you plan to spend a birthday there.
There are plenty of ways to get to Zoo Miami, namely by car via the Florida Turnpike (exit 16), but there is a public bus service into the zoo on weekends and holidays and you can always arrange to be picked up and dropped off by a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft. Once inside the zoo, you can get from exhibit to exhibit on foot or you can rent bikes for the whole family. It’s pretty hot in Miami year-round, but at Zoo Miami there are plenty of trees for shade as well as misters to help you cool off.
Things to Do at Zoo Miami
The biggest attraction at Zoo Miami is obviously the animals. You can wander on your own accord but there are some special exhibits that you should definitely check out, like:
- Florida: Mission Everglades: Journey through Florida with this exhibition that’s home to about 60 different species all native to Florida habitats. Experience animals you’ll only find in the Everglades like the roseate spoonbill, the Florida panther, black bear, burrowing owl, gopher tortoise, bald eagle, American crocodile, American alligator, Florida box turtle, and more.
- Dr. Wilde’s World: A 7,000-square-foot museum with traveling exhibits, Dr. Wilde’s World is great because it provides an interactive canvas where children can learn by touching the artifacts and unique specimens that are on display.
- American Bankers Family Aviary: At the largest Asian-themed aviary in the western hemisphere, you’ll find birds big and small. Even aquatic birds, that swim above and below water, are present here.
- Critter Connection: Home to the Wacky Barn, where children can pet and learn about domesticated animals, Critter Connection is the place to get up close and personal with the animals. You’ll also find the Camel Encounter and a beautiful Butterfly Garden here.
- Amazon and Beyond: A 27-acre exhibit filled with reptiles, amphibians and more amidst exotic plants, trees and shrubs, Amazon and Beyond is meant to transport you to the forests of Central and South America with three unique eco-regions. If it’s your first time in the rainforest, prepare to be amazed.
There’s something special going on at Zoo Miami nearly every day, but frequent visitors have come to anticipate certain events on a yearly basis, such as:
- Zoo Boo: The funnest trick-or-treating event in South Florida, Zoo Boo is a yearly event where children 12 and under get to dress up in Halloween costumes, participate in costume contests, watch live performances, do arts and crafts and, of course, see the animals.
- ZooRun5k and ZooKidsDash: A race that benefits West Kendall Baptist Hospital and the Zoo Miami Foundation, this one is also in October and definitely worth signing up for. Proceeds go toward improving community and environmental health and animal costumes are encouraged.
- Brew at the Zoo: This is Miami’s largest beer festival with samples from over 100 vendors and Brew at the Zoo celebrated its 10th anniversary this year in May! With live music and the promise of good times all around, Brew at the Zoo is the perfect girls’ night, date night or group night with friends. Leave the kiddos at home for this one and make sure to purchase your tickets in advance before they sell out.