Nashville Tennessee Attractions | Nashville Zoo

Our Story

Nashville Zoo's mission is... To inspire a culture of understanding and discovery of our natural world through conservation, innovation and leadership.

Nashville Zoo is a progressive and dynamic zoological park located just 6 miles south of downtown Nashville. With just 86 of 188 acres developed, Nashville Zoo is the 9th largest zoo in the country by landmass. The Zoo is one of the top tourist attractions in the state and has been named the Best Regional Attraction and Best Day Trip by The Tennessean.


Since opening its doors in 1991, Nashville Zoo has grown from a small, private operation located 30 minutes northwest of Nashville to an AZA-accredited facility that welcomes more than one million visitors each year, while being involved with international conservation and research efforts to save threatened species. 

The Zoo moved to its current 188-acre location in 1997 and has developed just under half of its land, which was generously donated to the city by the Croft family under a condition that it had to be used as a ‘nature study area’. City leaders struck a 40-year lease with Nashville Zoo in which the land would be city-owned but operated by the Zoo’s private non-profit organization.

Learn more about our history

Visionary Leadership

Zoo President & CEO, Rick Schwartz

Rick Schwartz has been heavily involved in conservation for almost thirty years and is known internationally for his devotion to saving clouded leopards. Since lending his expertise to a group of Nashvillians building a local zoo in 1989, he has been the director and primary architect of Nashville Zoo - building facilities, designing the exhibits and working extensively with other zoos throughout the country to develop the outstanding collection of species represented at Nashville Zoo.

Rick Schwartz – President and Chief Executive Officer
David Oehler - Vice President
Andy Tillman – Chief Operating Officer
Kim Pridgen – Chief Finance Officer
Suzanne Iler – Chief Development Officer

Julie W. Walker – Chairman
Rick Schwartz – Zoo President & CEO
David Manning – Secretary
Ed Goodrich – Treasurer
Lauren Curry – Legal Counsel

Clara Belden, Samantha Boyd, Mike Bracken, Beth Courtney, Drew Crawford, Anne Davis, Laurie Eskind, Will Fitzgibbon, Lily Followill, Jimmy Granbery, J.R. Greene, Barbara Hagood, Carl Haley, Jr., Allie Hall, Chris Holmes, John Howard, Kent Kirby, John Lueken, Alex Marks, Karen Moore, Sandra Morgan, Tara Scarlett, Tim Schoettle, Brian Smallwood, Alex Sollberger, Butch Spyridon, Barbara Turner, McArthur VanOsdale, Kimberly Williams-Paisley

George Armistead III, Kelley Beaman, Lee Beaman, Kathryn Carell Brown, Renée Chevalier, Neely Coble III, Kelly Crockett Crook, Missy Eason, Jennifer Frist, Rodes Hart, Jim Hunt, Sarah Ingram, Jeff Jacobs, Tom Loventhal, Ellen Martin, Frank McGrew, Richard McRae, Larry Papel, Anne Parsons, Robin Patton, Sheryl Rogers, Charles Sonnenberg, Renato Soto, Richard Speer, Abby Trotter