This blog post was updated on March 3, 2022.
Do you love hearing the “oooh”s and “aaah”s of your kids when they get up close and personal to some wild animals? Are you an avid nature lover as well? This great list of places where everybody can get very close to exotic animals of all sizes is just perfect to help you plan your next family vacation. And trust us: not only will these places be a big hit with little ones, but they are also sure to get adults to release a little gasp of excitement as well!
San Diego Zoo, California
Considered one of the most picturesque zoos in the world, the San Diego Zoo can be thrilling encounter between naturally curious children and wild animals. There are fun-filled activities aimed at little ones that take place throughout the year. More than 3,700 animals call the zoo their home and there’s plenty to keep kids engaged during their visit. The best part is that you can even actually cuddle up to some adorable creatures, depending on the season and the shows on display.
Everglades National Park, Florida
While New York City may not be the first name that springs to mind when you think about wildlife, you’d be pleasantly surprised at what’s in store for the whole family at the legendary Bronx Zoo. Feeding times are a great opportunity for kids to witness some of the most popular animals at the zoo at close range. The penguins are hands-down one of the most loved animals at the zoo, and kids and adults of all ages will definitely enjoy having a laugh at their playful antics.
Custer State Park, South Dakota
Straight out of a movie set in the Wild West, the end of September sees cowboys and cowgirls in action in South Dakota’s Custer State Park, as they saddle up to round up the 1,300 bison that dwell in the park. The whole family can experience the thundering hooves of these magnificent beasts as they are corralled, vaccinated, and checked for any ailments. If you’re planning a trip during any other time of year, you can still take tours that will give you viewings of free roaming buffalo, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs.
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Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Majestically sprawled over 2.2-million acres, Yellowstone is home to bison, elk, grizzly and black bears, bighorn sheep, coyotes, wolves, and bald eagles. It’s the most picture-perfect venue for a family camping adventure and there’s always a chance to spot wild animals, at a respectable distance, of course. Take note that Hayden Valley is the place to see bison and grizzlies, while Lamar Valley is a great vantage spot for seeing wolves.
Olympic National Park, Washington
What nature lovers can really take advantage of at Olympic National Park are its diverse ecosystems. The park is blessed with a beautiful Pacific coastline, snow-capped mountains, and lush rain forests, all which provide a breathtaking home to Roosevelt elk, Columbia black-tailed deer, seals, sea otters, sea lions, and Olympic marmots (a species only found here). If you plan to book cheap flights in March, April, or May, you could be lucky enough to even see migrating gray whales off the coastline!
Know of any other great places in the US to get up close with wildlife? Let us know in our comments section below!