People ask me if it is worth the drive to Zoo Miami, after all it can take 1- 1 1/2 hours from Miami Beach, and I answer, “ABSOLUTELY”!
Located fifteen miles southwest of downtown Miami, the zoo was relocated from Key Biscayne in 1980. It is voted one of the Top Ten Zoos in North America by Foder’s Travel. It is the largest and oldest zoological garden in Florida and the only tropical zoo in the United States. It houses over 3,000 animals on 740 acres. I was blown away by how remarkable the animals were from all around the globe. The park is organized into different continents from Africa, Asia, South America, Australia, the Amazon rain forest and even the Everglades is represented. It’s a large park – I suggest wearing comfortable walking shoes – with about 3 1/2 miles of pathways to cover. An excellent idea is to rent a family bike/buggy that can seat up to six people. Everyone or just one can peddle your way around the park, and get off or on at your leisure. It has a canopy to shield you from rain or the hot sun. There are actually four modes of transport in the park, walking, safari cycle, a narrated driven tram car or the monorail. FYI, you don’t see much on the monorail, just the tops of trees. My best tip, that the park really doesn’t advertise, is requesting a VIP tour. Call up and ask the operator to connect you to the special desk that arranges this. This can be done for up to 5 people. It is a two-hour tour at a cost of $89 plus admission, which is a relative bargain compared to other parks. Our driver Carlos got us through almost the entire park. He started at the back and worked his way to the front where we finished off the remaining area on our own and then were close to the exit. We could jump off and on whenever we wanted to get a closer look at the animals, go to a rest stop or get a snack. It is a big park to walk with young ones and this made navigating a relative breeze. There is also another VIP tour where you can interact and feed the animals. I recommend coming early, when the park opens at 10AM. There are less crowds and it is not as hot. When our tour guide started in Africa at the back of the park, we were the only guests and had the place to ourselves. It is also quieter midweek than on weekends.
The park is so well designed. They had “cool zones” throughout the park where you can mist yourself and there are is also a splash zone area as well to play in.
The animals are not in cages, but rather open air exhibits or habitats, utilizing low moats, exotic foliage, forest-like settings with rocky outcrops. This makes for great viewing of the animals, with some areas have viewing caves or glass walls.
There is a great variety of animals from lions, tigers, elephants, gorillas, rhinos, koalas, giraffes, meerkats, monkeys, exotic birds and other exotic species. Zoo Miami also has a children’s area where they can pet and feed animals. You will see a lot of staff throughout the zoo, cleaning the grounds and the habitats.
We spent over 4 hours in total at the zoo – you really could double that if you go to all the exhibits, wildlife shows, playgrounds, animal interactions, boat rides and the carousel.
The kiddies also loved the large, well-stocked gift shop on the way out.
This is one of Miami’s greatest attractions and is quite extensive. It is spotless and well-organized. One complaint, as I have at all these parks, is why can’t they serve better and healthier food choices?
The zoo is crowd pleasing for the young or old alike. It is a delightful way to spend a day and you know it was a success when the kids ask you on the way out, “When can we come again!?”