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The Nashville Zoo

Giraffe parking lot sign

Last weekend I had a little bit of business to tend to in Nashville, Tennessee, and decided to make the most of the drive by planning a side trip to the Nashville Zoo.  Just south of the city proper, the Nashville Zoo is only a few minutes drive off the interstate and is located on the former Nashville Wildlife Park at Grassmere.

Once inside the zoo, I picked up a map which proved to be quite helpful in locating the attractions.  The map highlights the three areas in the zoo:  Zoo Central, the Jungle Loop, and the Savannah Loop.

Zoo Central

The entrance to the zoo is at Zoo Central.  Regularly scheduled activities take place around the zoo which include animal encounters, docent-led walking tours, keeper talks, and feedings.  (Click here for today’s scheduled activities.)  I got there just in time to learn a little bit about this screech owl:

one-eyed owl

Near the entrance is Unseen New World:  Creatures of the Americas.  (Tip:  If it is hot or raining, head here and check out the animals that are inside.)

Unseen New World sign

Inside this exhibit are reptiles, fish, frogs, and event bats.

reptile on logChameleon?

South American Green Racer snakeSouth American Green Racer


Not to be missed in Zoo Central is the Jungle Gym, a 66,ooo square-foot play ground with an impressive 35-foot tall tree house that kids can run off any excess energy that they may have.   The playground was a winner with my son, who may or may not have had a lot of excess energy after refilling his souvenir Icee cup a time or two.

playground at the zoo

After a while, we stopped for a bite to eat at Zoofari Cafe.  They source local (Tennessee and Kentucky) farms for their supplies. The food is definitely appetizing.   There are several additional places around the zoo that seasonally offer BBQ, nachos, hot dogs, and other park favorites, as well as the aforementioned souvenir Icee.


Jungle Loop

One of the exhibits that we really enjoyed was Kangaroo Kickabout where visitors can pet free roaming kangaroos and watch Cockatoos play on branches.  (Click here to watch video on Instagram.)


Another fun section for kids and adults alike is Critter Encounters.  There you can pet goats and alpacas and see ocellated turkeys and tortises.  Be sure to keep an eye on your belongings – goats will come up and nibble on them.

animal with big front teeth

Savannah Loop

Like carousels?  The zoo has one that has 39 brightly colored animals that you can ride for $2.  (Technically it takes 2 tokens, but each token costs $1.)

carousel at the zoo

Just past the carousel is the Croft House, where the zoo’s benefactors Margaret and Elise lived.  Don’t miss out on the free 20 minute tour of the home.  You will learn about the lives of the previous residents and the tie that the home has to Cuba.  The home has been updated with air conditioning and it is a good place to stop, cool off, and learn some interesting historical facts.

Croft House

A visit to the Savannah would not be complete without citing an elephant.  I was able to see three while there.


Plan Your Visit

At the time of my visit, tickets were $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, and $10 for children ages 2 – 10.  Parking cost $5.

The Nashville Zoo is open 7 days a week, but does close for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, and inclement weather.  (Click here for the hours.)  Speaking of rain, the zoo does not issue rain checks so you might want to check the weather forecast before heading over.

One thing that I appreciate about the Nashville Zoo is that you can bring in outside food and drinks.  Just please be mindful of their rules: refrain from glass, disposable straws and lids and balloons as they can be harmful to our animals.”  Be sure to check out their FAQ page for more information.

What is your favorite animal to see at the zoo?

Cup of homemade vanilla ice cream made with simple ingredients
Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe
Funfetti Popcorn