Columbia, SC 29210
85 miles south of Charlotte
Probably the best zoo around, and a favorite of many Charlotte families is Riverbanks Zoo. Home to more than 2,000 animals, the zoo has representatives of more than 350 species from around the world. Nine different sections make up the zoo, including the African Plains, Aquarium Reptile Complex (ARC), Australian Animals, Birdhouse at Riverbanks, Large Mammals, Lemur Island, Ndoki Forest, Riverbanks Conservation Outpost and Riverbanks Farm. The zoo also houses a botanical garden, named of the top 20 greatest public gardens in America by HGTV.
Asheboro, NC 27205
88 miles northeast of Charlotte
The North Carolina Zoo is home to approximately 1,100 individual specimens representing more than 200 species. Over 500 acres of animal exhibits focus upon habitats found on the continents of Africa and North America.
3. Lazy 5 Ranch
Mooresville, NC 28115
34 miles north of Charlotte
The Lazy 5 Ranch is the area's only ride-through display where visitors can view animals from the safety of your own car or by riding on our horse drawn wagons in a 3.5 mile safari through the gently sloping pasture lands of Piedmont, North Carolina. Cattle, horses, sheep & goats, deer, elk, giraffes, rhinos, pigs, camels, llamas, kangaroos, birds, quail, pheasants, ducks, swans, porcupines and tortoises all inhabit the ranch.
Huntersville, NC 28078
The Carolina Raptor Center is dedicated to environmental education and the conservation of birds of prey through public education, the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned raptors, and research. At the center, visitors can view endangered bald eagles and many species of owls, hawks and vultures.
Owned and operated by Discovery Place, the Charlotte Nature Museum is also a science museum, but it's dedicated to the natural world (mainly animals). Exhibits like the Nature Nook, Insect Alley and Dragonfly Theatre among others house many North Carolina species, and various shows, events and workshops further teach kids about the animal kingdom.
Discovery Place is a full science museum, but animals are certainly a part of science, so they're included. The museum features an aquarium filled with aquatic species found in North Carolina's Outer Banks area, and an open ocean pool where a few species are available for touching. There’s also a daily "Rat Basketball" game, animal feedings, animal meet and greets, and the rainforest animal encounter experience.
7. Latta Plantation
Huntersville, NC 28078
Latta Plantation is home to many farm animals perfect for viewing. The plantation features a burro, a devon cattle, guinea hogs, sheep, chickens, geese and many horses that are also available for riding at the Latta Plantation Equestrian Center.
8. Tiger World
Rockwell, NC 28138
About 50 miles northeast of Charlotte
Tiger World is a nonprofit animal conservation and educational center dedicated to rescue, rehabilitation, and preservation of exotic animals. They are open to the public for educational guided tours and walkabout self-guided tours.
Wellford, S.C. 29385
81 miles west of Charlotte
Hollywild primarily focuses on exotic animals, and serves as a training center for Hollywood animals. Because the animals are hand raised, they are often used in the acting world. Several of their animals have appeared in movies, television shows, commercials, advertising and promotional campaigns. The park offers an Outback Safari Ride through over 70 acres of free roaming animals. You'll be surrounded by dozens of animals, many which will eat right out of your hand, including White Tail Deer, zebras, bison, cattle, emus and more. The park also has a very popular Christmas lights display during the holiday season.