Zoo Miami (renamed from Miami MetroZoo to Zoo Miami on July 4, 2010) is Florida’s largest zoo seated on 740 acres and features more than 2,000 animals of 500 species.
I’ve personally visited about 8 times and there’s plenty to see, even if you were recently there. I was taken by my parents a couple times as a child, and as a parent myself, I’ve taken my children several times. It’s genuinely an awesome experience.
If you’re on a budget, this is definitely a great place. Assuming you bring your food & drinks, a family of 4 can get in and pick up a couple wax figure souvenirs for less than $60.
If you walk the entire path, you’ll get 3 mi (5 km) of exercise in so wear comfy sneakers. The grounds are very nicely maintained and there’s literally something to see at every turn.
Our April 2013 visit had less than the average amount of people compared to prior visits and took us about 7 hours including sitting down for rests, lunch and a little bit of rain to see literally every animal and exhibit (we didn’t worry about shows this time). Even if the place is packed, you’ll maybe add another hour as the path is quite roomy and allows for several groups to move around at once, the exhibits have large viewing areas, sometimes from two sides, and there’s plenty to see.
You can take the famous monorail train (it now has graphics on the sides now similar to a car wrap) for a flat rate or rent a shared bike (4 adults and 2 kids can ride simultaneously). If you have folks with mobility issues, the bike is a great choice as not everyone has to pedal, but they can if they choose and the sides are open so everyone will have a great view.
- Bring a comfy backpack per adult
- Have at least 8 quarters in your pocket to buy food for the fish/ducks/flamingos from manual vending machines
- $2 per wax souvenir (pretty detailed, about the size of eye glasses)
- About $3 per soft drink if you want ‘em cold from vending machines or $2.50 for water
- If you want to hand-feed the giraffes, you’ll need about $5-10
- Camel rides are $5 per lap (a little short in my opinion, but how often can you say you’ve ridden a camel?)
- If you don’t like being rained on, pack a poncho
- If you’re on a budget, bring sandwiches and water. They won’t gripe, but be sure to dispose of your trash properly pretty please.
- Camera. If you’re an ‘I need this $800 camera because one day I’ll need it’ person, this’ll be your day. If you use point & shoot cameras, you’ll be great too. Charge your batteries, bring extra if possible and bring extra memory cards. Make sure to use the highest photo quality setting!
- Hat. The bigger and flopper the better! It’d be wise to wear a bandana under hats with holes in them… I wore mine the entire trip and still ended up with sunburn on my shaved head. Those of you with hair will be OK, but if you’re a ‘better safe than sorry’ person, double up so you don’t flake later on.
Trail-side wax figure makers include a giraffe, tiger, rhino, otter, elephant, flamingo, and camel. They were $2 USD (two singles) each, so if you want to get ‘em all, plan ahead and bring a sectioned bag (bonus points if you bring a camera lens bag).
There’s a large souvenir shop between the entrance & exit, so you should wait until you’re done to enjoy the A/C and look at the somewhat reasonably-priced stuffed animals and toys your kids will want. You’ll find many of the popular animals in toy form here (sorry Indian Muntjac, you’re not part of the party) and a section of pink for girls including Hello Kitty. Expect to drop about $20 per kid for a reasonable-sized stuffed animal.
There’s a fantastic kids’ petting zoo with a meerkat enclosure that you can’t interact with, but you can at least show the kids what Timon looks like in real life. My kids are a bit older, so I didn’t spend a lot of time in the petting zoo, but there’s a sit down area to eat from the booth (the animal smells are free!) and a reptile room which is pretty cool. You’ll probably want to make sure to have your camera handy and some hand sanitizer in a holster.
Younger kids will probably enjoy the fountains, so it’d be wise to have them already dressed in water-friendly garb, with a towel and change of clothes on hand. There’s a large rest area right here, but don’t let the kids wear themselves out as it’s about half-way through the park (unless you’ve got a stroller or rented bike). Giraffes are right around the corner!
Remember that holstered sanitizer you had at the petting zoo? Get it ready, ’cause you’re about to feed a giraffe! Their long and agile tongues have a giraffe goo (not tasty, nor does it help with sun burn!). Each visit they had a different menu with different prices, but you can expect a couple kids will be able to share a $10 portion of food for them. There’s usually a a long line, so bonus points for the adult that makes the sacrifice while the kids are playing in the water area to stand in the giraffe line, but it’s really, really worth it (check your map). Sometimes there’s sanitizer when you’re done, but not always, so to be the awesome parent, make sure you have an extra bottle of water (or empty that you filled up at a water fountain) and let the kids at least scrub & rinse their hands off in the clean water, let them air dry and then use some sanitizer. There’s amazingly no restrooms near the giraffe feeding, despite this program being in place for a couple years now (you’ll want to go to the center of the zoo’s paths where the top loop meets the bottom one for a proper restroom with soap).
Every and I mean every exhibit is completely kid-friendly. The staff is really friendly and kid-centric.
Food & Drink
There’re kiosks and buildings with seating available throughout the zoo ready to serve you everything from local Latin favorites to standard American fare like pizza and ice cream. You can bring your own food & drink in to the zoo. Please make sure to bring a bag to contain your trash!
Good to know
- Smoking is allowed in designated areas
- Occasional covered areas in case of bad rain
When & Where
12400 SW 152 Street, Miami, FL 33177
Open daily from 9:30am – 5:30pm.
Adults $16, kids up to 12 $12. Lots of discounts apply including seniors, military, and the South Florida Parenting Kids Fun Pass.
Prices and experiences noted are from an April 2013 visit.