April 8 is National Zoo Lovers Day. Call us crazy, but the only appropriate way of celebrating seems like going to a zoo. Of course, there are plenty of awesome zoo-centered TV shows you could binge watch, like The Zoo. Or maybe you’d rather check out a few flicks full of furry friends like We Bought a Zoo, Zookeeper, or Zoo.

But while seeing some different species through the screens is swell, getting the up close and personal experience is unmatched. If you’re lucky enough to live near one of these zoos, we suggest you hop in the car and head over there. NOW!

1. San Diego Zoo 

Maybe one of the most famous zoos in the country, if not the world, is just a quick hour-or-so drive south of California’s Camp Pendleton. The San Diego Zoo, in addition to offering free admission to those with a Military ID, has some of the most unique and immersive animal experiences you’ll find.

Reading the list of activities and attractions, this “zoo” sounds more like an amusement park: aerial trams, action-packed animal shows and encounters, a kangaroo bus. All that’s missing is a roller coaster. Plus, there’s a 4-D theater where you can cool off and watch the wildlife.

Of course, the animals, as always are the stars of the zoo. You can check out their full cast of characters on their website. If San Diego’s too far, there’s always the live cams.

For more fun things to do near Camp Pendleton, check out our list of 10 Things to Do Near Camp Pendleton with your Military Family.

2. Brackenridge Park 

The San Antonio Zoo is placed amidst an amazing outdoor urban oasis that is Brackenridge Park. Home to the San Antonio Botanical Garden, the Alamo City Golf Trail, the Sunken Garden Theater, picnic pavilions, playgrounds and more, the San Antonio Zoo isn’t the only thing worth checking out in Brackenridge Park. But it may be the best thing.

At the San Antonio Zoo, you can get up close and personal with some of their craziest creatures. As a guest, you can have your morning hashbrowns with a hippo or give you some goodies to a giraffe. Even turn your head into temporary bird nest if that’s your thing.

The San Antonio Zoo offer a slight discount to guests who show their Military ID at the front gate.

For more fun things to do near San Antonio, check out our list of 10 Things to Do Near San Antonio with your Military Family.

3. Hogle Zoo 

The Hogle Zoo‘s motto — Nurturing respect and appreciation for the natural world — is something we can all get behind. And one of the best ways to help nurture that respect and appreciation is by taking your MilFam to the Hogle Zoo, where they’ll be immersed within the world of wildlife. Plus, kids will leave with a great edZOOcation.

Interested in getting face-to-face with a rhino? Hogle Zoo can make it happen. Or you can watch from afar, in a train, if that’s more your speed. Unfortunately, there’s no Military Discount at the Hogle Zoo, but MilFams can get in for free on May 18th, July 4th, and November 11th.

For more fun things to do near Salt Lake City, check out our list of 10 Things to Do Near Salt Lake City with your Military Family.

4. Virginia Zoo

With animals from the African plains to the jungles of Asia, the Virginia Zoo brings an international experience to the Norfolk area. And honestly, your MilFam would be totally missing out if you never made it over there during your time in Virginia. Plus MilFams get a discount!

In addition to the usual animal exhibits at your typical zoo, the Virginia Zoo has something for guests that you won’t find most places. Watching these beautiful beasts in their “natural” habitat is great. But have you ever wondered how a zoo makes sure their animals are getting top notch care? Then head over to the Animal Wellness Campus. Guests can tour the 8,000 square foot animal hospital and see live animal medical procedures. Hear from the vets themselves as they examine the animals, and learn how they help the animals maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.

For more fun things to do with near Norfolk, check out our list of 10 Things to Do Near Norfolk with your Military Family.

5. Topsey Exotic Ranch & Drive-Through Park

Topsey Exotic Ranch & Drive-Through isn’t like your typical zoos. It’s a cool zoo.

For those that prefer to stay off their feet, you’ll be happy to hear that his central Texas ranch would prefer you stay seated. As the name suggests, this zoo’s a drive-through.

Topsey’s may not have the name recognition of a San Diego Zoo, but their experience is unmatched. Just because you’re staying in your car doesn’t mean you won’t get a good look at the more than 50 species of wildlife roaming about the ranch. In fact you’ll probably get a better look at them here than you would at any zoo. The animals at Topsey’s are so friendly they’ll come up to your car and eat right out of your hand!

Before you head out to the ranch, pick up tickets. They’re free! But only when purchased on post.

For more fun things to do with near Fort Cavazos (formerly Fort Hood), check out our list of 10 Things to Do Near Fort Cavazos with your Military Family.

6. Debbie Dolittle’s Indoor Petting Zoo

If you and your MilFam are looking to beat the Pacific North West heat this summer, a trip over to Debbie Dolittle’s Petting Zoo might be the right call. Luckily, this zoo is indoors.

If you hadn’t guessed already, this is a hands-on zoo. Most animals are available to interact at all times. But for some select critters, such as sloths and otters, you may have to make a reservation ahead of time. But it’ll be well worth it. Imagine you and your MilFam hanging out with a sloth for an afternoon. Now that’s being one with nature.

For more fun things to do with near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, check out our list of 10 Things to Do Near Joint Base Lewis-McChord with your Military Family.

Well, what are you waiting for?! Get out there and see every bit of what the animal kingdom has to offer with a trip to your nearest zoo. For a full list of all zoos offering military discounts across the country, check out this detailed list from Military Benefits and find the zoo closest to you.

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