Nicknamed the “The Gem State,” brilliant, sparkling stones aren’t the only things that make Idaho a wonderful place to visit. It’s also home to towering pine trees, beautiful and still lakes, delicious potatoes, and a variety of zoos that locals and tourists alike can visit.
Rife with all kinds of wildlife — from native species to endangered ones — the zoos in Idaho should definitely be on your travel bucket list when you’re on vacation. Along with your family and friends, here are the best zoos in Idaho that can awaken your wild side.
Map of Cities in Idaho That Have Zoos
Zoo Idaho in Pocatello
Since opening 90 years ago, Zoo Idaho in Pocatello has significantly evolved from displaying two animals in a local trailer park to becoming a full-fledged, 25-acre zoological facility that houses 98 animals. With 30 exhibits currently available and a yearly attendance of almost 32,000, Zoo Idaho offers visitors the chance to see animals they might not see in other zoos, such as bears, bison, cougars, elk, deer, coyotes, owls, eagles, and many more.
Formerly known as Pocatello Zoo and Ross Park Zoo, the zoo officially changed its name to Zoo Idaho in 2016 to reflect the zoo’s identity as an indigenous species zoo. Numerous animals that can be encountered in Zoo Idaho are either orphaned or have been injured and could not have survived in the local wildlife.
A favorite among the zoo’s exhibits is the Sara W. Ifft Grizzly Bear Exhibit, which set attendance records during its opening in 2012 on the eve of Independence Day. At the exhibit, visitors can experience an up-close encounter with Stripes, the zoo’s lone grizzly, as well as other bears from the glass viewing gallery. The half-acre natural exhibit also features a stunning backdrop of Scout Mountain, as well as a circulating stream and pond with live bass and trout.
Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park
Set to reopen on April 13 for the 2022 season, the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park is a seven-acre zoo inside Tautphaus Park, which is owned and operated by the City of Idaho Falls’ Parks and Recreation Department. Known as the “best little zoo in the west,” the Idaho Falls Zoo is home to over 300 animals representing 130 exotic species from all over the world.
Every year, the Idaho Falls Zoo receives around 145,000 visitors who are treated to an exciting wildlife encounter with animals such as African lions and penguins, an Amur tiger, Chilean flamingos, snow leopards, Bactrian camels, and a host of others.
When visiting the zoo, you can experience any or all of the six available exhibits, which include Africa, where you can encounter more than 28 species of African wildlife, from lions and zebras, to lemurs and penguins; Asia, which is home to numerous endangered species such as sloth bears, snow leopards, and red-crowned cranes; Australia and New Guinea, where you can encounter wallabies, New Guinea singing dogs, and a kookaburra; the Children’s Zoo, where kids can feed a sheep, watch pigs play in the mud, and pet a goat; North America, where you can meet some of the local wildlife, such as golden eagles, pelicans, and otters; and South America, where you can view mountain flamingos and rainforest macaws.
Boise, the capital of Idaho, is where you can find two exciting zoos to visit: Zoo Boise and the World Center for Birds of Prey.
At Zoo Boise, you’ll be able to see a variety of wild animals in their natural habitats. Guests are treated to six special attractions, which include the Giraffe Encounter, Sloth Bear Encounter, Zoo Farm, Zoo Chats, Butterflies in Bloom exhibit, and Conservation Cruise. At the moment, the Conservation Cruise is closed for the season, but when you happen to catch it open, you can ride on the zoo’s solar-powered boats for a relaxing cruise around the lagoon. Here, you’ll be able to encounter patas monkeys and white-backed vultures.
Because Zoo Boise features wild animals, visitors may only observe the animals behind the safety of guard rails and ropes. Additionally, guests cannot touch or feed the animals except for those at the Zoo Farm.
Aside from the featured special attractions, visitors may also choose to experience private animal encounters, which include the African Wild Dog Zipline Experience; the Multi Animal Feeding Experience and Private Anteater Feeding Experience; private training experiences with maned wolves and sand cats; and private experiences with lions, giraffes, and penguins. The African Wild Dog Zipline Experience lets visitors watch fresh meat get ziplined into the wild dog exhibit, which can be an enriching and exciting experience for guests of all ages.
World Center for Birds of Prey
If you’re more into birds than other zoo animals, the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey lets visitors have a “nose-to-beak” encounter with raptors, as well as a self-guided tour around the facility. The Peregrine Fund — which manages the World Center for Birds of Prey — was founded in 1970 with the objective of restoring and removing the Peregrine Falcon (Idaho’s state raptor) from the endangered species list, which it achieved in 1999.
In its effort to spread awareness about raptor conservation, the World Center for Birds of Prey features a one-of-a-kind education center where guests can meet owls, eagles, hawks, vultures, and falcons from all over the world. Through the Velma Morrison Interpretive Center, visitors can experience three live raptor exhibits outdoors and another five exhibits inside the center. The indoor exhibit showcases educational displays that focus on information about raptors and their unique adaptations, as well as the steps being taken by The Peregrine Fund to continue worldwide raptor conservation. Here, you can also meet a live raptor on the glove and chat with a raptor expert, which young and old guests alike will enjoy.
Yellowstone Bear World
If you’re planning to go to Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Teton National Park, your trip won’t be complete without the exciting wildlife drive-thru at Yellowstone Bear World in Rexburg. Here, you can encounter the free-roaming wild animals of North America from the comfort of your vehicle. Whether you’re in a car, a travel-trailer, a motor home, a tour bus, or even a motorcycle or semi-truck, you can enjoy going through the park and seeing different animal species, which include the Rocky Mountain elk, white-tail deer, bison, mule deer, mountain goats, moose, and the American black bear and grizzly bear.
That’s not all; aside from the drive-thru wildlife encounter, you can also experience bottle feeding the cubs, as well as interact with hundreds of exotic butterflies at The Butterfly Haven. The Wildlife Excursion — formerly known as the Curator Tour — lets visitors get up-close with some of the animals with the assistance of a professional animal keeper. Aside from getting amazing photos of the wildlife, going on this tour is the only way you will be able to feed the resident adult bears of Yellowstone Bear World.
Zoos in Idaho Recap
The state of Idaho has a handful of amazing zoos that can let you enjoy close encounters with a variety of animal species. Not only are they fun to visit, but many of them are enlightening, educational, and exciting — especially for those who are experiencing a zoo visit for the first time. In these zoos, you’ll find tons of animals you won’t be able to see anywhere else, including Idaho’s very own state raptor, the Peregrine Falcon. From American black bears to grizzly bears, bison, white-backed vultures, and a host of other species, the best zoos in Idaho can let you observe and interact with them in their natural habitats
Looking to explore Idaho? Here are some other great things to do in the state: