Zoos & Aquariums (and more) on the Great River Road

Creatures great and small are well represented along the Mississippi, from impressive aquariums to sprawling zoos. Find all your favorite animals at these Great River Road destinations.


The Hemker Park & Zoo (Freeport, MN)

Just a couple hours south of the Mississippi River headwaters, this family-owned zoo offers visitors an up-close look at a variety of captivating critters. 

Minnesota Zoo (Apple Valley, MN)

This zoo is a day’s worth of fun. A number of extensive indoor exhibits allow visitors to avoid the cold Minnesota weather while viewing their favorite animals. 


Genoa National Fish Hatchery (Genoa, WI)

Swing in to the Great River Road Interpretive Center to learn more about area fish, freshwater mussels, and amphibians. There are even special events where young fishermen get the chance to drop a line in the on-site ponds.


National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (Dubuque, IA)

A true river road gem, all things Mississippi River can be explored in this 14-acre waterfront museum. Don’t miss the aquariums, which feature freshwater and saltwater species like massive gar and catfish as well as stingrays, an American Alligator and North American River Otters.

Guttenberg Fish Hatchery (Guttenberg, IA)

Learn about a popular river fish, the Northern Pike, at this Iowa Department of Natural Resources station. Stop by the aquarium to view other Mississippi marine life, too.


Niabi Zoo (Coal Valley, IL)

This 40-acre, family-friendly park in Coal Valley is home to fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and more. 

Brown’s Oakridge Zoo (Smithfield, IL)

If you’re a fan of big cats, make the drive to Smithfield to view the collection at this small animal sanctuary.


Saint Louis Zoo (St. Louis, MO)

An all-day adventure awaits at the Saint Louis Zoo, where 3 million visitors a year view the amazing animals housed within the 90-acre park. 

Critter Lane Petting Zoo (Valles Mines, MO)

Friendly staff and affordable prices are just extra perks at this petting zoo, where you’ll have some memorable encounters with both domestic and exotic animals.


Barnyard Buddies Petting Zoo (Boaz, KY)

Get off the beaten path and head to Boaz with your youngest travelers. Sheep, donkies, rabbits, cows, and even a camel, offer friendly, hands-on fun. 


Memphis Zoo (Memphis, TN)

Lions, tigers, and (Panda) bears…oh my! This is one of the largest, most diverse zoos along the Mississippi with over 4,500 animals. You’ll want to save a whole day for this stop. 

Tennessee Safari Park (Alamo, TN)

Don’t want to unload the whole family? Exotic African wildlife comes right to your car window on this 5.5 mile safari drive. See zebras, gazelles, antelope, wildebeest and more!


Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Manila, AR)

Bald Eagles and Wood Ducks are easily-spotted, year-round inhabitants of this wildlife refuge, just a short drive from the Mississippi.

Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge (Crossett, AR)

Observe native animals in their natural habitat. An estimated 200 species of birds, 40 species of mammals, 70 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 90 species of fish live at this refuge.


Safari Wild Animal Park & Preserve (Como, MS)

Take a detour to Como if you want to get up close and personal with some critters! At this park you can ride camels, feed giraffes and lorikeets, and pet your favorite farm animals.

Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (Jackson, MS)

Head to Jackson for an amazing display of 200 aquatic species, showcased in a 100,000 gallon aquarium network.


Zoosiana (Broussard, LA)

Over 1,000 animals call Zoosiana home, including beloved giraffes and white tigers. Pick this zoo if you’ve got young kiddos—there’s a Safari Train and playground they’ll love. 

Wild Country Safari Park (Epps, LA)

This park has the full spectrum of animal species—from friendly goats in the petting zoo to kangaroos, camels and zebras on the guided tour.