Josh and I recently visited Florida to spend time with his family before heading over to Walt Disney World for a few days, so we took a day trip to Zoo Miami. Initially, I was honestly hoping for a beach day (even though I love zoos…it’s just been a long time since we’ve had beach days at home!), but I am so happy we went with the zoo instead because this day was one of my favorites of our entire trip.
About Zoo Miami
Zoo Miami is Florida’s largest zoo and the fifth largest zoo in the country, a fact that was immediately obvious as we began walking around. Coming from the northeast, the zoos closest to home simply do not have as much space as this one does, and while I love our local zoos, too, it was nice to see how much space the animals had here and to see how the zoo was able to theme different areas to the animals’ natural habitats.
Of course, Florida’s weather patterns give this zoo an edge over other parts of the country, as the climate in Miami makes it possible for the zoo to care for animals from Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Americas.
The zoo has been a staple of southern Florida since 1948, but it has grown substantially over the years. Today, Zoo Miami is home to over 2,500 animals from 400 different species, all cared for under AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) protocols for animal care and global conservation initiatives.
My Favorites at Zoo Miami
The absolute best part of the day, hands down, was feeding the giraffes! The Samburu Feeding Station hosts giraffe feeding sessions during select hours throughout the day, and it’s only $5-12 for the experience. ($5 gets you a couple of leaves of romaine lettuce, and $12 gets you a basket.)
We also loved seeing the Galapagos Tortoises, including Goliath, the zoo’s oldest resident, who weighs in at about 500 lbs. Since our trip, I’ve also learned that the zoo hosts a Tortoise Encounter that allows guests to learn about the tortoises and get a closer look at them, so next time we’re in the area, we’ll be sure to check this out. (You can also find a full list of animal activities on the zoo’s website before you go.)
Our favorite area of the zoo was the Amazon section. Coming from the northeast, and with most of our other zoo experiences being in areas with cooler temps like Chicago and New York, we just don’t haven’t seen these kinds of animals as often. This area alone has over 100 species of animals to see, including giant river otters, jaguars, harpy eagles, and anacondas, just to name a few.
What to Know Before You Go
Tickets are available at the gate, but we recommend purchasing online. This tip can be especially helpful, I’m sure, depending on when you plan to visit. We went to the zoo on a weekday during what I would imagine is their shoulder season, and there was still a (short) wait to purchase tickets at the gate.
Zoo Miami is HUGE. There used to be a monorail system to take guests around the exhibits, and after opting to walk everywhere, I definitely understand why. The second half of our Florida trip was spent at Walt Disney World, so we were prepared for a lot of walking, but my watch actually showed more steps at Zoo Miami than some of our Disney days.
There were several other ways to get around the zoo, with other guests opting to rent animal-themed Rydables or surrey bikes, and while the walking was doable, it was a lot. Just like I’d recommend with a Disney trip, if you aren’t up for that much walking, I’d consider renting one of these vehicles (or a wheelchair, stroller, or ECV) to get around the zoo.
Plan to spend a lot of time and potentially some extra cash. I found Zoo Miami to be much more comparable to a larger park and more of an all-day experience like Disney’s Animal Kingdom than a local zoo. As a result, we spent nearly the whole day at the zoo, and I still feel like I could go back and see a lot more. If I were local, I’d look into purchasing a membership just to be able to come back multiple times rather than trying to squeeze everything into a single visit.
As for the extra spending money, we spent more at Zoo Miami than we usually would at our local zoo here in New England. I don’t even mean this as a negative part of our visit, though, as I still feel like everything was a pretty good value, but I do want to point out that, like Animal Kingdom this zoo is much more of an experience than simply viewing animals so it’s easier to find yourself spending money once you’re in the gates.
For us, in addition to admission, we purchased two of the photos taken at the entrance to the zoo, the giraffe feeding experience (which is arguably the best $12 I’ve ever spent), beers in souvenir cups, and Dippin’ Dots, water, and a small souvenir.
To start planning your visit to Zoo Miami, head over to ZooMiami.org.