There's nothing that brings joy quite like an animal. Whether furry or scaly, it's always cool to learn about their way of life and even see their distinct personalities! Unfortunately, many animals are abused or neglected. That's where animal sanctuaries come in. They'll take in orphaned or injured creatures while simultaneously promoting advocacy and education. Even better, some of these sanctuaries give tours to the public to help with the education component. Learning something while having fun and interacting with animals is a good idea for a family vacation, wouldn't you say? Here's a list of animal sanctuaries in the United States that both kids and parents can enjoy.
10 Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah
On average, about 1,600 homeless animals -- primarily cats and dogs -- live in this sanctuary at any given time. Interact with all the friendly dogs in "Dogtown" and learn about what the organization does to attend to each dog's individual needs and help them find homes. Or maybe check out "Cat World" where you can see cats play and cuddle. Then there's Horse Haven, Bunny House, Parrot Garden, Piggy Paradise, and Wild Friends! Tours are given almost every day, but make sure to look a their event calendar for more specialized animal activities. Learn more at bestfriends.org
9 Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida
This organization's mission is to educate about abuse of big cats in captivity and the potential extinction of various species. There are various tours you can buy tickets to: a Day Tour, a Night Tour, and even a Photo Tour. While you obviously can't pet these powerful creatures, you'll be in awe getting up-close with tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, cougars and more! For a typical tour, children under the age of 10 aren't permitted, but they do offer a specialized Kids Tour where parents can take younger children to see the big cats. Check out bigcatrescue.org to learn more.
8 Black Pine Animal Sanctuary in Albion, Indiana
Also known as the Professional Animal Retirement Center (PARC), this sanctuary takes care of exotic animals that were taken from their homelands and raised in captivity. What constitutes as an "exotic animal"? You can expect big cats, bears, monkeys, reptiles, and more at the sanctuary.
There is the option of just being a "walk-in" and meandering around, but it's highly recommended to make a reservation for a staff-guided tour so you can learn more. There are also private tours (where you must be at least 10 years old) where you get a more behind-the-scenes look at the care of the animals. If you're an adult, you can join in on a tour that allows you to aid the keepers in feeding and tending for the animals! Visit bpsanctuary.org for more information.
7 Safe Haven Wildlife Sanctuary in Imlay, Nevada
This sanctuary helps rehabilitate all kinds of wildlife, from big cats to bears to parrots to tortoises. Many are victims of the exotic pet trade. Not only are personal tours of the sanctuary available, there is also a Photography Tour for budding photographers. If you really want to splurge, you can now book a private tour with founder Lynda Sugasa, who will give you information on the in's and out's of caring for all of these amazing creatures. Visit safehavenwildlife.com to learn more.
6 The Raptor Trust in Millington, New Jersey
The Raptor Trust helps heal and rehabilitate injured birds of prey, such as owls and hawks. With the sanctuary being open to the public seven days a week, families can come in and walk amongst some of the most majestic birds. Oh, and it's completely free of charge! Although the organization will hint at perhaps making a small donation, to help with the work they do. Once you're done meandering and learning about the raptors, you can proceed to the organization's gift shop. Check them out at theraptortrust.org.
5 Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue in Dover Plans, New York
There are plenty of experiences to choose from at this sanctuary that cares for abused or injured horses. You can do a free self-guided tour, a guided farm tour where you'll learn more about caring for the vulnerable horses, or even take a riding lesson.
If you have a little one between the ages of 3 and 7, they can participate in the rescue's Pony Pals program. For those who live nearby, the sanctuary has recently started offering horse therapy programs to help people work through a variety of issues. Check them out at their official website.
4 Animal Place in Grass Valley, California
This organization is committed to caring for neglected farm animals -- such as cows and pigs -- and showing them a loving home. Animal Place accepts walk-ins who'd rather do a self-guided tour, but you will not be able to touch the animals if you choose this option. With a guided tour, you can learn about the history of the animals and how they're cared for. Keep in mind that while there are plenty of picnic tables on the property, Animal Place only permits vegan food on their grounds. Learn more at animalplace.org
3 Project Perry in Louisa, Virginia
Project Perry is completely dedicated to the rehabilitation of parrots. Tours are available for families who want to interact with the over 200 birds on the property. You'll also get to learn about the backstories of some of the birds and how they were rescued. There are multiple aviaries for the various types of bird they have, like the Grey Aviary, the Special Needs Grey Aviary, the Small Bird Aviary, the Conure Aviary, the Amazon Aviary, and the Macaw Aviary. Find out more at projectperry.com
2 Wolf Haven International in Tenino, Washington
Dedicated to rehabilitating wolves who were neglected in captivity, Wolf Haven International provides 50-minute walking tours where you can learn about the life of a wolf as well as see some yourself. There is also a trail you're can choose to walk down on your own in a self-guided tour of the flora and fauna of the sanctuary. With such a serene environment, you're bound to have a peaceful experience. Check out the pack at wolfhaven.org
1 The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado
The Wild Animal Sanctuary is over 10,000 acres and allows formerly abused animals who were held in captivity to roam freely. If you want to catch a glimpse of some lions, tigers, and bears (oh my,) the sanctuary is open seven days a week. You'll get to witness all kinds of animals from observation decks, or watch them play together in specialized jungle gyms. There is also an Education Center where you can learn about the animals that reside there and the missions of the sanctuary. Don't forget to grab some food at their on-site restaurant! Learn more about this refuge at wildanimalsanctuary.org