Sea turtle in the water at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center in Jekyll Island

Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Top 12 Places to See Animals in Georgia

From self-guided safaris to petting zoos and world-class aquariums, Georgia’s animal attractions are teeming with life. Take the family-friendly trip of a lifetime to Jekyll Island and learn about the conservation efforts in place to help endangered sea turtles. Or ramble through the exotic bird sanctuary of North Georgia Wildlife Park for an experience that’s worth squawking about.

Here are 12 of the absolute best animal attractions in the state of Georgia.

Two pandas at Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia

Pandas at Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia

Zoo Atlanta

Zoo Atlanta is the only zoo in the country where you can see giant pandas; and it has one of the largest populations of gorillas in North America. These — among nearly 1,000 other animals — make Zoo Atlanta a must-see for anyone visiting the state. You’ll want to plan a whole day to experience everything the zoo has to offer like keeper talks and wildlife presentations, as well as kid-friendly activities, including a petting zoo, Animal Tales: Storybook Reading, The Zoo Train, Splash Fountain and so much more.

Visit Zoo Atlanta

Two people standing outside next to a camel at North Georgia Wildlife Park in Cleveland, Georgia. Photo by North Georgia Wildlife Park

North Georgia Wildlife Park in Cleveland, Georgia. Photo by North Georgia Wildlife Park

North Georgia Wildlife Park in Cleveland

As one of the largest petting zoos in the state, North Georgia Wildlife Park in Cleveland is home to more than 400 animals ranging from farm animals to exotic creatures. Bottle feed a baby kangaroo, come toe-to-paw with a mighty gray wolf or hold an endangered ring-tail lemur. The park also hosts a number of events like GOGA (yoga with goats), Coffee & Critters (enjoy a cup of coffee and meet critters!) and the opportunity to shadow a zookeeper for a day.

Visit North Georgia Wildlife Park

Zedonk (zebra-donkey hybrid) at Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega, Georgia

Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega, Georgia

Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega

Pippi the zedonk (zebra-donkey hybrid), Flash the charismatic sloth and more than 100 other native and exotic animals wait for you at Chestatee Wildlife Preserve. This 30-acre preserve accommodates rare and endangered species like Siberian tigers, leopards, lions and chimpanzees. The volunteers at Chestatee Wildlife Preserve pride themselves on providing a safe habitat for the rescued animals that have been illegally purchased, abused or orphaned.

Visit Chestatee Wildlife Preserve

Cougar cubs at the Oatland Island Wildlife Center in Savannah, Georgia

Oatland Island Wildlife Center in Savannah, Georgia

Oatland Island Wildlife Center in Savannah

Located in Savannah, the Oatland Island Wildlife Center is a 100-acre animal attraction with more than 150 animals and 50 different species. It boasts a well-preserved trail running through the wildlife center with wide-open natural habitats for the animals to explore.

Visit Oatland Island Wildlife Center

Butterfly garden at the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Resort & Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Photo by @gcalebjones

Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Photo by @gcalebjones

Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center in Pine Mountain

Gaze in wonderment at the intricate patterns and vibrant colors of 1,000 tropical butterflies at the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Resort & Gardens. More than 50 species roam freely through one of North America’s largest glass-enclosed tropical conservatories. Test your knowledge with the center’s Butterfly 101 or the Butterfly Expedition Scavenger Hunt, and learn how to attract butterflies to your home garden. The Butterfly Center supports global conservation efforts by sourcing its butterflies from family-run butterfly farms in economically challenged countries.

Visit Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center

Black bear at the Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary in Lilburn, Georgia

Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary in Lilburn, Georgia

Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary in Lilburn

With a Walk on the Wildside tour, you’ll meet some of the sanctuary's liveliest residents like red ruffed lemurs, spider monkeys and lynx. The tours are two hours long, and you’ll get the chance to ask questions as well as hear stories about the animals you encounter. There’s even a water-powered gem-mining flume where kids can forage for sapphires, rubies, topaz, emeralds and more.

Visit Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary

Bear and tiger in a sanctuary together in Locust Grove, Georgia

Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove

Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary has rescued, rehabilitated and released thousands of animals back into the wild. On their 250-acre sanctuary, you’ll find domestic and exotic animals, and plenty of activities like professionally guided tours, as well as self-guided tours, which are 100 percent free of charge (though donations are appreciated). See the adorable Patagonian mara named Cooper or the towering American black bear, Baloo. If you really want a lasting memory, try Painting with Doc, where the 500-pound tiger, Doc, crafts a personalized painting that you get to keep!

*Please note: Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary is closed until March 2024.

Person standing next to an alpaca at the Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

Wild Adventures in Valdosta

Wild Adventures is an all-in-one theme park, waterpark and animal park. Once you’ve had your fill of exhilarating waterslides and rollercoasters, head to the south side of the park to meet Wild Adventures’ furriest inhabitants. From the Wanyama Observation Deck (wanyama means “animals” in Swahili), you’ll be able to spot exotic animals native to Asia and Africa. Everything from giraffes to water buffalo roam through these large enclosures.

Visit Wild Adventures

Man looking at sharks inside the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by @mseeley

Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by @mseeley

Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta

If you’re traveling to Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium is a must-see. It’s the largest aquarium in the country, boasting a staggering 11 million gallons of water and more than 100,000 animals. Animal Encounters at Georgia Aquarium will bring you up close to belugas, seals, dolphins and other aquatic mammals. Experience hands-on what it’s like to care for this diverse group of animals with a guided tour, and take the Behind the Seas Tour to learn the secrets behind your favorite aquarium exhibits.

Visit Georgia Aquarium

Sea turtle in the water at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, Georgia

Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, Georgia

Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island

Located on beautiful Jekyll Island, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center offers a one-of-a-kind educational experience for the whole family. Meet up with a sea turtle field biologist for either a Dawn Patrol or a Night Patrol, where you’ll learn how to monitor sea turtle nests and check for signs of predators. Or, you could participate in the Sunrise or Evening Turtle Walks to learn about the ecological history of Jekyll.

Visit Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Baby turtle at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center on Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island Marine Science Center on Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island Marine Science Center

Two hours north of Jekyll Island, Tybee Island Marine Science Center's education-and-enrichment programs will bring you up close to sea turtles, baby alligators, puffers, clown fish, sea jellies, spider crabs and more. Join them for a Turtle Talk to learn about the incredible lives of loggerheads, Kemp’s ridleys, greens and leatherbacks. Or, explore a living reef with the interactive Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary exhibit.

Visit Tybee Island Marine Science Center

Exotic bird at the Iron P Homestead Zoo in Hogansville, Georgia

Iron P Homestead Zoo in Hogansville, Georgia

Iron P Homestead Zoo in Hogansville

Located on a 45-acre plot in Hogansville, Iron P Homestead Zoo is the perfect spot to get acquainted with all types of exotic animals. With the help of hands-on animal encounters, you’ll make friends with capybaras, sloths, foxes and more. If you want to meet the most adorable pint-sized creatures, sign up for The Nursery Experience, where you can help feed the zoo’s newest members. For all the future zookeepers, the Behind-the-Scenes Encounter teaches about conservation efforts to protect these magnificent animals.

Visit Iron P Homestead Zoo

Published: January 2024
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