Most children love animals: Their wet noses, soft fur, and sometimes silly antics can provide hours of fun and education. It’s fun to see animals in real life, and fortunately for us Hoosiers, we have many opportunities to encounter animals up close. Many of the animal encounters across Indiana are a part of conservation efforts, and not only can families learn more about wild animals, farm animals and pets, they can enjoy the time together in an afternoon of furry (or scaly) fun.
Black Pine Animal Sanctuary
If you’re up for a day trip to northern Indiana, check out Black Pine Animal Sanctuary in Albion, which houses large cats, bears, monkeys, reptiles, birds and more. Register online for a day visit and tour the 18-acre sanctuary. Black Pine offers feeding tours, educational tours and private tours.
The Indianapolis Zoo offers several animal encounters for ages 6 and older, that go above and beyond your typical trip to the zoo.
- Sloth Adventure: The zoo’s Sloth Adventure allows you to experience these gentle creatures up-close, and have an opportunity to feed the sloths.
- Dolphin Meet & Greet: Go behind the scenes at the zoo’s Dolphin Presentation for a meet-and-greet with dolphins
- Elephant Bathing Experience: Scrub down one of the zoo’s African elephants during a Bathing Experience, and learn what it takes to care for these amazing animals.
- Kangaroo Crossing: The Indianapolis Zoo brand new Kangaroo exhibit opened on June 18.
For art lovers, the Animal Art Adventures program allows groups of four to watch elephants, dolphins, penguins, rhinos, walrus, lemurs and orangutans create a custom masterpiece as a souvenir.
Looking for a unique, educational, and cost-effective getaway? Heritage Farm in Flora, Indiana — about one hour north of Indianapolis — offers families an experience they won’t soon forget.
Heritage Farm is a working alpaca farm with more than 50 alpacas you can see, touch and interact with. Visitors can book an overnight stay at the 120-acre farm in one of the several different lodging options, or just visit for the day. Owners Tim and Beth Sheets have made it their goal to educate the community about the joys of farming and alpaca care.
Little Eagle Creek Valley Farm
At the right time of year, visitors can catch a glimpse of sheep shearing as Little Eagle Creek Valley Farm prepares to harvest wool for Always in Stitches, a local business. At other times, catch more than 30 sheep, two miniature horses, two llamas and chickens in their natural habitat. Regular tours are not currently available, but guests are invited to come and observe life on the farm.
Nine Lives Cat Cafe
In the heart of Indy’s Fountain Square is Nine Lives Cat Cafe, a wonderful place to sit, pet some furry creatures, drink some coffee or tea, and just relax while you watch felines do their thing. Part cat rescue, part cafe, Nine Lives allows visitors to interact with their adoptable cats in a comfy, cat-friendly space.
This farm and rescue sanctuary has a mission to help as many animals as possible find suitable homes, and provides sanctuary for those that are not adoptable. Primarily a pig farm, guests at Oinking Acres can also spend time with ducks, goats and other small farm animals. Tours can be scheduled online. Feel free to bring produce, such as cucumbers, carrots and apples to make a pot-bellied pig your new friend.
Wilstem Wildlife Park
View more than 50 animals during Wilstem Wildlife Park‘s drive-thru safari experience, where you can greet animals from the comfort of your vehicle. Or get up-close to elephants, sloths, giraffes, kangaroos and grizzly bears during one of the animal encounters that the park offers.
Just outside Lafayette in Battle Ground, Wolf Park sits on 78 acres and is home to wolves, foxes, bison and one lovable Dutch rabbit named Sodapop. Stop by for a guided tour, or register for one of the many special events and programs, in which guests can interact with the animals and learn more about them.