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Animal Attractions and Zoos in Orlando

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Where can I see animals in Orlando Florida? Animals are everywhere in Orlando! Frequently, my kids will squeal with excitement when a lizard runs in front of us as we stroll through our neighborhood.

We never get bored seeing the various types of birds from cardinals to majestic hawks in our backyard (though we do have to take extra care to keep our chickens in their coop so they don’t become prey).

Multiple times per day, we will call each other from another room in the house to gaze in wonder at the wildlife that surrounds us. However, there are actual parks and wildlife reserves in the area where you can plan what types of animals you can actually see up close, just one of the many fun things to do in Orlando with kids.

In this post, we go through all the animal attractions in Orlando and the surrounding area, with some great budget options too!

Animal Kingdom sign

Animal Attractions and Zoos in Orlando: Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Fort Wilderness

Is there a zoo in Orlando? Kind of, although the nearest is in Kissimmee. At Animal Kingdom, you can see lions, giraffes, zebras, hippos, tigers, meerkats, gorillas and much much more.

At Animal Kingdom Park, it is exactly what you would expect from Disney; education about its animals along with preservation, imagination, entertainment, and some thrill rides for the more adventurous people.

On entering Animal Kingdom, you’ll find yourself in a luscious oasis. In a slight uphill climb, take your time to look into each animal enclosure to see if you can spot some native Floridian wildlife (ibis love this area!). 

At the top of the hill, it opens up to the breathtaking view of the Tree of Life. The tree stands at 145 feet tall and has over 300 different animals carved into the trunk and its branches.

There are 6 diverse areas in the parks that all branch out from the Tree of Life, each with shows, rides, plenty to eat, and of course a myriad of animals. 

Disney has Animal Kingdom along with their Animal Kingdom Lodge and Fort Wilderness Resort where you can also spot animals.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge rooms look right out to the safari area where giraffes graze right next to the guest rooms. In Fort Wilderness, guests can reserve time slots for horseback riding as well as fishing expeditions. As far as animal parks in Orlando go, this is the jackpot!

Best Animal Attractions and Zoos in Orlando, Florida meerkats
Best Animal Attractions and Zoos in Orlando, Florida

Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge

Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge is a small outdoor sanctuary rehabilitating wildlife such as bobcats, tortoises, emus, owls & hawks. The mission of the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge is to rescue, raise, rehabilitate, and release injured or orphaned Florida native species making it an ethical way to support animals.

This small, friendly center asks for a donation of $5 to enter and is a great way to immerse yourself in nature. There are restrooms and a small gift shop and you can expect to spend 1-2 hours there. Find it at 10525 Clapp Simms Duda Rd.  Orlando, FL 32832

Amazing Animals Inc

Feed the sloths, hold a python, pet a capybara are just a few things you can do on this 2.5 acre site. But it’s an animal experience with a difference.

Amazing Animals Inc are not open to the public, so you must book a private tour (around $50pp) or $200 for 1-4 people. You will get a private tour of the facility and up close encounters with many animals including Sloths, Capybara, Several Reptiles, and Barn Yard which includes Goats, Donkey, Pigs, and Alapaca. Tours usually last around an hour and a half. There is no restroom on site.

SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove

Moving up I-4 about 15 minutes from Disney, depending on traffic, you’ll find SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove which opened in 2020. This is an all inclusive day resort with complimentary amenities that include unlimited food and beverages, fresh towels, lockers, wetsuits, snorkeling gear, up-close animal encounters, and all natural sunscreen that is safe for both children and the animals.

The website says to bring your bathing suits and your appetite, and leave your jewelry and sunscreen at home. While the park offers add-ons like swimming with the dolphins, there is so much to do and see here that the day pass is well worth it. 

Children of all ages can enjoy the Explorer’s Aviary where you have the opportunity to feed various types of birds; though be warned you want to get there early in the day so the birds are ready for their breakfast instead of being full from snacking from other guests by the end of the day.

The Grand Reef where you can sit by the water’s edge as well as snorkel through the coral reef, the Wind-Away River where you can float the currents of the tropical river or take a break along the sandy beaches, and Serenity Bay where you swim in the pristine 85 degree water are all family friendly and are included in the day pass.

Children from 6 and up can swim with the dolphins, feed the rays, do the Flamingo Mingle, and participate in the Animal Trek and Trainer for a Day programs. And children 10 and up can swim with the sharks and participate in the SeaVenture, an underwater walking tour. All children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult at all times. 


Animal Attractions and Zoos in Orlando: Gatorland

Florida’s wildlife of course includes alligators and you’ll find plenty of those at Gatorland which has been an Orlando staple since 1949. Not only do they have plenty of gators, but they also feature tortoises, snakes, wild cats, and birds. Tickets include parking, access to their aviary, a petting zoo, and one of a kind animal shows.

You can add things on to your day pass like zip lining over the gator enclosure, go off roading on their custom built monster vehicles running alongside the headwaters of the Everglades, or become a trainer for the day where you’ll get hands on with baby alligators as well as other creepy crawlers.

This park is family friendly, as you can drive your own vehicle through their safari, but not everything here is for children younger than 6. There are a few different locations within the park to grab a bite to eat and plenty of areas to sit and relax. 

Wild Florida

Off of Florida’s Turnpike in a town called Kenansville, southeast of central Orlando, you’ll find Wild Florida. Wild Florida is exactly how the name describes it; through a guided airboat tour in the headwaters of the Everglades, a drive through the 170 acre safari, or a walk through Gator Park, you’ll encounter much of the wildlife Florida has to offer.

The park is open Mondays thru Saturdays from 8am-5pm and some encounters require advance reservations. For each adventure in the park you’ll need to buy a ticket, however, there are packages available to pick and choose the encounters that best suit your family’s needs.

There is an onsite restaurant called the Chomp House Grill which features foods like burger and fries and chicken tenders, however, there are also some vegetarian options. Visit the Wild Florida website for all of their information. 

Animal Attractions and Zoos in Orlando: Jungle Adventures

Jungle Adventures Animal Park is the natural habitat jungle home of rare Florida Panthers, Black Bears, Wolves, White-Tailed Deer, Tropical Birds, Reptiles, Mammals, and other critters. 

Admission includes live guided tours; a Wildlife Show where you go hands on with a baby alligator and other cool critters; the Native American Village where you learn how Natives lived and used environmental products to survive; Gator Feeding where guides hand feed some of the larger gators in the park; and the Jungle Swamp Cruise, a gentle, eco friendly electric motored boat ride through a swamp.

Adult admission is $25.95, Seniors 60 and older $22.95, Children ages 3-11 are $17.95 and children under 3 are free. Snacks are available in the cafe.

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Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens

A well known stop in a town called Sanford, about 45 minutes outside of Orlando, is the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The zoo is open every day from 9am-4pm and is very family friendly.

You’ll see the typical animals expected at the zoo, however there are family friendly attractions that are not to be missed including giraffe feeding, rhinoceros encounters, a barnyard petting zoo with a llama, pygmy goats, and more.

There’s even a splash pad in which to cool off from the Florida heat. The zoo has one restaurant and one ice cream parlor, however you can bring your own treats if you prefer. 

Animal Attractions and Zoos in Orlando: Safari Wilderness

For those who want to experience a strictly drive thru safari, Safari Wilderness in Lakeland (about 45 minutes west of Orlando) is the place to go. Visitors can choose between driving their own vehicle or joining others on the Safari Wilderness custom open-air vehicles through the 260 acres reserve.

There are also ATV safari tours, camel safari tours, and kayaking safari tours. Each kind of tour lasts approximately 1-2 hours and there are optional add ons for each safari tour like the purchase of food bags to feed the animals. 

Lake Apoka Wildlife Drive

A free way to see wildlife! The trail is open a couple of days a week, and is around a 2 hour drive, 11 miles one way.

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive entrance gate is open for vehicular traffic between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays. All vehicles must exit the drive by 5 p.m.

The trail begins at Lust Road and ends on Jones Avenue in Orange County, Fla. The speed limit is 10 mph and the maximum vehicle length is 25 feet; no trailers allowed. 

A few restrooms and a picnic pavilion are available on the property (see trail guide map for locations), but there is no drinking water provided. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed at all times.  See American alligators, bobcats, otters, bears, raccoons, armadillos, hawks, osprey, coyotes and more.

Audubon Center for Birds of Prey

One animal experience that is not very well known but worth the trip is to visit the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland.

The center is open Tuesdays thru Sundays from 10am-4pm and features an opportunity to view up close some of nature’s top predators including bald eagles, ospreys, falcons and many more.

The Audubon Center has a self-guided tour through their conservation center with a guidebook available for download on your phone at the admissions window.

For other Animal Attractions and Zoos near Orlando, try Tampa. If you are willing to travel farther from Orlando to the west coast (about an hour from Orlando), Tampa not only has the Tampa Zoo but Busch Gardens as well.

Central Florida is teeming with animal encounters and while some are more expensive than others, they are all worth it. 

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