For those who think Miami nightlife and I-95 traffic are wild, know that they’re nothing compared to what’s going on down at Zoo Miami, a.k.a. The Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, which happens to be the biggest and oldest zoo in Florida—not to mention the only tropical zoo in the continental United States. The tropical conditions at this Miami zoo, featuring humidity to bust even the most stiffly shellacked coif, are exceptional and host some of the most exotic animals on the planet hailing from Asia, Africa, and Australia, making a zoo-ish population that’s not unlike the city of Miami—an animal melting pot, if you will.
Here, the animals, grouped according to where they hail from, peacefully coexist amid their native trees, soil, and flora in a free-range, cageless format. Fret not, zoo-goers—the animals are separated from us, but they roam freely in room habitats. Not a bad way to see a Malayan sun bear giving your most tan friend a run for her money.
If only the wise, old harpy eagle here could talk. He would likely regale you with tales of the Miami zoo’s fascinating history dating back to 1948, when its 48 acres were filled with castoffs—lions, an elephant, and a rhino—from a circus that closed down. Today, the zoo now spans 750 acres, housing over 3,000 animals representing over 500 different species, including 40 that are classified as endangered—including two clouded leopard cubs.
Out-of-this-world—or at least this continent—exhibits include the Amazon and Beyond, a 27-acre replica of Central and South America’s eco-systems, teeming with all sorts of amphibians, reptiles, and greenery. From here, you can climb up high and (attempt to) feed a giraffe at the Samburu Giraffe Feeding Station, hop on a camel at Humpy’s Camel Rides, cool off in an elevated, air-conditioned monorail tour, and let the kids go wild in the playgrounds and water play areas or partake in a wild animal encounter (which has nothing to do with the aforementioned traffic on I-95).