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If you love animals, you might try to squeeze in trips to local zoos when you travel. But another option to see and support the animals you love is to visit wildlife sanctuaries that emphasize education and conservation. While some sanctuaries aren’t open to the public, there are many others that welcome guests. These are some of the best animal sanctuaries that you can visit in the U.S.
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Located just southwest of Shreveport, Louisiana, Chimp Haven is dedicated to the care of chimpanzees, many of which that have been used for research. The facility is located on 200 acres of forested land and has about 50 people on staff to help care for around 300 chimpanzees. The chimps have lots of room to make sleeping nests, climb trees, and play on large structures. You can visit Chimp Haven on Chimpanzee Discovery Days, which happen about three times per year. The admission fee is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages six to 12, and free for kids under five years old. These events typically run from 9am to noon. Chip Chat & Chew Events give visitors a more intimate look into the chimps’ lives and includes breakfast or lunch. These popular events are $50 for adults and $25 for children.
This wildlife sanctuary aims to rescue and care for animals, as well as educate the public about the risks of captive wildlife. Unlike a zoo, animals at the Wild Animal Sanctuary live in large, open habitats and aren’t required to perform for visitors. Instead, you can walk along a 1.5-mile walkway to see them in their natural habitats. Here, you’re likely to see lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and other animals on the 720-acre facility. General admission costs $30 per adult plus an unspecified animal care donation of your choice, $15 per child between the ages of three and 12, and kids under three are admitted for free. No dogs are allowed on the property, and it typically takes between three and six hours to tour the facility. Audio tours are available and accessible by cell phone to learn more about the animals beyond the posted signs.
Wild horses used to run free across the lands of South Dakota, but rarely anymore. An Oregon rancher and naturalist established this sanctuary near Hot Springs, South Dakota to care for wild horses that aren’t adoptable so they can experience the freedom they deserve. You can stop by anytime of the year to see the mustangs, and two-hour tours are offered at 10am and 1pm. Photo tours and three-hour, cross-country tours are also available by appointment. There’s a gift shop that’s open from 9-5 daily, and you can also stay overnight at the sanctuary in a rustic cabin or prairie house. RV spots are also available with full hookups when combined with a tour of the sanctuary.
Located in Northern California, the Animal Place was founded in 1989 to be a home for farm animals. It’s located on 600 acres in Grass Valley and dedicated to hundreds of neglected farm animals. Some animals are part of the permanent sanctuary, while others are available for adoption. You must register in advance to take a guided tour and see the pigs, goats, chickens, and other animals up close. Guided tours last about two hours and require a fair bit of walking. Private tours are available with a donation of $150 or more. You can also do a self-guided tour between 10am and 4pm on Tuesdays through Saturdays, but these tours don’t allow for direct contact with the animals. There are some nice picnic spots to hang out in after your tour, but be mindful of the fact that all food you bring into the sanctuary must be vegan.
Another sanctuary that focuses on rescued farm animals is the Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties, New York. This is just a couple hours north of New York City. Animals that live here include cows, pigs, horses, and sheep. You can visit the sanctuary as part of the general public on weekends between April and October. No reservations are needed for these Saturday and Sunday tours, which cost $12 per adult and $8 for children between the ages of two and 12 and also seniors over 65. The tours last about an hour and a half between 11am and 2:45pm. There’s also a pre-Civil War residence called the Homestead where guests can stay overnight and enjoy a seasonal vegan breakfast.
Guided tour is the only way to visit Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue, which is a sanctuary dedicated to caring for ending the big cat trade and caring for these beautiful creatures. The sanctuary has been rescuing big cats since 1992 and is located on 67 acres in the Citrus Park area. There are over 70 big cats here, and tours are offered every day except Thursdays, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Tours range between $36 and $150 per adult, depending on whether you choose a photo tour, keeper tour, feeding tour, or basic tour.
The Best Friends Animal Society has been operating the largest no-kill companion animal sanctuary in the country for over 30 years. This is an ideal place to visit for dog and cat lovers. You can take a free Grand Sanctuary tour any day of the year except for Christmas Day at 8:30am, 10am, 1pm, or 2:30pm. These are two-hour tours that include a short video and 90-minute van ride. They include interacting with cats and dogs and seeing sanctuary sites from the tour van. If you’re pressed for time, you can also take an abbreviated 45-minute tour instead.
This is another great sanctuary that cares for rescued farm animals in High Falls, New York. Between April and October, you can take a tour on a Saturday or Sunday for $10 per adult and $5 for kids and seniors. The tours are about 75 minutes long and allow you to see the animals and hear their rescue stories. Join a tour at 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, or 3pm. You can bring your own vegan lunch or pick up prepared snacks and sandwiches at the visitor’s center.