Did you know that a zoo is really a zoological park? Zoology is the study of animals and what better place to study them than in a zoo! History’s first versions of zoos were referred to as menageries and they were relegated to royal palaces. The oldest evidence of a zoo was found in Egyptian excavations (of course!). Among the animals gathered at this 3500 B.C. zoo were hippos, elephants, baboons and wildcats. It would be centuries before cotton candy and popcorn would come along. The honor for the world’s oldest zoo still in operation goes to the Tiergarten Schonbrunn, in Vienna, Austria. They opened their doors in 1752. If only those cages could only talk. Here in the U.S., we’re no sloths when it comes to zoos. Since you can’t spend every day on the beach, you might want to add some of these zoos to your summer vacation itinerary.

The Columbus Zoo And Aquarium

In terms of acreage, the Columbus Zoo is among the country’s largest clocking in at 588 acres. It’s also home to talk show fav Jack Hanna. In fact, his popularity helped reshape the Columbus Zoo in to one of the best zoos on the planet. There are currently around 7,000 animals roaming the grounds. That includes Colo, the world’s oldest living great ape born in captivity (1956) and the largest collection of manatees outside of Florida. Plus there is a water park and golf course in case you need a break from the beasties.

The Philadelphia Zoo

Opened in 1874, the Philadelphia Zoo is America’s oldest park. In terms of size, the Philly zoo is only 42 acres. However, that means you can absolutely take in every exhibit in a single day. That means you can hit First Niagara Big Cat Falls in the morning, wander over to the PECO Primate Reserve for lunch and end the day at the McNeil Avian Center. In between, hop on the Zooballoon, which is a 30-passenger helium balloon that floats you above all the creatures great and small.

The Bronx Zoo

Although you can grab a quick zoo fix at the Central Park Zoo, it’s the Bronx Zoo that is the main zoological attraction in the Big Apple. The Bronx Zoo stretches out over 265 acres of prime real estate. Among the highlights are the Siberian tigers that roam around Tiger Mountain and the Asian rainforest. If you want to see the animals without tiring your “dogs” then jump on the Wild Asia Monorail which is like a mini-safari that will get you as close to the animals as possible without actually petting them. Yeah, you don’t want to pet a Bronx rhino.

The San Diego Zoo

Part zoo, part botanical garden and all fun. The San Diego Zoo is that town’s most popular tourist stop. To get around the 100-acre park you can take the Guided Bus Tour or the Express Bus that lets you hop on and off. Just make sure you hop off at the Polar Bear Plunge and Panda Trek.

Time for a zoo vacation.