Established in 1996, Nashville Zoo is relatively young compared to other major zoological gardens in the USA. What the zoo lacks in years, it makes up for in species diversity and community engagement. The centerpiece of this ever-expanding zoo is the nationally registered Grassmere Historic Farm and Home.
The zoo is arranged in three sections: Zoo Central, the Jungle Loop and the Savannah Loop. Once you enter the zoo, follow the main path into Zoo Central, passing hyacinth macaws, red-crowned cranes and white-cheeked gibbons sitting on their own island. The zoo’s central village, with its café and gift shop, is just beyond. If you have children, prepare to stop a while at the Jungle Gym. The kids can swing, slide and splash through an incredible community-built adventure playground.
Zoo Central is also home to the Unseen New World exhibit, an indoor section that features reptiles, an aquarium and aviary. Don’t miss the red-bellied piranhas, alligator snapping turtles and gila monsters.
The mostly shaded Jungle Loop lays to the south of Zoo Central. Flamingo Lagoon, Alligator Cove and the Critter Encounters petting zoo are along the pathway. On the Bamboo Trail meet some of the zoo’s rarest species: clouded leopards and red pandas.
Stretch your legs on the Savannah Loop, and see elephants and giraffes. Continue on to the Grassmere Historic Farm and Home where you can take a tour of the Croft House, built in 1810. Tours are offered seasonally and the price is included in zoo admission.
Little ones will enjoy picking their own animal to ride on the Savannah Loop's carousel. They can also board a pint-sized train in the Jungle Loop to see areas not normally accessed by the public.
The zoo is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. It offers various seasonal activities such as Slumber Nights, Brew at the Zoo beer festival, and the annual Halloween extravaganza, Ghouls at Grassmere. The zoo is six miles (10 kilometers) south of downtown and is serviced from here by an MTA bus. There is parking on site, with a small fee per vehicle.