Take a walk on the wild side this summer! The metro Atlanta area is surprisingly full of wild animal encounters, besides the obvious Zoo Atlanta and Georgia Aquarium. Looking for the ultimate up-close animal experience? Good – because this list is not for the tame!
Wild Animal Safari
Pine Mountain, GA
You’ve certainly heard of drive-thru restaurants; if you’ve ever been to New Orleans, you’ve probably experienced a drive-thru liquor store; but what about a drive-thru animal adventure? Home to decidedly un-native animals such as giraffes, zebras, buffalo, and approximately 550 other animals, Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain, GA is like Disney’s Animal Kingdom – except the animals are extreme extroverts. Thanks to years of being fed by visitors, the animals will come straight up to your window…and often nose their way right into the car (case in point: one of our staffer’s parents nearly lost their car door to an excitable giraffe). If you don’t want to put your own vehicle at risk, vans are available to rent and the park also offers guided tours on a bus. After your driven adventure, stretch your legs and take a walk around to see even more animals in a traditional zoo setting.
Locust Grove, GA
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! All living together in the same enclosure? OH MY!! There must be some sort of divine intervention happening at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, a 250-acre non-profit educational sanctuary for exotic, wild, and domestic animals. The sanctuary is home to 1,500 animals, not to mention the hundreds of animals per year that are rehabilitated and returned to the wild through their wildlife rehabilitation program. But what about those aforementioned lions and tigers and bears? We’re referring to “The BLT,” a.k.a., Baloo the American Black Bear, Leo the African Lion, and Shere Khan the Bengal Tiger. This motley crew came to Noah’s Ark after they were discovered as cubs in an Atlanta drug dealer’s basement. Their terrifying early life created a special bond, and they remain inseparable despite their obvious differences. They are also clearly more evolved than many, many humans.
Red Wagon Goats
(i.e., Goat Yoga)
Achieve serenity, peace, and inner one-ness…with a goat on your back. Because, of course. Check out the internet’s most recent obsession with Red Wagon Goats’ goat yoga classes. Join certified yoga instructor (and burlesque dancer!) Megan Kibby and several of her 30 lb., hornless, dulled hoofed friends for either a family-friendly hour-long yoga class, or the Yoga+Goats+Wine class for the 21-and-up weekend warriors. We’re not sure you’ll find bliss in one of these…let’s say, interesting…sessions, but we bet you’ll find a giggle or two when a baby goat hops on your back to help you really sink into that child’s pose. Namast-AAAAAY.
North Georgia Zoo & Farm
Why just stare at the animals from behind a protective barrier when you can actually hang out with them? Located in the mountains, the North Georgia Zoo offers a one-of-a-kind interactive experience to its guests. Experience a working farm and milk a goat, take in a performance from a talented llama and pig, bottle feed a baby goat, and meet local celebrity Mully the Water Buffalo, of The Rachael Ray Show fame. The zoo is home to many animal species, but, most famously, over a dozen kangaroos representing five different species. The truly enthusiastic can join the Wild Animal Encounter and feed, interact, and even make reservations in advance to hold a baby Joey (squeeeeeeeal!).
Poncey-Highland neighborhood, Atlanta
Not all wild animals are in the zoo. The world-famous Clermont Lounge holds the unique distinction of being Atlanta’s first and longest continually-operating strip club. Having survived multiple attempts at being shut down by the city government, the Clermont does not serve food, draft beer, or even have a DJ – dancers choose their own music from the jukebox before taking the single stage in the middle of the bar. And speaking of the dancers– let’s just say they’re probably not what you’ve envisioned. The most famous (and, let’s be honest, the real reason to go) is Blondie: a local celebrity with a heart and hair of gold, famous for her poetry (yes, really) and ability to crush a beer can with her chest (yes, REALLY).