Boston-area families are so lucky, because we have our choice of numerous amazing zoos within just a short drive of the city. They are all worth visiting, but some are more appropriate than others depending on the ages of your kids and what you are looking for. Regardless of which zoo you visit, try to get there early, when the weather is cooler, for the most animal sightings. – By Jodi Grundig

(Photo Credit: Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images)

Stone Zoo

Mon.-Fri.: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sat.-Sun.: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
One Frankiln Park Road, Boston, Mass.
Ages 2-12: $9.00
Adults: $13.00
Seniors (62+): $11.00
website and reviews

Unlike its larger and more popular sister zoo, the Franklin Park Zoo, the Stone Zoo is more laid back and low-key, making it a great place to visit with younger kids. There are some great annual events that happen here, including the popular ZooLights that takes place over the Christmas holidays.

Parking is free and easy, and the exhibits are intimate, so kids can really see the animals. My kids especially love the Windows to the Wild exhibit, which features three adorable meerkats. The whole zoo is walkable and doable within an afternoon.

(Photo Credit: Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Franklin Park Zoo

Mon.-Fri.: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sat.-Sun.: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
One Franklin Park Road, Boston, Mass.
Ages: 2-12: $10
Adults: $16
Seniors (62+): $13.00
website and reviews

The Franklin Park Zoo, the most popular zoo in the Greater Boston-area, is open year round. Parking is free but can be challenging when the zoo is busy. It’s also a much larger zoo than others, so there’s a lot of walking involved, but there are plenty of food concessions, including the indoor Giddy-Up Grill.

The indoor tropical forest, featuring the indoor gorilla exhibit (and the brand-new gorilla baby), is my kids’ favorite, and is a can’t-miss exhibit. Other popular exhibits include the Giraffe Savannah (giraffes are only on display when the temperature is 65 degrees or above), and the Kalahari Kingdom with African lions.

(Photo Credit: Southwick Zoo)

Southwick Zoo

Sun.-Sat.: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
2 Southwick, St., Mendon, Mass.
Ages: 3-12: $13.50
Adults: $19.50
Seniors (62+): $13.50

Southwick’s Zoo, a privately owned and operated zoo is located in Mendon, Massachusetts, southwest of Boston. It’s open from mid-April through mid-October, and, at 200 acres, is the largest zoo in New England.

As a private zoo, it’s more expensive than the other zoos in the area, but it’s definitely still worth visiting. I’ve found it to be less crowded than other zoos, and there are some fun things not found at other zoos – like the Woodland Express tire train, camel rides, and the SkyFari Sky Ride (all at an extra fee). You could easily spend the day here.

(Photo Credit: Buttonwood Park Zoo)

Buttonwood Park Zoo

Sun.-Sat.: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
425 Hawthorn St., New Bedford, Mass.
Ages 3-12: $3
Adults: $6
Seniors & Teens: $4.50

Located in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Buttonwood Park Zoo is a fun zoo for young children. My kids love getting pony rides here, where you’ll also get a commemorative photo (additional fee). Popular exhibits include the elephant exhibit, and the cougar/mountain lion exhibits.

Parking at the Buttonwood Park Zoo is free, and the admission rates are very reasonable.

(Photo Credit: Roger Williams Park Zoo)

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Sun.-Sat.: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
1000 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, R.I.
Ages 3-12: $8
Adults: $12
Seniors (62+): $8

Roger Williams Park Zoo, in Providence, Rhode Island, coversabout 40 acres, and offers over 100 types of animals. The admission price is lower than the Boston area zoos, making it a nice bargain. It’s also the only place in the area where you can go into a lush “rainforest”.

There are several popular events throughout the year, including the famous Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular throughout the month of October.

Jodi Grundig is editor and publisher of Family-Friendly Boston and Mom’s Favorite Stuff.