Are you looking for zoos in Ontario? Or animal sanctuaries where you can take your children (or yourself!) and learn about nature?
Here are some of the best-known animal parks in Ontario. Most are within an hour’s drive of Toronto or Niagara Falls. Many feature both Canadian wildlife and exotic animals from around the world and offer educational programs as well.
African Lion Safari
Flamborough. Near Hamilton and Cambridge. A drive-through game reserve with more than 1000 animals including big cats, baboons, giraffe, zebras and more. Much cheaper than a trip to Africa! Different from a zoo in the sense that the animals aren’t enclosed in cages; they roam around while you drive through the park.
Niagara Falls Ontario. My favourite aviary. Hundreds of tropical birds in the most exotic replica jungle I’ve ever seen. I’ve been here a few times and just love watching these magnificent creatures swoop through the palm trees.
Jungle Cat World
Orono. One of a handful of specialized zoos in Ontario. This 15-acre zoo is about a 45-minute drive east of Toronto. In addition to Zoo Camps for kids, they also offer Zoo Bed and Breakfast for adults. The Night Safaris allow visitors to explore the zoo when the nocturnal animals are most active.
Niagara Falls Ontario. This animal park specializes in performing dolphins, killer whales, walruses and more. They also have amusement-park-style rides.
Mountsberg Conservation Area Raptor Centre
Campbellville. I love this place! This outdoor bird sanctuary and wildlife rehabilitation centre offers live bird shows with eagles, turkey vultures and owls. Watch the birds swoop down for chunks of fresh meat (not for queasy stomachs). They also have bison and elk (rather odd additions!). Relaxing walking trails and a peaceful lake.
Muskoka Wildlife Centre
Severn Bridge. On Hwy 11 N halfway between Orillia and Gravenhurst. This is NOT a zoo, but a rescue and rehabilitation centre for animals that have been injured. Some are eventually released into the wild again and some become permanent residents (if they are unable to return to nature). It’s open to visitors. A little further north than the rest of places on this page.
Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory
Niagara Falls Ontario. This is one of my favourites (although it can great a bit crowded at times). The kids will be dazzled, especially when one of these gorgeous butterflies lies on their shirt (TIP: dress the kids in bright clothing and the butterflies will think they’re flowers). Interesting scientific display is very informative too.
Riverview Park & Zoo
Peterborough. A smaller zoo with camels, yaks, lizards and cougars. Features of the nearby park include a miniature train, playground, disc golf area and picnic grounds.
Stevensville (near Fort Erie). Formerly “ZOOZ”. A 100-acre zoo with more than 400 animals. They changed their name in 2009 but it’s the same park. The owners explain: “Somehow, despite the number of Niagara residents who love ZOOZ and who visit regularly, it has managed to be one of the region’s best kept secrets. The owners are hoping a more distinct title will capture a broader market.”
Toronto. The largest of all zoos in Ontario. I’ve been here many times and never get tired of visiting. At 710 acres, it’s one of the largest zoos in the world. With more than 5,000 animals from more than 500 species, it’s impossible to see everything even in one full day, so don’t even try. Check the map and focus on what you want to see that day.
Wings of Paradise Butterfly Conservatory
Cambridge. Meet thousands of free-flying butterflies and a dozen species of tropical birds. This indoor tropical paradise is smaller than the Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory but very charming. Since it's a bit off the beaten track, it's not as crowded with visitors, so I found it more peaceful too.