Ever thought about feeding a cougar? Cuddling a koala? Taking a safari to see gazelles and rhinos? Staying with farm animals? Interacting with camels, wolves, lemurs, and monkeys? Kissing a giraffe? Visiting a tiger palace? Well, people have the chance to do all of that and more at the fantastic destinations found on this list.
These sanctuaries, parks, zoos, preserves, and centers work to protect animals while educating people on these creatures. While doing so, they open their doors to the public, allowing for tours, feedings, photo ops, and other chances to get up close and personal with wildlife!
Updated by Gabriel Kirellos, December 5th, 2021: There are several places in the US where people can get up close and personal with the diverse wildlife in the country. This list was updated to include more places where people can meet animals, touch them, feed them, wash them, and more. These include the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Missouri, Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, and Indiana's Wilstem Ranch.
12 Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida
Big Cat Rescue has over 80 big cats like cougars, lions, tigers, ocelots, jaguars, leopards, and bobcats, rescued after being hurt, abandoned or forced to retire as a performer. BCR also works to educate the public through education and legislation on ways to end these creatures' private possession and trade.
Launching in 1992, this place offers a variety of tours, where guests can see these felines up close. People can visit during the day, at night, with groups, alone, to help feed the animals or events like weddings and field trips.
11 Palm Beach Zoo in Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach Zoo grew from a small red barn to a major attraction with over 550 animals and 190 species. Here, guests can enjoy everything from bears, capuchin monkeys, coatis, Komodo dragons to llamas, ocelots, otters, peacocks, and toucans.
There are also unique experiences with koalas, tortoises, sloths, flamingos, capybaras, and anteaters, allowing people to get even closer to these creatures. Furthermore, the Palm Beach Zoo has a Conservation Society that helps with projects worldwide and offers educational programs to spread even more knowledge about wildlife and their work.
10 Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center fights on behalf of endangered animals, and this place utilizes research, training, management, and education to protect indigenous and exotic endangered and threatened species.
People can stay on-site in a lodge or cabins, can attend camps or workshops, can check out the Children's Animal Center, can go to events such as the Father's Day Sunset Safari Dinner & Tour, can have their birthday parties or weddings here and can enjoy a variety of tours. Yes, there are many ways that guests can see animals like gazelle, tortoise, bison, jackrabbit, wolf, goat, rhinoceros, or tortoise!
9 Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in High Falls, New York
Woodstock Farm Sanctuary rescues farm animals and is all about animal rights for creatures such as chickens, cows, ducks, pigs, rabbits, sheep, and turkeys. This sanctuary offers memberships, volunteer spots, corporate sponsorships, jobs, internships, and tours.
For tours, people get to enter into pastures and yards; while everyone is surrounded by the animals, the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary team tells the creatures' stories of where they came and how they ended up where they are now. Oh, and guests can stay on-site at The Gray Barn, a brand-new place with overnight accommodations that comes with a private tour and a vegan breakfast!
8 B Bryan Preserve in Point Arena, California
B Bryan Preserve exists to breed and conserve African Hoof Stock, such as antelopes, zebras, and giraffes. This preserve was started by wildlife enthusiasts, and the entire team works to grow an overall interest in conservation and build awareness around current problems regarding wildlife.
Guests can take a tour or stay here for an entire weekend to get up-close and personal with these animals and learn about conservation efforts. Tours are handled in a vintage open-air land rover that frequently stops for photo ops and for a chance to feed or even kiss giraffe!
7 North Georgia Zoo & Farm in Cleveland, Georgia
The North Georgia Zoo & Farm, home to Wildlife Wonders and Paradise Valley, teaches people about and connects people to animals. There are so many here: insects, birds, small exotics (like hedgehogs and chinchillas), large exotics (like yak), deer, kangaroos, canines, cats, primates, reptiles & amphibians, native mammals (like flying squirrels and woodchucks), and farm & petting zoo animals (like miniature horses, llamas, fainting goats, and teacup pigs)!
These can be seen through choices like an Animal Experience (a long time with a more exotic animal), an Animal Encounter (better for kids), and/or The Ultimate Experience Encounter (with 2 to 3 animals).
6 The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary in Orr, Minnesota
Due to Vince Shute's peaceful approach towards black bears, The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary exists out in the woods of Minnesota. His final wish was to live in peace with these creatures, and The American Bear Association helps keep this sanctuary running. When visited, people learn about and get a chance to see these bears.
These animals roam free in an area mainly consisting of meadow and surrounding woods, and people can observe them from a viewing deck, which allows for some fantastic sights and even more fabulous photo ops!
5 The Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Missouri
The Endangered Wolf Center helps keep wolves around and back into the wild. This center has endangered species like red wolves and fennec foxes, and adaptable wolves (a symbolic adoption, of course, which assists in this cause of helping these species survive).
Through parties, camps, field trips, campouts, and tours, people can interact with these animals. Some examples are PredaTours (an educational session and 45 minutes in the animal habitats), the Endangered Species Photography Tour (to get some great pictures), or the Animal Trainer Experience (to learn how the wolves are trained).
4 The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.) is a world-renowned wildlife preserve with some elegant options. With the Wild Encounters Tour, guests have three hours to meet Hercules the Tiger, Bubbles the African elephant, and Ramses the cheetah.
There is also a Night Safari Tour through a tropical garden and a tiger palace full of extraordinary creatures. At the Preservation Station Overview, visitors can view tigers and baby gibbons for free. People can even travel to Africa with this team to see more wildlife!
3 Wonders Of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium - Springfield, Missouri
Visitors to Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium enjoy experiencing the Out to Sea Shark Dive, which allows them to go into a metal cage under the water and witness sharks in front of them. Divers will have the chance to see various shark types, including brown sharks and tiger sharks. What's unique about this attraction is that people who wish to experience it do not need to be certified divers. Moreover, they can get state-of-the-art helmets from the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium that allow them to submerge conveniently under the water.
2 Colorado Wolf And Wildlife Center - Divide, Colorado
At Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, people can touch and caress wolves rescued from households that can no longer care for them. Visitors to the center in Divine, Colorado, can follow the wolves into their enclosures, feed them and pet them while having photographers take snapshots of the unforgettable moments.
1 Wilstem Ranch - Paoli, Indiana
Visitors to Wilstem Ranch in Paoli, Indiana, can spend time with the elephants and their trainers, engaging in several activities. Those include touching, washing, feeding the elephants. Moreover, people can paint the elephant's toenails and prepare their food. Wilstem Ranch houses other animals, such as kangaroos, grizzly bears, and giraffes, with which people can also interact.