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America's Best Zoos:
A Travel Guide for Fans and Families

by Allen W. Nyhuis and Jon Wassner

      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.

The Book

The Intrepid Traveler
May 16, 2008
Trade paperback
188714076X / 978-1887140768
More at

The Reviewer

Janie Franz
Reviewed 2008
NOTE: Reviewer Janie Franz is the author of Freelance Writing: Itís a Business, Stupid!and co-author of The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book and The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book.
© 2008