Go from Asian forests to the African plains at this animal park that’s home to pandas, exotic birds, and the country’s biggest collection of gorillas.
Zoo Atlanta is home to more than 1,500 animals, from African elephants to rare Guatemalan beaded lizards. This popular tourist destination has been around since the late 1800s. It all started with a small pack of circus animals, including a bear, jaguar, hyena, pumas, lions and snakes. When the show went bankrupt, the animals were bought by a Georgian businessman who donated them to the City of Atlanta.
Today more than 200 species of animal are kept in well-kept and realistic natural habitats. The zoo spans nearly 40 acres (16 hectares) of Grant Park, a historic neighborhood just west of downtown Atlanta.
This is a great day trip for the entire family. Rent strollers and wheelchairs from outside the Gift Shop near the main entrance, pick up a map and start exploring one of several paths that branch off from the Flamingo Plaza.
Flamingos, elephants and exotic birds are the first points of call. Then, head left to the African Plains, a five-acre (two-hectare) savanna with lions, warthogs, zebras and endangered black rhinos.
You’ll find the biggest collection of gorillas in the U.S. next door. Twenty of these impressive beasts roam through 1.5 acres (0.6 hectares) of lush greenery. The Atlanta Zoo is one of only four zoos in the country to house giant pandas: a mother, father and their two cubs are kept in the far north corner of the park.
Children will enjoy feeding sheep, pigs and kangaroos at an Outback Station petting zoo, while parents can sit on a bench and watch the fun while resting a bit.
Don’t miss regular feeding demonstrations and keeper talks throughout the day. Check the zoo’s official website for the timetable, which changes daily.
Zoo Atlanta is open every day except Christmas Day and Thanksgiving. Allow at least three hours to make your way around. The best time to come is in the morning and afternoon, as many animals are less active in the middle of the day.
Grant’s Park is easily accessibly by public transport.