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“A great visit...especially enjoyed the red panda exhibit!” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Knoxville Zoological Gardens

Knoxville Zoological Gardens
350 Knoxville Zoo Drive, P.O. Box 6040, Knoxville, TN 37914
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Ranked #17 of 40 Attractions in Knoxville
Activities: Viewing wildlife
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Attraction details
Fee: Yes
Owner description: Knoxville's largest year-round attraction, Knoxville Zoo is situated on 53 acres and home to over 800 animals from around the world.
Useful Information: Activities for young children
Senior Contributor
44 reviews 44 reviews
18 attraction reviews
Reviews in 20 cities Reviews in 20 cities
34 helpful votes 34 helpful votes
“A great visit...especially enjoyed the red panda exhibit!”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 25, 2009

We were on vacation in the Great Smoky Mountain area but took a day trip to the Knoxville Zoo. We were able to use our membership from our zoo back home which made it a free visit for us. We were really excited to get to see the Red Panda Village...SO cute! The bear den exhibit with the tunnel that lets you "walk up" to the bears was really fun. The Wee Play exhibit was a great diversion for the kids out of the heat and rain that we had the day we were there. We packed a picnic and had lunch in one of the picnic areas. Overall we found it to be a well-done, well-kept zoo.

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326 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
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English first
Knoxville, TN
Top Contributor
121 reviews 121 reviews
35 attraction reviews
Reviews in 47 cities Reviews in 47 cities
173 helpful votes 173 helpful votes
“Worth a visit.”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed December 27, 2008

I am a longtime member of the Knoxville Zoo and I have been there several times. My wife and I like zoos, so we try to visit zoos when we are in other cities. We've visited zoos in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Knoxville, Memphis, Miami, Tampa, and Washington, D.C.

The Knoxville Zoo is an average zoo, but it continues to make progress. With the exception of the Atlanta Zoo, the above-listed zoos are nicer than the Knoxville Zoo (the Atlanta Zoo is not even worth visiting). However, the Knoxville Zoo is a good zoo and it is worth a visit.

If you visited a long time ago, you will be pleasantly surprised at the progress that the Zoo has made over the past few years.

I rate the Knoxville Zoo 3/5 because the Zoo does not have as many "cageless" exhibits as I would like. Many of the larger, nicer zoos use other barriers to separate visitors from the animals (which makes the animals easier to see and it is easier to take good pictures of the animals).

The good: the Zoo's new red panda exhibit is very nice, a much needed upgrade of its old exhibit. The Zoo specializes in Red Pandas and their exhibit highlights its expertise in Red Pandas. Also, the Zoo's bird show with its star bird "Einstein" is very entertaining. The Zoo's area for children is very nice (it has beavers, goats (in a petting zoo), chickens, a nocturnal animal exhibit (featuring bats, skunks, etc.), and a barn animal exhibit (featuring owls, spiders, etc.). The elephant and rhino exhibits provide good viewing of the animals. The zoo's chimpanzee and ape exhibits are also very nice: the animals have large living areas, but they remain easy for spectators to see. Some of the Zoo's bird exhibits are also good. I don't like reptiles, but the Zoo's reptile exhibit is as nice as most that I've seen.

The bad: the Zoo's big cat exhibits are just plain sad (I usually just walk by them without stopping). Most of the big cats are so far away that it's nearly impossible to see them. Last time I went (which was in September 2008), the Zoo's tigers and lions were in cages several yards away from the fence that acts as a barrier between the animal space and the visitors. Moreover, the angle of the land makes the lions and tigers hard to see. Further, the Zoo's cheetah exhibit is terrible (for spectators). I've been there at least 15 times in the past two years and I rarely see the cheetah.

The Knoxville Zoo is one of the best attractions in Knoxville (but, the truth is that there just aren't many attractions in Knoxville). The Zoo has made a lot of progress over the years, but it has a long way to go before it matches the quality of larger zoos, especially zoos like Cincinnati, Miami, or Tampa.

If you like zoos, you're already in Knoxville, and you want something to do for a few hours, I recommend visiting the zoo. But, if you've been to larger, high quality zoos, you will probably be disappointed.

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Newton, NJ
Top Contributor
133 reviews 133 reviews
85 attraction reviews
Reviews in 84 cities Reviews in 84 cities
156 helpful votes 156 helpful votes
“Well Designed and Attractive”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 26, 2008

I brought my daughter here twice during my last two visits to Tennessee and had a wonderful time. The bear den near the entrance is fabulous. They also have elephants, giraffes and zebras up close. There is a fun kids cove and a carousel which is very popular. For Halloween, they had a number of decorations that made good pictures. The admission is a little pricey, but if you are a reciprocal zoo member, you can get in for free. Highly recommended if you are visiting Knoxville.

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williamstown, ky
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 12, 2008

My 8 year old daughter and I try to see a zoo everytime we go on vacation. From the outside, we didn't think it was going to be that great but we were so wrong! It was a beautiful, well designed, well planned zoo. It was the perfect size for a day outing. We stayed 4 hours but could have stayed longer except we had to start heading back home to KY. There were ample sitting areas, refreshments, restrooms and souvenirs to keep the entire trip through the zoo interesting. They have a beautiful butterfly garden and a great play area for kids. It was definitely one of our favorite zoos.

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Sevierville, Tennessee
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
15 attraction reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
33 helpful votes 33 helpful votes
“Wonderful Quaint zoo”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 13, 2008

I love this Zoo, have gone here every year for 3 or 4 years now. Bought a membership this year and couldn't be happier.

It is a small zoo and might not have all the bells and whistles of larger ones, but it feels more intimate to me. This is also one of the only zoos that they can get Red Pandas to breed at (so they must be doing something right). In fact if you go soon you will see that they have two baby Red Pandas that are cute as a button.

Another Baby they have right now is a little chimp that just melts you into a baby hugging fool.

There is a great Elephant pen, prairie dog pit, and some meerkats that are freakin hilarious. The gibbons are also a riot most of the time.

They have a butterfly room, lions, cheetahs, wolves, an aviary, penguins (not as good exhibit as others), river otters, and some beavers you can get awfully close to! During the summer there are many turtles and tortoises (some rather large) And many many more farm animals in the petting zoo area.

There is a bird show that runs 2 or 3 times a day with some very talented birds, and one that's even been on TV.

Yes this zoo needs some TLC but over the past two years I have seen tons of work being done to it. They seem like they really really do care about the place and are trying to make it better.

They also have a neat program that you can buy where you get to get up close with the animals. We did the Rhino encounter and you get to touch and pet a Rhino!!!! That was amazing! Mondo was a gentle giant, and they don't feel anything like I expected.

Visit this zoo, these people care deeply and the animals are great!

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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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