Travel Thoughts By Kim

By Kim Pritt, Contributor Posted 22 July 2023 at 3:00 pm

Me feeding a giraffe at the Wild Animal Park in Chittenango, NY. What wonderful gentle giants they are!

My friend Randy LeBaron wrote his “Refill with Randy” article last week about animals. If you know me, you know I am a HUGE animal lover and I often seek out animal parks or zoos when I travel. So, he inspired me to tell you about some of my favorites.

First – let’s talk about a couple local ones that you could easily visit. 

When I visited Chittenango, NY in 2017 for the Oz-Stravaganza, I also spent some time at the Wild Animal Park located just outside the Village of Chittenango. It was GREAT!!! Lots of animals – many of which you can get up close and personal with. It is a very well kept park and they also have a bounce house area for kids, snack huts, and a picnic area over-looking a beautiful lake. It is one of the better animal parks I’ve ever been to and it’s only about a 2.5 hour drive from Albion.

Another local place I really enjoyed was Hidden Valley Animal Adventure in Varysburg, NY. You take a trolley ride through the park and all the super cool animals come right up to the trolley when it stops to beg for treats. It was so much fun feeding them from cups. There is also a small animal area where you can pet and feed some other animals. I love being able to get up close and personal with animals I don’t normally get to see.

Me with the pink flamingos at the Riverbanks Zoo & Botanical Gardens in Columbia, SC.

Now, for some options a little further away.

During my cross country motor home trip with my brother and sister-in-law in 2016, a billboard caught our eye in Rapid City. It was for a place called Bear Country USA. We had to stop and check it out. It was a park that you drive your own vehicle through and we saw loads of bear and wolves, and elk and so much more all just wandering around free! There was also a part of the park that you could walk around and see smaller animals – we really enjoyed watching a bunch of bear cubs playing and climbing trees – great fun! If you’re ever in the Rapid City area check it out!

In 2019, I was in Colorado and decided to check out the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Definitely a good decision! It was a wonderful zoo on the side of a mountain, so it was on tiers. It had lots of great animals – some I enjoyed making friends with. It also had a special Shrine of the Sun up on top of the mountain above the zoo that is a tribute to Will Rogers. I highly recommend it!

A few years ago, I was a LulaRoe retailer and in 2018, I had the chance to go to the East Coast Warehouse in Columbia, SC to pick my own order – it was quite a thrill for me. I had some time to kill the first day I was there, so I checked out the Riverbanks Zoo & Botanical Gardens – WOW! It is a lovely zoo – not huge, but very nice and great exhibits. It was the first time I saw a kangaroo up close and pink flamingos other than in photos! 

Another gentle giant I ADORE is the camel – this one stole my heart at the Hidden Valley Animal Adventure in Varysburg, NY.

I think my all-time favorite zoo is the NC Zoo in Asheboro, NC. All the years I lived in NC, we only visited there once, but it was a wonderful experience. It is HUGE – 2,500 acres with 500 developed acres and it is world’s largest natural habitat zoo. They have over 1,800 animals most on their natural habitats – not just manufactured to replicate natural habitats. They also have tons of activities and special events. Do yourself a favor and take the trolley around – it is a LOT of walking. When in the Asheboro, NC area, do NOT miss the chance to visit the NC Zoo!!! I never wrote a blog post about it, but I included the website link for you.

An honorable mention is the Zoo America in Hershey Park – Hershey, PA. It is a smallish zoo with only animals native to North America – so no giraffes, elephants, monkeys, etc., but it was VERY nice and well worth the time to go through it, if you’re in Hershey.

Always take the time to check out zoos and animal parks when you travel – it’s a great way to spend a few hours!

Visit these links to blog posts I wrote about the parks I mentioned here:

Wild Animal Park – Chittenango, NY

Hidden Valley Animal Adventure – Varysburg, NY

Bear Country USA, Rapid City, SD

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo – Colorado Springs, CO 

Riverbanks Zoo & Botanical Gardens – Columbia, SC

Web Site for the NC Zoo in Asheboro, NC

Happy Adventuring!

I made fast friends with this giraffe at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, CO.