Best Midwest Zoos to Visit with Kids


There are so many amazing Midwest zoos worth exploring within a short drive from Manhattan. Make sure you take advantage of the membership at Manhattan’s Sunset Zoo to get a 50-percent discount or free! Let’s explore the zoos around Manhattan, from closest to farthest.

Midwest Zoos Worth Exploring

Topeka Zoo

Sunset Zoo Members: Get in FREE!

Topeka Zoo is a nice small zoo, which is great for smaller kids as they won’t be easily bored or overtired. Families of Sunset zoo get in free to this zoo! It has big animals like lions, giraffes, hippos, and elephants. Camp Cowabunga, located by the lions, is fun area for children to explore with interactive activities. You can pull a hot air balloon cord, look at dung beetles, and sit or drive in the safari truck.

All summer, check out the have a pop-up exhibit featuring animal Legos! The Legos will show the super powers of animals through evolution and biology. In the newly expanded giraffe exhibit, you can feed the giraffes on Sundays. There are extra wild encounters that they offer at Topeka zoo, that aren’t well known about but for an additional cost, you can feed mountain lion, black bear, hippo, sloth, lorikeets, otters, elephants, tigers, and giraffes.

Across the parking lot from the zoo, there is a huge playground in Gage Park. The playground has giant animal statues that children can climb and play in.

Rolling Hills Zoo

Sunset Zoo Members: Get in 50% off

Rolling hills Zoo features big lake or pond in the middle of the zoo that you walked around to get to see more animals. Guests can enjoy a narrated tram ride through the zoo which stops at key locations in the park so guests can get off and explore on their own. Featured animals include rhinos, camels, kangaroos, bears, apes, a reptile house, big cats, and many more. The Zoo features a 64,000 square foot museum that will take you exploring through regions including the arctic and the rainforest.

Sedgwick County Zoo

Sunset Zoo Members: Get in 50% off

Sedgwick County Zoo is a two-hour drive to fun. Explore the animals with train ride to see behind the scene glimpses or a boat ride that takes you on a wild look at many different parts of the animal’s habitat. This zoo allows the guest to go through pathways, over bridges, and tunnels to give it some variety of how you are able to view the animals instead of just concert paths. They offer a wide variety of animals to explore and views that the smaller closer zoos might not offer. While you are visiting, take the time to go feed the giraffes and pet the stingrays.

Tanganyika Zoo

The Tanganyika Zoo centers around wildly unique animal encounters.

There isn’t a discount for Tanganyika Zoo with your membership but be sure to check theSunflower Summer app for potential free admission days. Tanganyika has the most animal encounters than any other zoo I have visited. A regular ticket gives you five encounters with the animals of your choosing. Choices include rhino, hippo, lemurs, giraffes, lorikeets, African tortoises, bunnies, guinea pig. Sometimes they let you touch the Rhino’s nose after you feed it and the lemurs walk on your legs while you feed them from your hand. On of my favorite parts was the kangaroo enclosure that you are able to walk through.

On top of regular admission tickets you can purchase the ability to get up close to many different animals including penguins, okapi, porcupine, owl monkeys and more. The extra experiences can be pricey and book up fast.

On top of all the animal experiences that make this zoo a must see, the have opened an animal-themed splash park. It is great for all day fun, so bring your bathing suits.  Tanganyika is a once in a lifetime experience!


Kansas City Zoo and Aquarium

Sunset Zoo Members: Get in 50% off

The KC Zoo and Aquarium is filled with attractions and extras for the kids. Highlights include a sky safari to overlook the African plains, a Tram ride, zoo train, carousel, boat tour (open during the summer months), and scooter pals! The children visiting the zoo will be able to explore the two playgrounds, Discovery Barn, and Learning Center with lots of unique opportunities to play.

Don’t miss out on feeding or just touching the stingrays, although I would pack an extra shirt for the little ones — my son never left dry even with the provided waterproof aprons. If you love kangaroos, you can walk through the wonders of the outback and have free range kangaroos walking near you. KC Zoo also has a newly added aquarium include with the price of admission, so you will get two experiences in one! It is an all-day experience that you and your children will love.

Henry Doorly Zoo (Omaha)

Sunset Zoo Members: Get in 50% off

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo is huge, recently voted the No. 1 zoo in the nation.

I would almost suggest two days to go visit. It can be done in one day but you will have some exhausted kids and probably parents. There are a lot of unique exhibits featured at the zoo including a desert dome that you can walk through and feel like you are in the actual desert! When exiting the desert explore the sun room and view newly hatched animals before they join the bigger desert.

Other exhibits that are highlighted at the Omaha Zoo:

  • Kingdoms of the Night, a nocturnal exhibit to unlock and view the creatures of the night.
  • Aquarium with a shark tunnel to walk through and feel you are in the ocean with the animals.
  • Butterfly and insect pavilion for all those that love bugs.
  • Lied Jungle, walk through the rainforest complete with waterfalls.

Another attraction not to miss: Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails is five acres of fun for children to touch, explore, and learn while playing. The trail offers raft crossing, goats, prairie dog town, underground tunnel with bubbles into the prairie dog habitat, and a huge treehouse with shipwrecks, climbing nets, and much more.

Saint Louis Zoo

Sunset Zoo Members: Get in 50% off an Adventure Pass (general admission is always free)

The Saint Louis Zoo offers free public admission! I always get the Adventure Pass when I go, it is worth the money especially since admission is free. The Adventure Pass includes, 4D theater, carousel, sea lion show, stingray cove, dinosaur exhibit, and the train.

I love the train ride here. Unlike many other zoo trains, it doesn’t start and finish at one location. The train has many stops through the zoo which makes it easier to get from the big cats to the rivers edge without walking the entire zoo. Don’t worry, you will have plenty of steps in throughout the areas that the train stops.

The Saint Louis Zoo has the big animals that we all love: tigers, camels, zebras, elephants, hippos, cheetahs, rhinos, bears, etc.   There isn’t a short supply on smaller animals either: tamarin, mongoose, anteater, capybara, prairie dog and so many more. In “The Wild” area is one of my favorites because you walk into the penguin’s habitat. It is cold but you could reach out and touch the penguins.

Around the zoo is Forest Park, a massive area to explore with many different spots like: Shakespeare Glenn, hammock garden, natural playscape, and art hill. You could easily spend a whole weekend at the zoo and park!


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