Visiting The Top Rated Zoo in the Country….

Photo: Michael Farah.
Photo: Michael Farah.

When it comes to zoo’s, I am always torn. While I fiercely will not support any circus featuring animals, I do not feel as harsh when supporting most zoo’s. So, when we were down in the South earlier in the Fall, the opportunity came up to spend the afternoon at The Memphis Zoo. Fun, I thought. Little did I know that this would easily become the best zoo I have ever visited, and that it has been awarded, numerous times, The Best USA Zoo (Including by TripAdvisor and national surveys.)

Greeted by fantastic larger-than-life statues of the resident animals, you cannot help but be struck by the strong Egyptian influence at the entrance gates. Following in the suit of Memphis, Egypt, the famous Southern city (and home to Elvis!) went through a controversial makeover in the early 90’s that found many buildings and architecture paying homage to their middle eastern roots. While it struck me as a little random, it indeed makes for a striking arrival.

Once we were inside, we soon found ourselves checking out the apes and monkeys at The Primate Canyon, with some of them able to say hi from the huge glass windows at the cafe next door! How fun would that be for a child, munching on their French fries with a monkey saying hi?

Photo: Michael Farah.
Photo: Michael Farah.
Photo: Michael Farah.
Photo: Michael Farah.

Across from the apes, we were able to get (fairly) up close and personal with a couple of majestic lions. While I can recall many zoo’s I’ve visited requiring a bit of a trek to get to the exhibits, The Memphis Zoo wastes no time with an array of animals and sights to see from the beginning of your visit.

Traveling on from the Egyptian entrances, I appreciated never quite knowing whereabouts your Memphis Zoo visit will take you. Soon after checking out some incredible white tigers and taking a break to see the sea lions get their daily exercise and lunch (A really cute, interactive show that is also the perfect break if you or your kiddo need one), we found ourselves in China among traditional houses and even the opportunity to rub good luck man himself, Budai (Or kiss him on the  head, which I did since Michael thought was the secret trick to his luck!).

The highlight of Memphis Zoo’s China exhibit is, of course: The giant panda. With only being one of four USA zoos to have these endangered species (San Diego Zoo, Zoo Atlanta and Smithsonian’s National Zoo being the other three), it was magnificent to see either Le Le or Ya Ya (the respected residents names) that day, yet, also a bit humorous:

Photo: Michael Farah.
Photo: Michael Farah.

Maybe it was just us, but this guy (or gal) just looked like they had a major food coma or hangover happening!

Another reason I was so impressed with this zoo were for the opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the (friendly) animals, along with the front row access to see the seals frolic, you can also take a ride on a camel, and feed a giraffe! Here I thought I would be a pro at riding a camel, but-little did I know you ride ON the guy’s hump. Why did I think it was between?! At first, it was a little uncomfortable and I was worried I was going to hurt him (Even after being told he can hold up to 3,000 pounds on that back!). But, by the time my little ‘excursion’ came to an end, I was ready to do that circle around the pen, again 😉

I am riding a camel, in Tennessee! Photo: Michael Farah.
I am riding a camel, in Tennessee! Photo: Michael Farah.

While Michael, on the other hand, took a turn with feeding a giraffe….

Photo: Michael Farah.
Photo: Michael Farah.
Lions! Photo: Michael Farah.
Lions! Photo: Michael Farah.

Another exhibit that took me by surprise was The Teton Trek. This inclining trail takes you above some of the most  gorgeous animals commonly found in The Rocky Mountains, just below you in their habitat. The timber wolves were stark and haunting, while the elk were laid back and adorable.

The Memphis Zoo lies on 70 acres, and to cover all of the exhibits (as well as their aquarium, which we did not get the chance to explore) it will be about a two-mile walk. Throughout the grounds you will find resting areas, restaurants, cafes, a tram to also get around, and beautiful gift shops. If I were a local in Memphis, this would be the perfect place to have a years’ membership and take a stroll through; while saying hey to your animal buddies!

If you’ll be traveling with OR without kids, I highly recommend The Memphis Zoo. While Michael and I were with friends children, we know we would have had as much fun had it been a “date night” or a stop while in town. Gorgeous and fun for all ages! xo

(*Disclosure: This is not a Media sponsored post. All opinions are my own.)

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