There is just something about interacting with a fluffy friend that brings out a smile in all of us. Make that fluffy friend a rare animal that we’ve only ever heard about, and you’ve got us damn near ecstatic.
Believe it or not, there are some amazing locations to view exotic animals within 50 miles of home. We recommend visiting in the morning hours, as animals tend to be more active in the morning and evening. The cooler morning temperatures are also a benefit to the human visitors, for reasons which include, but are not limited to, less sweating and less stinky hot animal smells.
PETTIT CREEK FARM
337 CASSVILLE ROAD | CARTERSVILLE
Nestled in the foothills of North Georgia, the 80-acre Pettit Creek Farm has been in the Allen family since 1945. The farm has been passed down through generations, and now Raymond and Fannie Mae’s great-grandchildren are being groomed to one day take over. Joining them are
camels, zebra, emus, buffalo and the more common cow, donkey, chicken, turkey, sheep and more! Upon your arrival, expect to be greeted by Jack, the bottle-raised goat, and be sure to rub Miss Piggy (you’ll know her when you see her) behind the ears. Come during the holiday season for a chance to see one of Santa’s Helpers and eight real life (not tiny) reindeer.
CHESTATEE WILDLIFE PRESERVE & ZOO
469 OLD DAHLONEGA HWY | DAHLONEGA
Home to over 100 exotic and native animals, Chestatee Wildlife Preserve & Zoo is committed to rescuing orphaned, abused and illegally purchased animals in need of a forever home. Exhibits include white and golden Siberian tigers, zebra, bears, elk, emu, wolves, and whatever a z-donk is. Chestatee is open year-round and at $10 for adults and $5 for 11 and under, admission is very reasonable. Feed buckets are available for $5, or you can bring your own. Big, fresh raw meat like steaks and roasts are recommended for the big cats (not ground beef or pork—guess they don’t like tacos). You can even touch some animals, depending on their mood (and yours).
SAM’S PATH MOBILE PETTING ZOO
P.O. BOX 872 | HARTWELL
Camels and monkeys and lemurs, and kangaroos, and parrots, oh my! The Gray family has been raising exotic animals for over 35 years, and sharing them with families and students since the 80s. They began bringing their furry friends to events in 2004. With six trailers and over 200 animals, you can just about host an actual Noah’s Ark birthday party in your backyard (assuming you have a big ass backyard).
The zoo is named for Sam the Monkey, who came to the zoo in 1983 at one year old. He made an indelible impression on everyone he met until his death in 2004. Today, spider monkeys Parker and Mary Jane carry on the legacy of Sam’s Path to exotic adventure.
NORTH GEORGIA ZOO & FARM
2912 PARADISE VALLEY ROAD | CLEVELAND
G’day mate! Specializing in kangaroo conservation and education right here in Georgia, North Georgia Zoo & Farm is home to over a dozen kangaroos representing five different species. Visitors can have up close and personal interactions with rare species such as the albino wallaby, swamp wallaby, Bennett wallaby (anyone else repeating “P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney” over and over?), giant red kangaroo and eastern grey wallaroo. If you REALLY want to make a memory, check out the Wild Animal Encounters, where you’ll have the opportunity to hold a baby joey (“Signed, Baby Kangaroo Tribbiani”) and feed a variety of kanagaroos.
171 TANGLEWOOD DRIVE | CANTON
Size does matter, and everyone knows that the tinier something is, the cuter it is. Nestled in the rolling hills of Cherokee County, Tanglewood Farms boasts over 150 miniature therapy farm animals, some of which are legitimately the smallest in the world. Tanglewood Farm was the first to introduce many of these miniature breeds from around the world to the United States, and has assisted in preserving several once-nearly-extinct breeds. Tanglewood works to preserve and ensure genetic diversity in the bloodlines to secure the continued existence of these species. If you’re like us and have been dreaming of making the pilgrimage to Virginia to see the ponies ever since reading Misty of Chincoteague, but are lacking the funds, you can pet a real-life Chincoteague horse at Tanglewood.