Tampa With Kids: Getting Close and Personal With Animals At the Lowry Park Zoo

Disclosure: We received complimentary tickets to visit the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, one of the best family zoos in the US for families. However all opinions are sincere and are my own.

girl feeding giraffe at Lowry Park Zoo

My daughter feeding giraffe at Lowry Park Zoo. Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz all rights reserved. 


Just a couple of hours away from Southwest Florida the Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is considered one of the best family zoos in the US, which doesn’t come as a surprise to us.  We loved the Lowry Park Zoo from the first time we visited some 4 years ago.  It’s small size and wonderful array of animals habitats from penguins to pigmy hippos is enhanced with educational animal talks and shows, animal interactions and rides for children of all ages.  There is even a water play area for kids to cool off during the hot summer months, or really anytime since Florida is always pretty warm.


zoo animals

Lots of beautiful animals to see and learn about at the Tampa Lowry Park Zoo. Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.


One of the things that really sets the Lowry Park Zoo apart from other zoos we’ve been to is the countless opportunities kids have to interact with the animals.  There is a petting zoo area with goats and other farm animals and you can feed the giraffes, lorikeets, buschland budgies , stingrays and even the white rhinos!


boy riding a llama at Lowry Park zoo

My little man riding a llama at Lowry Park Zoo. Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.


One of my children’s favorite things to do is ride the ponies and on this occasion my little guy was able to ride a llama for the first time! There are some height and weight requirements though, specially for the llamas that can only carry smaller children but this is something we had never done before and the kids just loved the llamas.


Girl looking at giant Eastrn lubber grasshopper

Checking each other out. My daughter is amazed by this giant grasshoper, the Easter Lubber. Just beware of this interesting insect as it will excrete a toxic substance if touched. Eeeek! Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.


My daughter, an avid animal lover who hopes to become a Vet when she grows up, could not get enough of the animals.  She was a thrilled and amazed by both the animals in the Zoo habitats as well as the local wildlife roaming around the Zoo gardens like this giant Eastern lubber grasshopper or the countless birds that roam freely from ibises and herons to sanhill cranes.


feeding the lorekeets Lowry Zoo

Photo Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.


My little guy could not get enough of the rides. From bumper boats to the tiger roller coaster and the fun animal carrousel there is something for everyone and although there are height restrictions on some of the rides they are all kid friendly, unlike other parks.


boy driving bumber boats

My little guy having an awesome time on the bumper boats. Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.

tiger roller coaster Lowry Park Zoo

Just the right level of thrills for young kids. Riding the tiger roller coaster at the Lowry Park Zoo. Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.


The Lowry Park Zoo operates the only non-profit manatee hospital in the world and you get a chance to see these gentle creatures from above and from below sea level at their Florida Manatee and Aquarium Center’s observation pools.  The Aquatic Center also hosts lots of reptiles, fish and other aquatic species.



Photo Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.

At the Darrell Discovery center kids will enter into the world of frogs and toads and get the opportunity to learn more about these interesting and colorful amphibians.  Many of the aquariums that house the frogs have a listening component and my children had really enjoyed listening to the different sounds the frogs and toads make.


yellow frogs

Photo Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.

Did I mention you can even feed the white rhinos?  I was not kidding! Both my kids thought that was super cool and none of us had ever been that close to these magnificent creatures, it was quite an unforgettable experience.

boy touching rhino at Lowry Park Zoo

My little guys feeding the rhinos at the Lowry Park Zoo. Photo Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.


So if you are planning a trip to Tampa or just looking for a fun weekend activity visiting the Tampa Lowry Park Zoo is a great idea for families.  Visit  the Lowry Park Zoo website to find out more about them, see the show and feeding schedules and purchase your tickets.  You can also like the Lowry Park Zoo on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at @LowryParkZoo to stay up to date with their latest news and upcoming events.

This is part of a series of articles: Tampa with Kids , you can read more articles in the series HERE. #TampaWithKids

Follow 365 Things to Do In Southwest Florida on Facebook for the best travel ideas, events and attractions for the whole family.


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  1. I want to feed giraffes and rhinos! That is too cool!! That sounds like a phenomenal zoo.

  2. Looks like an awesome day at the zoo!! What fun!

  3. We love the zoo, but ours doesn’t let you get up close and personal like that. I think I like your zoo better!

  4. Love the pictures. Looks like the kids had so much fun at the zoo. 🙂

  5. Awe, the giraffe picture! That’s priceless. The giant Grasshopper- GAH! I don’t know if I would be brave enough to get within 10 feet of it. All great pictures though, looks like you guys had a blast!

  6. What a great looking zoo, next time we are in the area we will have to check it out. My son is a HUGE animal lover, this is right up his alley!

  7. We love this zoo! My son wants to be a zoo keeper when he gets older, he has been interested in animals every since he was young. We didn’t feed the rhinos but we did feed the giraffe and ride the camel (I think thats gone now). Great post

  8. OMG this looks like so much fun. My girls would love it. We just visited our local zoo last week and they love all the animals.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. The animal lover in me is very jealous you got the chance to see a clouded leopard. I love looking at pics of clouded leopards and would be just tickled pink to actually get the chance to see one in person. Cat-son? lol 🙂

    • rebeka deleon on 28 August, 2013 at 9:47 pm
    • Reply

    we used to live in tampa. i do like that zoo. we went there when it they had their halloween theme. i really like busch gardens which is right down the street from that zoo. love it. very fun.

  10. omg your son rode a llama?! I am dying of jealousy right now. It’s one of my favorite animals and I had NO idea that they would let people ride on them. AH!

    • Erin K. on 30 August, 2013 at 7:35 am
    • Reply

    It looks like you all had a wonderful time. We have a very little zoo near us, mostly made up of farm animals. There is really no interaction allowed. My kids, especially my almost 3 year old, would love the Lowry Park Zoo. Especially that big grass hopper!

  11. I am so jealous of your family. I would give anything to ride a Llama or feed a Rhino! The zoos that we go to have nothing anywhere near as neat as this, at least we can’t actually get close to them. The closest we can get to any animal at the zoo, are the birds that snatch out food when we eat.

    • Trisha B. on 5 September, 2013 at 10:51 pm
    • Reply

    I just love animals of all sorts so much and I think that going to the zoo is a very wonderful experience for children of all ages. I loved going to the zoo as a young child and will always remember the moments being around all the animals

    • richelle leffler on 9 September, 2013 at 11:38 pm
    • Reply

    that looks so fun wish we could go my daughter would love it our zoo is ok but nothing like that

    • jenn p on 11 September, 2013 at 12:08 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for the post..Ive been looking for somewhere new to take my boys..This looks fun

    • justa sobriquet on 11 September, 2013 at 9:22 pm
    • Reply

    I’ve been there many times, the zoo has grown since I was a kid. I am happy to say that the enclosures have improved over the bare-bones glorified crates that they used to use many years ago (resulting in miserable and sometimes aggressive animals, especially the gorillas.) I didn’t make it to see all of the animals (they had red pandas when I was last there but I somehow missed that portion of the zoo) the last time that I was there. The Tampa Aquarium is worth a visit too, I actually enjoyed that a lot more than Lowry Park.

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