While this 80-acre zoo isn’t the caliber of San Diego or even Memphis, it is a hit with younger kids—and with parents who understand how incredible it is that most of the zoo is naturally shaded by trees, which is a lifesaver in Nashville’s warmer months. Just south of downtown, the zoo is home to all the usual suspects, including giraffes, elephants, alligators, meerkats, and African wild hogs. In the naturalistic habitats, you’ll see river otters, bison, elk, black bear, red pandas, bald eagles, and cougars, as well as other smaller animals. The flamingo exhibit is beautiful, if a little smelly on hotter days, and the zoo is also known for its formerly endangered clouded leopard cubs. More than 32 cubs have been born at the Nashville Zoo since 2009. In the park’s aviary, you can walk among many of the state’s songbirds, and at the Cumberland River exhibit expect to see fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Kids can ride wood-carved cougars on the zoo’s colorful carousel and frolic under water features. The Nashville Zoo is also remarkable for its interactive elements including feeding and touching turtles and its kangaroo petting zoo. From Thanksgiving through January, the Zoolumination installation of Chinese lanterns make nightime visiting epic and Instagram-worthy.

Tip: To beat the crowds, try visiting the zoo during off-peak times (Mon–Fri around 1pm and Sun at 9am).