Kids who love animals will definitely enjoy getting up close and personal with all sorts of critters at the North Georgia Zoo. Your first impression might be “petting zoo on steroids.” However, this 40-acre zoo is a treasure trove of common and rare animals of all sizes. Plus, the operation doubles as a breeding farm to help supply other zoos with animals, so the cast of characters – from doves to baby otters – is always changing.
My husband and I arrived at the zoo on a recent Saturday morning with six girls, ages 6-9, all eager to meet the animals. We were immediately greeted by one of the zoo’s three Great Pyrenees dog.
Armed with a bucket of pellet food, we entered the petting area and found lots of animals eager to meet us: sheep, goats, chickens, llamas, turkeys, cows, puppies – even a zebra! There were plenty of staffers available to answer questions or assist us in our hands-on experience.
Soon after, our guide Christine led us on the guided “Wildlife Walk,” where we howled with the wolves, listened to a cougar purr and petted deer.
Before heading home, the girls loved their pony rides back in the petting zoo area. Our four-hour visit to the zoo ended just as it began, spending a moment with the Great Pyrenees mountain dogs. We wanted to give them one last pet behind their ears.
n Know before you go: There’s just one bathroom available. There’s a small gift shop. Ticket booth offers snacks and drinks for sale, but you’re welcome to bring in your own food and drinks. The website is a great resource for information on all the different animals and the various price packages and add-ons available.
– Leigh Middleton
North Georgia Zoo
2912 Paradise Valley Rd., Cleveland
Hours: Sat.-Sun, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; extended hours for spring break: April 3-5 & April 10-12, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Open more days after Memorial Day; before you go, always check website or call.
Cost options: Petting zoo and farm, $5 ages 2-12, $7 adults, free to ages younger than 2; add on “camel encounter” 30-minute wagon ride, $5 all; “Wildlife Walk” package, $23 ages 2-12, $25 adults (includes all of the above plus one-hour guided tour of other areas); add on “reptile encounter,” $5 each; pony rides $5 for kids. Zoo programs brought to you: wildlifewonders.org