Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, Georgia.
Zoo Atlanta is one of only a handful of zoos 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Fall 2023.
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.
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.
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. In 2022, The Georgia Sea Turtle Center broke its previous record with 3,966 loggerhead sea turtle nests laid in a single year.
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.
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.