All Ages

5 Free U.S. Zoos for Families


Yes, they exist! These are five of our favorite U.S. zoos with free admission.

A lion at The National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

The National Zoo – Washington, D.C.

The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is one of 19 Smithsonian museums to offer free admission! We especially love this zoo’s conservation programs, as well as its interactive programs, offered daily. Programs include fish and lemur feeding and the meet-an-animal series, allowing kids to get up close with reptiles, mammals, farm animals and more.

Visiting from out of town? Consider one of the zoo’s Panda Hotel Packages, offered at The Fairmont Washington, D.C., Beacon Hotel, Omni Shoreham Hotel and Bethesda Court Hotel. The package helps the National Zoo support its efforts to save the species, and families receive a fun gift box!

Cape May County Park & Zoo – Cape May, N.J.

The Cape May County Park & Zoo is small, manageable for a short visit, and completely free! Families will find more than 550 animals here, along with train and carousel rides and a rock climbing wall. The zoo is a short drive from the beach, named one of the best beaches for families in 2015.

Elephants at the Saint Louis Zoo in Missouri.

Saint Louis Zoo – Saint Louis

Admission to the Saint Louis Zoo is completely free; you just have to pay for some of the additional attractions within the park, including the Children’s Zoo, ZooLine Railroad, Stingrays at Caribbean Cove and the Conservation Carousel.

Lincoln Park Zoo – Chicago

Looking for something fun and free in Chicago? Head to the Lincoln Park Zoo, sprawled across 35 acres of land. We love the scenery along the Nature Boardwalk in the summer months and in the winter, ZooLights is a can’t-miss experience for the holidays!

Como Park Zoo – St. Paul, Minn.

While donations are encouraged, admission to the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul is completely free. Here, families will find everything from giraffes to bison, plus a carousel, mini-golf and a frog conversation exhibit (appropriately named Ribbit Zibit).

More From Family Vacation Critic:
10 Best National Parks for Families
12 Best Resorts That Get You Close to Animals

Our team of parents and travel experts chooses each product and service we recommend. Anything you purchase through links on our site may earn us a commission.