Did You Know There Are Free Zoos?

Maryland Free Zoo

I was 24 when I realized that people actually had to pay to go to the zoo. You may be shocked by this but let me explain. Growing up I thought all zoos were free zoos because of where I lived. I wouldn’t have said this in my teens or even my early 20’s but I have to say growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the town of Salisbury was pretty amazing. What we lacked in the hustle and bustle of city life we more then made up for in unique experiences you can’t just get anywhere.

Salisbury Zoo Free Zoos

So many memories of my childhood are linked to the Salisbury Zoo. We would go after church on Sunday. We would go in the first of Spring when the weather warmed up to see the new baby animals. I truly loved the zoo. When my kids were little and we still lived close we went all the time. When we first moved away in 2000 was when I learned that most people had to pay to go to the zoo. To say I was shocked and horrified is an understatement.

You see not only was the local zoo free but the Smithsonian National Zoo in DC, which we visited for school field trips, is also free. The Smithsonian National Zoo is 3 hours away from where I grew up, which when you are a kid seems like the other side of the world. Each of these zoos has amazing exhibits, educational programs, and some of the cutest animals you will ever see.

Salisbury Zoo Animals

One of our families favorite animals to go visit at the zoo are the North American River Otters. The Salisbury Zoo has 2 of them and they are so playful and funny. They love to swim and chase each other. My kids when they were younger would sit and watch them for hours if I let them. It was better then any show on TV.
North American River Otters at the Salisbury Zoo

The Salisbury Zoological Park, which is it’s proper name, was founded in 1954. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and is funded by the City of Salisbury. To say it is a beloved part of the Easter Shore community would be an understatement. There is no better example of the love and commitment that the community has for the park and those that enjoy it then Ben’s Red Swings.

Ben's Red Swings, Salisbury Zoo

This amazing community playground was built in memory of Ben Layton, who sadly passed away from cancer in 2002. It took 9 months to raise the money and 6 days to build it with 4,000 volunteers working around the clock. I was there and I can tell you I have never been so proud of the community I was raised in. This playground is located at the north entrance of the zoo and this year it celebrates it’s 10th anniversary.

There are only 10 free zoos in the United States. By “free” I mean have free admission all year long. Many zoos around the country however, do offer free or discount days. Check your local zoo to see when the next free day is scheduled.

So now you see why I never realized that most people pay to go to the zoo. I’d say I was pretty darn lucky to been able to visit the zoo whenever we wanted when I was growing up. I’m sad that we don’t currently live near a free zoo but I am happy that when we go back home to visit that it is still there. If you are ever near Maryland, I highly recommend you take a day to visit the Salisbury Zoo. Not only will you have a great time and create memories with your family but it won’t cost you a dime. Nothing is better then that.


  1. We live very close to the San Diego Zoo and have memberships for the family. We’re there at least once a month! I’ve never been to a free zoo but love that there are some out there!

  2. We have a small free zoo in a town called Wheaton just West of Chicago. We used to go to it all the time when the kids were younger, but not so much any more. It’s a great zoo, but definitely directed to smaller kids.

  3. That’s great they offer those. Wish there was even a zoo locally!

  4. We have the smallest zoo known to man, it’s seriously more like a farm, and we still have to pay, though not a lot.

  5. I was amazed you had to pay for some zoo. I grew up going to the one in Washington DC which is free too!

  6. Wow, that’s interesting. I didn’t even know there were free zoos!


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