blank park zoo

Best Places to See Animals in Iowa

From a traditional zoo with giraffes and sea lions to a five-mile drive-through wildlife refuge, Iowa offers a variety of ways to experience and learn about your favorite creatures.

Note: Check each location’s Web site for visitation updates and safety measures.

Blank Park Zoo

Des Moines

A part of the Des Moines metro community since 1963, the mission of Blank Park Zoo (pictured at top of page) is to inspire an appreciation of the natural world in all who visit. Within its 49 acres of land, there are currently 104 different animal species and nearly 1,500 animal specimens cared for at the zoo, with other attractions including train and carousel rides. Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

Port of Dubuque

Part aquarium, part museum and part science center, the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium offers a unique way to experience the life, history and culture of the region and its rivers. Featured animals include the bald eagle, alligators, pythons, sharks, turtles and various other creatures, plus a wide variety of must-see educational exhibitions. Open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

Prairie City

The refuge’s tallgrass prairie is home to a wide diversity of wildlife that can be admired via a five-mile auto tour, which travels directly through the bison and elk enclosure. Visitors may also get to see grassland bird species, unique insects and plenty of fluttering in butterfly garden next to the visitor venter and along the trails. Refuge trails and roads are open from dusk to dawn.

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