When visiting the vibrant state of Maryland, you need to check out the many zoos scattered across its territory. Not only will you get to see some exotic or endangered animals, but you’ll also get to interact with species native to the Mid Atlantic Region. It’s a fun and exciting way to learn about the local wildlife and support conservation efforts.
There are around ten recognized zoos in the state, but we’re going to talk about the top five facilities so you can plan ahead and visit them. Continue reading to see what animals to expect in each zoo, how to get there, and what special features you need to watch out for.
Cities and Localities in Maryland With Zoos
Here are the most well-known zoos and wildlife sanctuaries in Maryland that are worth the visit.
Catoctin Wildlife Preserve
On the outskirts of the Cunningham Falls State Park lies the magnificent Catoctin Wildlife Preserve, a 100-acre zoo and wildlife preserve that contains animals from all over the world. The facility has been around since 1933, when it was called the Jungleland Snake Farm. Eventually, the Hahn family purchased it from the original owners and turned it into the expansive attraction you’ll see today.
Their most famous attraction is the Safari Ride, a one-hour trip around the facility where visitors get to interact with animals from six continents — not just Africa. You’ll get to feed bison, dromedary camels, Eurasian wild sheep, zebras, and other herbivores along the way.
If the Safari Ride is not your thing, then you can simply explore the zoo on your own. They have several sections for specific territories: Africa, Eurasia, Madagascar, World Islands, Latin and South America, North America, and Australia. Within each area, you’ll find animals like tortoises, jaguars, snakes, and all kinds of avian species.
Don’t forget to say hi and play with the facility’s “Amba-zoo-ders,” free-roaming animals that are used to humans. They’re eager to interact with inquisitive guests, so you’ll surely have a fun time playing with these docile and friendly creatures.
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
Also known simply as Maryland Zoo, this zoological park is one of the oldest in the country. It’s been around since 1876 and sits on an even older public park: the magnificent Druid Hill Park. Accessing the location shouldn’t be much of an issue, since it’s located within the Baltimore metro area. Because of its age and reputation, the Maryland Zoo is regarded as one of the top zoos in the US. Within its 135 acres, more than 2,000 animals live in comfort thanks to the many modern advancements installed. You’ll see them in the zoo’s five main areas: the Schaefer Plaza, Maryland Wilderness, Zoo Central, African Journey, and Northern Passage.
The Maryland Wilderness is arguably the most famous area of the five because it contains the Children’s Zoo. Here, you’ll find the native animals of the state from several habitats. Check out the marsh aviary with Maryland birds, the stream with its river otters, and the farmyard with farm animals. Of course, all these have play elements that make each area appeal to the young ones.
Another popular attraction is the African Journey, the largest section of the zoo. As implied by the name, this attraction features creatures from the great continent of Africa. Come say hi to the savannah beasts, primates from rainforests, and herbivores from watering hole environments.
Plumpton Park Zoo
Near the edge of Maryland’s border with Pennsylvania lies Rising Sun, the home of the magnificent Plumpton Park Zoo. It began as a small collection of domestic animals in 1985, but the number grew into the 165 animals you can see today. These represent 75 species from all over the world. There are three main categories of animals to see during your tour: mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and birds. Each species lives in its own comfortable space, and they’re all content thanks to the professional zookeepers who care for and look after them.
Among the mammals, you’ll find rare species like arctic foxes, the shy binturong, arctic wolves, and African crested porcupines. The reptile and amphibian collection also has many creatures ranging from intimidating ball pythons and American alligators to friendly tortoises. There are also pixie frogs, but rather than hanging out with little pixies, these frogs like to lounge on huge green boulders.
If you’re a fan of wings and feathered creatures, then check out the zoo’s collection of birds from all over the world. You’ll find colorful parrots, several species of macaw, and loud cockatoos making calls several times in the day. Their cacophony is like a symphony of the wild — a sensory experience that both kids and kids-at-heart will surely enjoy.
Tri-State Zoological Park
The magnificent Tri-State Zoological Park is so named because it sits in Cumberland, a Maryland city sandwiched between Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Because of this location, people from the three states flock to the zoological park to see the vast collection of exotic and native creatures. Unlike the other zoos mentioned above, the Tri-State Zoological Park is a nonprofit attraction owned by a single person, Bob Candy. It’s run by volunteers and depends on the support of visitors and partners to run the entire facility. So don’t expect anything frivolous or high-end when visiting the facility.
The best thing about the place is that it serves as a home to rescued and homeless animals. Most of the creatures you’ll see in the 16-acre attraction have survived trauma and abuse. Bob and his people have dedicated their time and effort to housing and caring for these neglected creatures. That way, they can experience some comfort and recover from their injuries. Since the zoo specializes in rescues, you won’t find any dedicated sections for animals from a particular continent. Instead, it has an assortment of creatures like wild cats, exotic birds, and primates. There are also reptiles like snakes and turtles living in the shady areas of the attraction.
The famous Salisbury Zoo lies in Delmarva, the peninsula shared by three states. Salisbury is Maryland’s main city in the area, and you’ll have to drive a bit to reach the locality and its zoo. Still, the attraction is well worth the trip thanks to its assortment of animals from North and South America and Australia. These creatures live in comfortable and natural-looking enclosures, allowing them to live peacefully even with the daily influx of visitors. In fact, the oldest spectacled bear and Andean bear in captivity once resided here — a testament to the animal-friendly conditions of the facility.
Today, you’ll find an array of avian species, mammals, and reptiles while touring the zoo. These include native species of Delmarva and the US, some predators and raptors, colorful birds hailing from the Amazon, and cute cavies from Patagonia. Since admission to the zoo is free and it carries a distinction as one of the best zoos on the continent, the management expects thousands of visitors every day. You’ll likely want to avoid visiting during peak hours to avoid crowds, but you probably wouldn’t mind that once you see the curious and friendly creatures living in the facility.
Tour These Zoos on Your Next Maryland Vacation
Now that you have an idea of Maryland’s zoos, you can begin planning an epic vacation for the whole family! Choose from the five mentioned above and create an itinerary for your road trip. Don’t forget to visit each zoo’s website to get updates or book tickets in advance. Hopefully, you’ll get a renewed sense of appreciation for the diverse animals of Maryland and the rest of the world during your tour.