Nashville zoo

Exploring the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere: A Melding of History, Wildlife, and Community Engagement
Nashville, TN / USA - (last modified November 10, 2023 at 6:00am ) by

The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is not just a place to see exotic animals; it’s a conservation hub, a historic landmark, and a center for community events. Located just 6 miles southeast of Downtown Nashville, the Zoo serves as an educational sanctuary for both the young and the young at heart. As Middle Tennessee’s top paid attraction, the Zoo is home to over 6,230 individual animals across 339 species. Spread across 188 acres, this accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums offers a unique experience that blends natural wildlife with cultural history.

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The Historic Grassmere Home and Dunn Farm

Before the Nashville Zoo came into existence, the land was part of a 300-acre farm owned by Michael and Elizabeth Dunn. This slaveholding property has a house built in 1810 through slave labor, which still stands today. The land was later deeded to the Children's Museum of Nashville by the Croft sisters, descendants of the Dunn family, with the stipulation that it would serve as a 'nature study center.'

Archaeological investigations have revealed unmarked cemeteries near the property’s entrance, believed to be the final resting place of African-Americans who lived during the farm's era. Their remains have since been exhumed and moved closer to the historic Dunn house in respect to their historical significance.

Grassmere Wildlife Park to Nashville Zoo

After Elise Croft's death in 1985, the land began its transformation into Grassmere Wildlife Park. However, it closed in December 1994, and the city of Nashville took over the property. Around the same time, a separate Nashville Zoo facility was operating in Joelton, Tennessee. Plans were eventually made to consolidate these two facilities, and in May 1997, the Nashville Wildlife Park at Grassmere was opened. The Joelton site was closed in 1998 due to public confusion, focusing all efforts on the Grassmere location.

Conservation Programs

With a strong commitment to conservation, the Nashville Zoo supported nearly 50 programs in 2019. These range from coral rescue initiatives to fighting wildlife trafficking. The zoo takes an active role in preserving endangered or threatened species, both locally and globally. Creatures like the hellbender, cheetah, loggerhead shrike, alligator snapping turtle, streamside salamander, oilbird, flamingo, and even the Nashville crayfish have all benefited from these programs.

Nashville zoo

Special Features and Events

Zoolumination Member Event

One of the highly anticipated annual events is Zoolumination, a special occasion where members are treated to a dazzling display of lights. It’s a time when the zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland, illuminated in festive colors that make the holiday season come alive. Zoolumination starts November 17th 2023 thru February 4th 2024. Click here to visit the site for more details  

Nashville zoo zoolumination

Kangaroo Kickabout

One of the visitor favorites at the Nashville Zoo is the Kangaroo Kickabout. This interactive exhibit allows guests to get up close and personal with these fascinating marsupials. The open enclosure mimics the natural environment, providing a unique and educational experience for everyone.

Nashville zoo kangaroo kickabout


The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is more than just a zoo; it's a repository of natural beauty, history, and conservation efforts. It not only educates us about the importance of wildlife but also serves as a reminder of our own local history. Whether you're interested in history, conservation, or just a fun day out with the family, the Nashville Zoo offers an enriching experience for all.

Nashville Zoo

Plan Your Visit

If the myriad of species, rich history, and special events like Zoolumination and Kangaroo Kickabout entice you, a visit to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere should be on your bucket list. Come to explore, learn, and be amazed!

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