DFWChild / Articles / Things to Do / Travel / Animal Adventures around Texas

Animal Adventures around Texas

When reading Llama Llama Red Pajama for the umpteenth time and re-watching the same six episodes of Go, Diego, Go! fails to captivate the kids and succeeds in driving you crazy, it might be time to pack up the family to see some real-life animals. Ditch the crowded zoos, and head to one (or all) of these nearby treasures. From working farms to exotic cat rescues, we found the best animal encounters within a short(ish) drive of home.

For Exotic Cats

Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge
Where: 17552 FM 14, Tyler; 903/858-1008; tigercreek.org
On Monday−Saturday from 10am−5pm, prowl with the cats at Tiger Creek. During your 35-minute walking tour, a staff member will teach you about 31 fierce felines including rescued tigers, lions, pumas, bobcats and a leopard. After the tour, stay and watch the cats or enjoy a picnic from home at one of the tables near the entrance. Ask about their Adopt A Cat program where kids can take home a certificate and photo of the cat of their choice for a donation of $30, which provides food and care for your kiddo’s new animal. Adults enter for $15, children for $10, and kids under 6 enter free.
Mom tip: The only restrooms available are portable toilets.

In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Educational Center
Where: 3430 Skyview Drive, Wylie; 972/442-6888; insyncexotics.com
In-Sync boasts 69 exotic rescued cats on their property. Stroll with the servals or lurk with leopards on a self-guided tour Thursday−Sunday. Additionally, guided tours are offered daily for small and large groups. Explore the habitats of dozens of lions, cougars, tigers, lynx, bobcats, servals, leopards, cheetahs and an ocelot. Be sure to ask about In-Sync’s non-feline residents: lemurs Loki and Mitzy. Prices range from $8−$14, depending on age and tour type. For campouts, birthday parties or feeding demonstrations, see their website.
Mom tip: Strollers must be left at home for this adventure.

International Exotic Animal Sanctuary
Where: 3901 Highway 114, Boyd; 940/433-5091; bigcat.org
Don’t let the tiger logo and website name fool you. In addition to many species of exotic cats, 32 bears call this 50-acre animal sanctuary home. During your two-hour educational walking tour, observe snow leopards, jaguars, lemurs, cougars, brown bears and more in their habitats, learn many feline facts and catch a glimpse of the bears horsing around — er, bearing around, that is. Hungry for more? Compare your diet to a cheetah’s or black bear’s in the Nutrition Center, where tour guides explain when, what and how much these animals eat every day. Fill out a tour request form on the sanctuary’s website to guarantee a spot on a walking tour. A suggested donation of $20 per adult and $10 for kids over 7 is encouraged for all tours, offered once daily Sunday−Friday and twice on Saturdays.
Mom tip: This adventure is for big kids only. Kids under 7 years cannot go on walking tours at this sanctuary.

For the Whole Food Chain

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Where: 1789 County Road 2009, Glen Rose; 254/897-2960; fossilrim.org
The lodging options and attractions at Fossil Rim make this a prime spot for a weekend getaway within a short drive from home. A variety of daily tours and programs include a guided family tour in an open-sided vehicle and a self-guided tour in your own vehicle. Tour prices vary per program, starting at $24.95 for adults and $18.95 for children. Animal food can be purchased for $8. Fossil Rim houses more than 50 species of animals, including some critically endangered animals such as red wolves and black rhinoceros, in an open, safari-type habitat. Don’t miss the Children’s Animal Center at the Overlook for a chance to comb Nigerian dwarf goats (yes, they’re as cute as they sound) and visit with many other birds, reptiles and animals.
Mom tip: Book all guided tours and overnight accommodations at least three days in advance.

Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch
Where: 11670 Massey Road, Pilot Point; 940/686-4600; sharkarosa.com
Sharkarosa has many playful and personality-filled animals within its 126 acres of habitats. Horses, lemurs, kangaroos and monkeys can be viewed at your own pace at the habitats by the entrance. Animals that can be fed with purchased food are clearly marked with signs. Guided safari rides run around 35 minutes. Pack a lunch or dine at the Bears Den restaurant adjacent to the (you guessed it) bear habitats. Don’t miss the pony rides, petting zoo and barrel rides. See a list of daily programs and feeding presentations on the dry-erase board by the entrance. Open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays for $12 for adults, $10 for children and free for ages 2 and under.
Mom tip: If you don’t want to use the portable toilets by the front entrance, the Bears Den restaurant has large restrooms (and delicious pizza).

For Farm Animals

Jacob’s Reward Farm
Where: 4308 Church Lane, Parker; 214/284-9218; jacobsreward.com
For an informal tour for a family of six or less, visit this working farm on the third or fourth Saturday of each month. During a guided tour with the farm’s owner, visitors meet sheep, alpacas, chickens, rabbits and livestock before learning how these animals produce goods, such as yarn and eggs. Kids will see how sheep and alpaca coats are cut and turned into fiber, then yarn, and then clothing. Don’t leave without petting a chicken; the farm has more than 30, so they’re not hard to find. Call ahead to book your tour.
Mom tip: This is no petting zoo; it’s a working farm. Come prepared with closed-toe shoes, sunscreen and bug spray.

Grisham Farms
Where: 4546 County Road 408, McKinney; 214/544-7255; grishamfarms.com
Visit Grisham Farms on their Open Barn days, held twice monthly, for a mix of farm and exotic animals. Between miniature horses, cows, llamas, alpacas, goats, donkeys and emus, Grisham Farms has no shortage of hooved (or feathered) animals. Kids can feed most of the farm animals. Exotic animal presentations include chinchillas, hedgehogs, flying squirrels and snakes. Don’t miss the playground, sandbox and rope swing. All adults and kids over 18 months enter Open Barn days for $6 each. Check their website for Open Barn dates and information on booking private events.
Mom tip: A family-size wheelchair-accessible portable toilet is the only public restroom here.

Published August 2015