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Located South of downtown Nashville, Tennessee, the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere has been at it's current location since 1996 and has been continuously expanding. There is an entrance fee and a parking fee. However, it is on the reciprocal zoo list, so if you are a member of another zoo, your admission may be reduced or free. For current information on pricing and the list of reciprocal zoos, visit http://www.nashvillezoo.org/.
As you enter, you'll pass brilliant blue Hyacinth Macaws and a Red-Crowned Crane on the way to the central plaza where you'll find the gift shop, a restaurant, and bathrooms. Across from the buildings is Gibbon Island where only water separates you from the small islands containing Siamangs and White-Cheeked Gibbons. If you hear a whooping sound during your visit, it's not one of the birds, it's the mating call of the Siamangs--no two pairs have the same pattern.
Heading along the main path to the right will take you to past a large and ellaborate wooden playground across from Festival Field (if you've got young kids, be prepared to have a seat for a while--it may be too much fun for them to pass by). If you continue you'll see the wild animal carousel, and beside it on the left is Lorikeet Landing where you can walk amongst the colorful birds and feed them nectar from cups you can buy for $1 at the exhibit. (Tip: if the zoo is crowded, and it's late in the day, the birds may not be hungry, so you may want to skip the nectar).
The path to the right of the carousel leads to Grassmere Historic Home and Farm, where common domestic animals (horses, cows, sheep, goats, chickens) are housed, and the Croft Home, an 1810 house listed on the National Register of Historic Places, offers tours seasonally.
Heading back the way you came, and to the right between Festival Field on the left and the carousel and Lorikeet Landing on the right, you'll find the African Savannah featuring Red River Hogs, African Elephants, and Masai Giraffes, as well as a gift shop (hours vary). The elephant enclosure is quite large, but there are several places to see them well depending on where they are. The path to the giraffes around most of this enclosure is a bit of a hike, but well-themed.
If you head back past Festival Field to the gift shop and restaurant, and then continue to the right you'll find a wonderful Meerkat exhibit, which has a bubble for children (and flexible adults) to pop their heads up among the cute fellas. Look for the lookout, the one sitting up as if posing for your photo. If they all suddenly dive for cover, he's probably spotted a hawk flying overhead.
Continuing down a small hill you'll pass the Saddle-billed Stork, and cross a bridge to the Amphitheater which features live animal shows (a schedule will come with your map), and the Unseen New World building where you can cool off/warm up and see reptiles, amphibians, spiders, bats, and a small walk-through aviary. There are bathrooms inside Unseen New World (to the left after entering) and an outdoor snack bar nextdoor, with a few tables overlooking the pond.
The main loop of the zoo is ahead, as you cross another small bridge on the right and climb a gradual hill. You'll see glimpses to your right of a large enclosure featuring African animals, but there's a viewing area further up. You'll first pass the African Wild Dogs (which, as of Summer 2013, is being replaced by a walk-through exhibit of kangaroos and wallabies). You'll come to a small clearing next where there are picnic tables and a Dippin' Dots (super-frozen ice cream that comes in beads) stand and a viewing area of the aforementioned enclosure where Ostriches, Damara Zebras, and Elands roam together.
Pressing on, you'll see two Bengal Tigers, one white and one orange, who are sisters. Further on is the small Eurasian Lynx exhibit.
You'll come to a small pond by a small shack next--Alligator Cove. Inside is a glass window where you can view the young Alligators, and outside and down the small hill you can see underwater into their enclosure as well. Further along the trail, across from the Rhinocerous Hornbill, you'll find restrooms and a shortcut to Critter Encounter (covered below), but don't turn yet because some of the best exhibits are just ahead.
You can't miss the moment you come to Bamboo Trail where you'll see some of the rarest of the zoo's animals. Over the foot bridge, inside an open-air building you can get up-close to Clouded Leopards and Red Pandas. The zoo has an excellent breeding program for clouded leopards, and the cubs will sometimes be on temporary exhibit either at Critter Encounter or in the Red Panda enclosure (without the red pandas, of course!) Across from this small building are playful Ring-tailed Lemurs and Guenons (a species of monkey). As you leave the Bamboo Trail, you can look down at the Cassowary, a large flightless bird with a colorful head.
As you near the end of the loop, you'll come to a pair of Cougars, and once you've rounded the bend, you'll see the Porcupine exhibit, baird's tapir exhibit, and flamingo exhibit (there is a bathroom and water fountain between the latter two). The tapir gave birth to a baby during the major flood in Nashville in 2010, so they named the baby Noah.
Finally, you've reached the last exhibit, Critter Encounters, where you can pet the friendly goats that roam about, and see the Camels, miniature Donkeys, Alpacas. There are also enclosures with wallabies, eagles, owls, and hornbills in this area.
Just up ahead you'll be back at the Unseen New World. If you don't need to visit the gift shop, and are ready to head home, there's a shortcut back to the parking lot. Take the stairs to the second level (either outside, or inside Unseen New World to the left, through the Aviary). You can walk past the desk here and exit the other side. The main entrance will be to your left.