Allen W. Nyhuis and Jon Wassner have written a handy guide, America's Best Zoos: A Travel Guide for Fans and
Families. Both authors are well versed in the zoo experience. Nyhuis is a statistician and began visiting zoos
when he was on business trips. He also has four children. Jon Wassner is a former zookeeper and now works as a design
consultant for zoo exhibits.
Together, they have profiled 60 zoos in the US and grouped them by region. They also include their picks for
their top 25 zoos from the list. The introduction includes information on zoo trends in the US, how to get the most
out of a trip to the zoo (even some photography tips, and how to experience zoos with children.) There also is a
special section on zoo animals, including some lesser known ones, and which zoos are the best for viewing them.
Each zoo profile gives brief general information right away, such as location, hours, fees, directions, and what
not to miss. There are brief tips for kids, edutainment (animal presentations, lectures, films, etc.), and the
authors' special tips. Next come details about the zoo, the scoop on featured exhibits and special exhibits, complete
offerings for kids, an update on new construction and plans for each zoo's future.
One appendix offers the top ten zoo exhibits in twenty categories. For example, if you wanted to find animals from
Australia, the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo's Australian Adventure is given the authors' number one spot. There also is
a zoo glossary included.
Nyhuis had a previous guide, The Zoo Book, out in 1994 from Carousel Press, but that one covered only 53
zoos, and some were located out of this country. This guide is up-to-date and offers useful information.
It should be noted, however, that these are Nyhuis and Wassner's favorites, not necessarily those noted to be best
in this country. They also have not visited every zoo in the US, but have studied the biggest. One thing I would like
to note is the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans is considered one of the top five zoos in the country. The authors, though
they mention other exhibits at the zoo, seem to rank it lower for many exhibits—coming in as runner up in the
top ten zoo exhibits lists—and they seem to think it's just a great place to see alligators (which it is, but
it offers much more).
The information the authors offer is priceless, but rankings and stress on specific exhibits are a matter of
opinion. If you are interested in a particular zoo because it fits into your family's plans, please go. This
guidebook will help you with the nitty gritty of your planning. Then, make your own judgments about what you see.