VapeDestinations: Best Zoos in the US
This week's VapeDestination is a great one. As it's National Zookeeper Week, we're taking a moment to thank the zookeepers out there who do all the dirty work to keep animals happy and healthy, and we're calling out our favorite zoos!
Take a #vapebreak and see if your favorite zoo made the cut! Warning, adorable baby animal pictures ahead!
Before starting my job at VapeWorld, I interned at a local zoo and learned so much. Not just the care and keeping of exotic species, but other really important lessons in paying close attention to detail, teamwork, patience, and trying to find peace while working in an extremely hot and humid environment.
One of the best things about zookeepers is they tend to love their jobs, and they are always passionate about animals first and foremost. You will never find a zookeeper that hates what they do, which is an incredibly refreshing attitude to have in a work environment.
img via buzzfeed
Most people believe being a zookeeper would be 'such a fun job'. Clearly, they just get to play with animals all day right? If you ask a zookeeper, they wouldn't be able to tell you how many times they hear "I wish I had your job" each day from guests because the count is so high. What most people don't realize is that keepers are at the zoo bright and early before it opens to check on their animals, prepare their diets, create fun and interesting enrichment, clean their exhibits, and they are there long after it closes.
Most zookeepers have degrees in biology, zoology, marine science, and the like. They are knowledgeable and have worked hard to be where they are. You cannot simply waltz into a zookeeping job without experience or education.
Some of the perks of zookeeping are working on weekends and holidays, trying to bring sloths inside during severe rain, getting pooped on, and going home with cuts and scrapes, and with dirt on their faces and knees. They also need to be strong as their job consists of bending and lifting almost the entirety of the day.
Zookeepers are also teachers. They give talks formally and informally each day to educate guests on conservation efforts and specific animal facts.
Basically what we're trying to say is that to be a zookeeper, you also kind of need to be like a superhero.
Without zookeepers, we wouldn't have the following amazing zoos in the country. Our criteria for this post's best zoos included best exhibits, enrichment, interesting animals, and other perks that make the zoo unique.
San Diego Zoo
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The San Diego Zoo is famous for being one of the biggest and best zoos in the entire world. Some 3,700 rare and endangered animals call the 100-acre zoo their home including Giant Pandas, gorillas and elephants. If you want to cruise the zoo in style, they have a double-decked bus that will tour you around for 35 minutes covering about 70% of the zoo.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
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San Diego Zoo's Safari Park is a separate zoo where you can see all of your favorite animals in a natural setting. Safari carts will comfortably take you around the park to see giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs and more! Walk through their new lemur walk exhibit - an up close and personal look at these awesome primates from Madagascar, or take a hot air balloon tour 400 feet in the air over the Safari Park grounds!
St. Louis Zoo
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Go on safaris through the zoo to see primates, big exotic cats, hippos, okapi and more! There is a children's zoo for the little ones (and children at heart) where you can brush all the goats and rabbits your heart desires, while learning about how to protect the environment at the same time. Be sure to check out the Insectarium that houses more than 100 live insects, one of the very few exhibits in the US dedicated just to bugs! Did we mention the admission to this zoo is 100% free?
Zoological Wildlife Foundation
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Called the #1 attraction in Miami Florida by TripAdvisor, the Zoological Wildlife Foundation is a great place to see exotic animals up close. Book a personal tour to meet and actually hold many exotic animal ambassadors like Capuchin monkeys, large cats such as lions and tigers, tons of birds and more! This is a once in a lifetime experience for some people who may never have another chance to get so close to these rare endangered species and to learn all about them.
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If you're a Jack Hanna fan, you know that he was named Director of the Columbus Zoo in 1978, and now the Director Emeritus. Since then, he has been invited to be on Good Morning America, the Late Show, Larry King Live, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and tons more with different animal ambassadors from the zoo. At the Columbus Zoo you'll see American Bison, Orangutans, Red Pandas, even a Flying Fox Bat (shown above). Feed the giraffes, pet the stingrays in the touch tank, learn about the tropical fish and coral reefs from a diver in the aquarium, or visit the Reptile Keeper Lab!
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
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Although there are 950 animals you can see at this zoo, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is known for it's award-winning, $11 million African Rift Valley exhibit, home to the largest giraffe herd in any zoo. Go through the Australia Walkabout featuring free-flight birds, emus, wallabies, alligators, and a tree kangaroo! If you're feeling tired from walking, take a Mountaineer Sky Ride, a chairlift-style ride that will take you over part of the zoo.
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Born in 1948, Zoo Miami is the largest and oldest zoological garden in Florida and is completely cage-free. There are 3,000 animals that live there on 750 acres, as well as 1,000 species of trees, palms, and other plants. Feed a One-Horned Indian Rhino, listen to the hooting of the Siamang Gibbons calls, and see the giant Aldabra Tortoises while you're there! When you visit the Australia section at the zoo, you must see the Wings Down Under exhibit, a free-flight 1,656 square-foot aviary that is home to over 300 colorful birds!
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Home to 3,500 animals spread across 70 acres of land, the Memphis Zoo has been around since 1906! In 2003, the Memphis Zoo was one of only four zoos in the country to have Giant Pandas, and the zoo has come very far in panda reproduction studies. Did you know they have an ability to accurately predict a pregnant panda's due date? With panda populations decreasing, the research they've done is invaluable! Visit their new jellyfish exhibit, feed the stingrays, and check out "Takes Flight" - the free-flight bird show while you're there!
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Take an animal adventure by getting up close and personal with penguins, sea lions, elephants, giraffes and more during a meet and greet experience! Make sure you see Bear Mountain, a national historic landmark built in 1918! This naturalistic habitat is home to grizzly bears, black bears and coati. The Feline House is also a must-see, called the most dramatic exhibit to open up since Bear Mountain. You'll see Amur tigers, leopards and snow leopards, as well as hyena and foosa.
Fort Worth Zoo
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Founded in 1909 with just a handful of animals, now this zoo is home to more than 7,000 animals and is the oldest zoo in Texas. Take a behind the scenes tour with penguins, see Asian Elephants, Western Lowland Gorillas, Black Rhinos, African Lions, Grant's Zebra, Meerkats and so much more! This zoo is especially great for little ones as they have a 25 foot rock climbing wall, train rides, a carousel, and the new 'Safari Splash' - a 14,000 suare foot water area equipped with lounge chairs, four slides, and animal shaped water cannons. What could be better?
If we leave you with anything, just know that when you support these zoos, you are supporting many different conservation projects that are dedicated to research development and saving endangered species. And don't forget to hug a zookeeper - they make the magic happen!
What is your favorite zoo that you've been to? Where are you trying to visit next? Leave a comment and let us know!