Lowry Park in Tampa, rated as the best zoo in the United States, is a world-renowned facility specializing in education and rehabilitation and has been recognized by Parents Magazine as one of the top ten zoos as well. Whether you're taking a Tampa vacation with children, or you're just interested in wildlife and have already seen the Big Cat Rescue or the Florida Aquarium, a visit to the zoo is well worth considering for your itinerary.
The Tampa Lowry Park Zoo came into being in the 1930s. The zoo was located in an area along the Hillsborough River and had a very small collection of reptiles, exotic birds, and small animals. In 1957, Lowry Park Zoo moved to its current location, which is directly across the street from a segment of the Hillsborough River and currently houses more than 2,000 animals.
The animals at Lowry Park in Tampa live in large enclosures designed to provide a natural habitat specific to each species and landscaped with grass, waterfalls, trees, rocks, climbing platforms, and ample room for the animals to exercise.
The Tampa Lowry Park Zoo promotes education and conservation through programs and camps for children and adults. The Florida Manatee and Aquatic Center features twin pools where visitors can see the manatees underwater through the viewing window. The rehabilitation facility at Tampa Lowry Park Zoo for manatees is the only nonprofit hospital in the world dedicated to these gentle creatures.
Visitors have plenty of different opportunities at Lowry Park Zoo to observe the animals in the seven exhibits located throughout the 56-acre park. The main exhibits include the Free-Flight Aviary, Wallaroo Station Children's Zoo, Asian Domain, Manatee and Aquatic Center, Primate World, Safari Africa, and Florida Wildlife Center, where visitors will see an array of interesting wildlife, including winged and aquatic residents.
Shows at Lowry Park Zoo include the penguin, critter, and manatee encounter, the birds of prey Spirits in the Sky show, and alligator shows. The Free Flight Aviary enclosure features waterfalls and stream and birds flying high overhead in the canopy of trees. At Stingray Bay, visitors can feed and touch the rays.
If you're looking to try rides and other such attractions, consider the River Odyssey Eco-tour, which is a one-hour tour down the Hillsborough River to observe plants, flowers, birds, turtles, and manatees. Visitors at Lowry Park in Tampa also can fly high at the zoo by riding the Tasmanian Tiger Family coaster and Boomer's Flyin Bananas, or they can look down on the park from the Treetop Skyfari.
On the ground, the Safari Ride takes visitors on a fifteen-minute tour of Safari Africa and Ituri Forest with an up-close view of giraffes, zebras, antelopes, elephants, marmosets, chimpanzees, rhinos, leopards, and cheetahs. The Camel Ride and Pony Trek provide kids with the opportunity to experience a ride on a live camel, pony, or adult llama, and the Wallaroo Station is designed as a kids' play area.
The Jungle Carousel merry-go-round also is fun for the whole family, and if things get too hot, you don't have to leave the zoo for a water park such as Adventure Island, as the Manatee Fountains and Billabong Fountains offer a fun place to splash and spray, and the Gator Falls Flume Ride provides visitors a chance to cool off. Tokens are needed in order to access the rides or to take the River Odyssey Eco-tour, and each ride requires a specific number of tokens.
There are plenty of food choices located throughout the park, including full-scale dining at Reilly's Reserve, Tolson's BBQ, Garden Grill, and Safari Lodge. The Paradise Café and Grub & Grog both offer a lighter menu, and Starbuck's, Tamani's Oasis, Carousel Bar, and Congo Trading Company offer menus featuring gourmet coffee, pastries, cakes, snacks, and a variety of sweet delights.
Lowry Park Zoo coupons are available with the purchase of an annual ride pass, which allows for unlimited rides, or a Summer Family Fun Pass, which covers unlimited admission and rides from June through August. You can also buy one-day passes to the zoo. Lowry Park in Tampa is open daily, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, from 9 am to 5:30 pm. Parking is free, making it easy for visitors with rental cars to get to this attraction.