Looking for some outdoor fun? There are three zoos within an hour's drive of Pensacola! We often see the question on local mom groups online as to which zoo is the best zoo to visit so we thought we’d highlight all three here for you to decide which sounds like the best fit for your family based off our experience at all three Pensacola area zoos. Better yet, visit all three!
Located in Gulf Shores. Alabama, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is a favorite among locals for their animal encounters. While smaller than the Gulf Breeze Zoo, it features many of the same attractions and offers up close and personal animal encounters with several animals at an additional charge including sloths, lemurs, kangaroos, and anteaters for an additional charge of $25 per person.
Open 9-4 daily, admission is $23 for adults, $20 for seniors and military, and $15 for children ages 3-12 with children under 2 admitted free. With over 300 animals, this zoo spans 25 acres and will give you a workout visiting all the animals and attractions.
Eat before you come as they don’t have a café that serves food, although they do have snacks, ice cream, and beverages. I’ve heard about a zip line that goes through the zoo but it was not operational when we went and I don’t see it advertised on their website so I’m not sure this feature transferred to their new location. I also saw a train and tracks but again the train was not operational during our visit, which was a disappointment to my children. Some highlights of the zoo we loved included several playground areas, a petting zoo barn where you can feed several animals, a reptile house, and an aviary. Check the schedule to for daily animal features including animal walkabouts at 10:30 and 1:30.
Located in Gulf Breeze, the Gulf Breeze Zoo is the largest Pensacola area zoo with 50 acres of animals. While you can surely spend an entire day at the Gulf Breeze Zoo, it is the most expensive of the local zoos with admission at $28 for adults and $21 for children. The Gulf Breeze Zoo is open daily from 9-5.
You’ll find a café with plenty of seating and food options for the whole family, as well as beverages, snacks, and ice cream. Our favorite feature of the zoo is the Safari Train Ride which is a feature that none of the other local zoos have and is a family favorite for all ages. The train ride lasts 15 minutes and goes through 30 acres of animals free roaming and feels more like a safari experience than a typical zoo experience. The train runs at 10 am and at a minimum of every hour after. Train admission is included in your ticket. Don’t skip the boardwalk to see the monkeys, the budgiery bird aviary, or the bat exhibit! Animal attractions include encounters with a sloth, hippo, giraffe, alligator, tortoise, and a rhino at an additional charge. New to the Gulf Breeze Zoo, you can also mine for gems and fossils for an additional charge. You can feed a variety of the animals for the cost of food. You’ll also find popular seasonal events like Boo at the Zoo trick-or-treating at Halloween, a Christmas Zoobilee, and more.
Located in Crestview, the Emerald Coast Zoo is worth the hour or so drive it will take you to get there! The Emerald Coast Zoo is a family-owned zoo owned by the star of a former A&E Animal show called “Wild Transport.”
This is the smallest of the area zoos, but in my opinion, was my favorite to visit with my younger children. There’s a smaller area to navigate, more shade, and offers plenty of animals and entertainment for littles. It felt like a family zoo and we observed the owners and volunteers happy and hard at work interacting with the animals. Open daily 10-4 (closed on Mondays), admission is only $10 for children under $12 and $15 for adults. They also have animal encounters that include experiences with kangaroos, reptiles, a black bear, and a sloth. As with other local zoos, you can also feed the giraffe and birds inside the aviary. While they don’t have a train or a café with food, they do host birthday parties, and field trips, and you can even reserve the whole zoo for your private party or overnight camping trip!
Here are a few tips for visiting a Pensacola Zoo.
- Come early if you’re visiting in the heat of summer, as animals tend to hide and seek shelter from the heat during hot days. You’ll have a much better experience visiting when they first open.
- Bring a hat, sunscreen, water, and snacks for the family.
- Consider a stroller or wagon for children. All the zoos are stroller-friendly.
- Scope out the calendar of events for each zoo before you go so you can plan accordingly.
- All the local zoos host private parties and birthday parties if you’re interested in planning a zoo birthday party.
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