Animal-focused vacations: Alternatives to zoos

Animal-focused vacations: Alternatives to zoos

July 22nd, 2013

By Aimee Heckel 

You love animals, and you want to center a vacation around them. But, if the idea of seeing animals locked up in cages doesn’t sit right with you, there are plenty of exciting zoo alternatives to visit.

Here are some ways to plan an animal-centric vacation, without the cages.

1. Visit a well respected zoo with high standards for its animals. 

sandiego_1The San Diego Zoo is not just about showing off animals. It’s an advocate for conservation and the protection of animals, too. See thousands of rare animals — and make sure you check out the endangered giant pandas, which are protected and bred here.

Money-saving tips: Check here for coupons and deals to the San Diego Zoo. A one-day pass can be a bit pricy — $44 for adults and $34 for kids. You get 10 percent off if you’re a member of AAA.

2. Visit an animal sanctuary instead.

The goal of a sanctuary is to help animals, not provide entertainment and make money. Pick a nonprofit sanctuary so the money you spend goes right back toward the animals.

If you’re traveling to Georgia, visit the Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, whose goal is to bring animals and children together to share love, service and hope.

Rainbow2333The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, is the nation’s largest animal sanctuary and a great zoo alternative — and much cheaper, too. Plan a visit to help the animals, take a free guided tour, relax in the wishing garden by the koi pond, take a hike on one of the many trails and tour the area’s nearby parks. Sign up to work with birds, horses, dogs or other animals, and then enjoy a vegetarian or vegan lunch at Angel Village. The full buffet costs only $5.

Money-saving tip: Get cheap tickets to Utah and a cheap car rental by checking these travel coupons.

3. Go on a safari and see animals in their natural habitat. 

You don’t have to travel to Africa to do a safari, either. Four Seasons Resort at Jackson Hole runs a four-hour, naturalist-led wildlife safari through beautiful regions of Wyoming. Learn about history, geology and animals — and if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of bison, moose, bald eagles or even bears. This region is home of the world’s largest herd of elk, so you have a good chance of spotting them, too.

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Aimee's passion for storytelling has brought her around the world as a journalist, writing award-winning news articles about Haiti and Uganda. Aimee studied international journalism at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and she majored in journalism and German at Colorado State University. When she's not writing stories for a Colorado newspaper, she travels and volunteers for Think Humanity, her family's nonprofit that helps refugees and disadvantaged people in Africa. She's also a mom, a wife and a furious bargain-hunter. Reach out to her at, find her travel board on Pinterest, follow her on Twitter, or ping her on Google+.

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