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The Nashville Zoo

Nestled in the heart of Music City, the Nashville Zoo is a delightful diversion from the city’s well-known rhythms and tunes. This urban oasis offers a refreshing break from the ordinary, allowing you to step into a world teeming with fascinating wildlife, lush landscapes, and engaging experiences. As you explore its diverse exhibits, you’ll find yourself immersed in a realm where the wild meets the serene, making the Nashville Zoo a unique and captivating destination that adds a different, but equally enchanting, note to your Nashville experience.

Giraffe Parking Lot sign at the Nashville Zoo.

On a visit to Nashville, Tennessee, I found myself with some business to attend to in the city. To make the most of my trip, I decided to include a side excursion to the Nashville Zoo. Situated just south of the city, the Nashville Zoo is easily accessible, only a short drive from the interstate, and is set on the grounds of the former Nashville Wildlife Park at Grassmere.

I want to share with you some pictures and information from my trip so that you can plan your excursion to the zoo.


Upon entering the zoo, one can acquire a map that proves quite useful for navigating the various attractions. The map conveniently highlights the three distinct sections of 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 on a gloved hand.

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 building.

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

Chameleon on a branch at the zoo.

Chameleon?

A green snake wrapped around a branch.

South American Green Racer

Alligator on a log.
Caiman

Not to be missed in Zoo Central is the Jungle Gym, a 66,000 square-foot playground with an impressive 35-foot tall tree house where 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.

Wooden playground structure.

Dining Options at the Zoo

There are several places around the zoo that seasonally offer BBQ, nachos, hot dogs, and other park favorites, as well as the aforementioned souvenir Icee.

Quills Cafe & Grill serves everything from hot dogs and burgers to salads and power bowls. Pizza lovers will want to make their way to Screaming Gibbon Pizza Kitchen where subs, clubs, and salads also grace the menu.

Snake Bites offers grab and go options and the TN BBQ Depot serves BBQ sandwiches, nachos and mac ‘n cheese.

Sandwich on a plate.


In 2023, the Nashville Zoo has taken the visitor experience to the next level by offering the opportunity to savor a tailgate beer or a refreshing margarita at select locations throughout the zoo. This delightful addition allows guests to enhance their zoo adventure with a touch of relaxation and indulgence.

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 the video on Instagram.)

Sulphur-crested cockatoo at the Nashville Zoo.
Cockatoo

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

People petting an alpaca.

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.)

Gazebo surrounded by plants.

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 their ties 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.

Old Southern mansion at the zoo.

Plan Your Visit

The Nashville Zoo is open 7 days a week but does close for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s 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.

Tickets

Advanced tickets are required to visit the zoo for all guests (including infants). Prices range from $16-26 for adults and teens, $12-22 for children ages 2 – 12, and free for children under 2.  (Pricing varies by the day.)

Be aware of the time on your ticket – you will only have a one-hour window to enter the zoo.

Parking

Parking costs $8 per vehicle. Please be aware that the zoo has begun construction on a parking deck which will expand the capacity by over 50%. However, during the construction phase which will last until Spring 2024, there is reduced availability.

Miscellaneous

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, lids, and balloons as they can be harmful to our animals.”  Be sure to check out their FAQ page for more information.

Location

What is your favorite animal to see at the zoo?

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4 Comments

  1. I was so disappointed at the Nashville Zoo we paid all that money and got to see monkeys and flamingos that’s all so I would say it’s a waste of time and money

    1. When I went several years ago, I thought it was pretty nice. Sorry to hear that it was a disappointment.

  2. How old is this article? The Nashville zoo hasn’t had elephants in several years. They all went to an elephant sanctuary years ago.

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