Lions, tigers, and bears! Oh, my! Spending quality time with furry — or not so furry — animal friends is proven to raise dopamine levels, decrease stress, and make you say “ooh ahh.” From a safari adventure to an arthropod zoo, we gathered 11 places located within an hour of Raleigh where you can learn and interact through animal encounters.
Aloha Safari Park, 159 Mini Ln., Cameron | In this zoo lives over 300 animals that were previously injured, abandoned, abused, or neglected. Drive through the park to feed hoofstock such as bison, ostriches, antelope, llamas, water buffalo, and camels.
Animal Park at the Conservators Center, 676 E. Hughes Mill Rd., Burlington | Home to more than 70 animals including dingos, lions, lemurs, and more, take an adventure or twilight tour to listen to a lion’s call and wolves howl.
Duke Lemur Center, 3705 Erwin Rd., Durham | Did you know? Lemurs are the most endangered mammals on Earth. Reserve a spot for a guided walking with lemurs tour in the forests of Duke University at this 85-acre sanctuary.
Carolina Sunshine Alpaca Farm, 7084 US-64, Pittsboro | No prob-llamas on this farm — feed, spend time with, and pet alpacas through self-guided and guided tours.
Carolina Tiger Rescue, 1940 Hanks Chapel Rd., Pittsboro | Schedule a unique tour of this sanctuary to learn about what it takes to care for more than 50 exotic carnivores. Experience up-close encounters with tigers, lions, caracals, and cougars while hearing about individual rescue stories.
Historic Oak View County Park, 4028 Carya Dr. | Visit the park’s resident goats, Felix, Leroy, Henry, and Oscar, and don’t forget to say “hay” to the chickens in their coop.
Naylor Family Farm & Corn Maze, 6016 US-401, Fuquay-Varina | After you’ve navigated through the giant maze, oink over to the pig pavilion and purchase feed to give to the animals in the main barn.
Spring Haven Farm, 5306 Homer Ruffin Rd., Chapel Hill | Have a cow at this farm featuring goats, donkeys, horses, cows, and more, plus, this homestead often hosts fun events like murder mystery nights with goats.
The Museum of Life and Science, 433 W. Murray Ave., Durham | Enjoy 84 acres of science and nature experiences with animal exhibits such as a butterfly house, Carolina wildlife, black bears, lemurs and tortoises, red wolves, an insectarium, the farmland, and a wander-away pollinator prairie.
Winterpast Farm, 12936 Ghoston Rd., Wake Forest | Bring the kiddos to this petting zoo and animal sanctuary where miniature donkeys, goats, sheep, emu, peacocks, and other creatures co-exist. Make sure to make an appointment to visit.