Zoos, aquariums, safari parks, aerial adventure parks and botanical gardens create incredible opportunities to learn about and engage with the world around us. A panel of experts nominated their top picks, and then you helped us narrow down the nominees to the 10 best in each category.
Click on each category below to see the full winners list:
Best Aerial Adventure Park: Legacy Mountain Ziplines in Sevierville, Tennessee
Legacy Mountain Ziplines offers adventurers a bird’s-eye view of the Great Smoky Mountains — Photo courtesy of Getty Images / Jonathan Ross
Located just a few miles outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Legacy Mountain Ziplines boasts the “longest zipline in the USA at 3,400 feet” and offers unparalleled views of the Smokies on seven adventure-filled lines.
Best Aquarium: Wonders of Wildlife in Springfield, Missouri
Wonders of Wildlife celebrates hunting, fishing and stewardship of land and water — Photo courtesy of Wonders of Wildlife
Founded by Johnny Morris, CEO of Bass Pro Shops, Springfield’s Wonders of Wildlife celebrates hunting, fishing and stewardship of the land and water through 1.5 miles of immersive galleries featuring 4D dioramas and a 1.5-million-gallon aquarium.
Some 35,000 animals representing over 800 species are on display, including zebra sharks, sea turtles and freshwater sport fish. Unique to the aquarium is its collection of historic boats used by fishing legends and celebrities, like Jimmy Buffet, Ernest Hemingway and Zane Grey.
Best Botanical Garden: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida
Coral Gables, Florida is home to the Best Botanical Garden in the USA — Photo courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
The warm climate of Coral Gables allows tropical plants to be grown outdoors year-round at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden – one of the only places in the continental United States where this is possible.
Exotic butterflies fly freely within the Wings of the Tropics Conservatory, while the Rare Plant House displays 450 species of rare and endangered tropical plants from around the globe. Other themed gardens include a Tropical Fruit Pavilion, Palm Glade, Tropical Flower Garden, Succulent Garden and even a display of the dry forest plants of Madagascar.
Best Wildlife/Safari Park: Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park in Ashland, Nebraska
Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park helps visitors discover a new appreciation for American wildlife — Photo courtesy of Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park
An accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park invites visitors to drive along a 4-mile route through habitats populated by native North American plant and animal species – American elk, bison, waterfowl, raptors and white-tailed deer.
At Wolf Canyon, guests can hop out of the car to see grey wolves and American black bears or walk through the half-acre Eagle Aviary.
Best Zoo: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in Cincinnati, Ohio
Fiona the hippo happily makes her home at the Best Zoo in North America — Photo courtesy of Michelle Curley
The Cincinnati Zoo (one of the oldest zoos in the nation) brings visitors nose-to-nose with a range of exciting animals. Guests can view hippos underwater (including world-famous hippo Fiona), pop up in a bubble amid meerkats or watch cheetahs racing at top speeds.
The multi-sensory Night Hunters exhibit hosts cats and other nocturnal predators, while Manatee Springs seeks the long-term conservation of the Florida manatee by encouraging guests to observe these gentle giants.
Best Zoo Exhibit: Asian Highlands at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo is home to the Best Zoo Exhibit of 2021 — Photo courtesy of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
The Asian Highlands exhibit at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo begins with visitors entering beneath a replica Himalayan ruin and then traveling along a footpath that takes them through “the southern foothills of the Himalayans.” Along their journey, visitors will observe Indian rhinos, sloth bears, red pandas, snow leopards and much more.
Congratulations to all these winning nominees! Remember to visit 10Best.com daily to vote in all of our Readers’ Choice Awards categories.