Visit the Smokies for Kid-Friendly Animal Attractions

Last Updated on 12 months ago by Nicky Johnson

A child’s ability to absorb experiences is truly unmatched. Yet, he or she won’t stay young forever.

Therefore, there’s no time like the present to take your kids on fantastical adventures around the world! Take your next family vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee, a region abundant in scenic landscapes, outdoor activities, and family-friendly attractions.

Specifically, these attractions with animals in the Smoky Mountains are sure to ignite your kids’ desire to learn and natural instinct to appreciate the beauty of nature.

Ripley’s Aquarium

Ripley's Aquarium

Is your kid obsessed with sharks? Do you see them becoming a marine biologist someday? Or, perhaps your kid simply loves observing strange, alien-like creatures.

Who wouldn’t when so many bizarre species are scattered across the Earth? At Ripley’s Aquarium, you don’t have to travel around the world to see them.

This massive aquarium in Gatlinburg offers two whole levels of exhibits and experiences among the ocean creatures.

Walk through the 340-foot underwater tunnel to see sharks, moray eels, and sea turtles up close! Stop by the Penguin Playhouse to meet everyone’s favorite aquatic waddlers.

Take a glass-bottom boat ride across the lagoon, and you’ll float over 75 different species of exotic marine animals. You can even pet a stingray along the spine at Touch A Ray Bay.

Ripley’s Aquarium is not just a showcase of oceanic creatures but also a fun and educational way to interact safely with them.

Zoo Knoxville

Zoo Knoxville

When you stay in Pigeon Forge for your Smoky Mountain vacation, the zoo is already less than an hour away. The zoo in Knoxville houses over 800 types of animals, with a strong emphasis on saving species close to extinction.

Explore the twelve sections of the zoo, from forest to grassland to water and more. Each habitat is equipped to imitate the natural environment of the animals it houses, such as otters, tigers, lions, red pandas, gorillas, reptiles, and many others.

Plus, only at Zoo Knoxville will you have the rare opportunity to pet snakes safely, feed giraffes, and even have a sleepover to meet the creatures of the night!

Wears Valley Ranch

Wears Valley Ranch

It’s never too early to start teaching your kids about the importance of giving. Wears Valley Ranch is not just a fun way to see horses and other farm animals up close. It’s also a home and school for children with unstable family support systems.

The 120-acre working ranch provides them with education, counseling, and recreation in a safe Christian environment. Visitors to Wears Valley Ranch are welcome to volunteer and help change their lives for the better.

While you’re there, check out the beautiful gardens, ranch animals, and art gallery, and indulge in some homemade ice cream.

Rainforest Adventures

Rainforest Adventures

If you’re not able to make the trek to Knoxville, you won’t have to miss out on the zoo experience. Rainforest Adventures in Sevierville cares for over 600 animals (130 species) that have been born or hatched in captivity.

Most recently, they have welcomed a new baby Black-Capped Capuchin to the zoo family. Stop by to congratulate the monkey parents, Puff and Shelby!

Afterward, say hello to the other mammals, too. You’ll meet African servals, lemurs, binturongs (bearcats), and sugar gliders – and those are just mammals! The rainforest is full of all kinds of other wildlife, including reptiles, birds, bugs, and amphibians.

How poisonous are scorpions really? What is an axolotl? How long do turtles live? Learn all about these interesting species at Rainforest Adventures!

Parrot Mountain

Parrot Mountain

Most kids love cute little felines for the fuzzy cuddles or energetic pups that can run around and play fetch. Yet, your kid is not like the others. Perhaps yours has a penchant for the awkward miniature dinosaur with a bobblehead and a killer singing voice.

Birds are an unconventional type of pet, but they can be just as loving and engaging as their mammalian counterparts. If your kid is obsessed with birds, you can’t skip Parrot Mountain!

When you enter this four-acre property in Sevierville, you’ll feel like you stepped into a fantasy painting. Beautifully landscaped gardens with all kinds of flowers and trees stretch out before you. A yellow door marks the entrance to a secret garden.

An Irish-style stacked stone fence lines the paved pathways up to various cottages with unique rooftops. However, the most breathtaking part of Parrot Mountain is the hundreds of tropical birds flying freely, perched along the garden, or singing and chittering as they clean their feathers.

Explore the lory aviary, then take a picture with the dragonflies, butterflies, and peacocks by the waterfall. You’ll lose count of how many toucans, magpies, parrots, and hornbills you see along the way.

By the time you make it to the nursery, where you can hand-feed the newborns, your kid will be begging you to take one home with you – and you can!

The staff will teach you how to care for your new family member and you’ll be able to purchase all the supplies you need at the gift shop.

The Coaster at Goats on the Roof

The Coaster at Goats on the Roof

Can you even say you’ve been to the mountains if you haven’t befriended a goat? The Coaster at Goats on the Roof is the only “goat coaster” in all of Eastern Tennessee.

An exciting ride for children and adults of all ages, this alpine coaster weaves down the beautiful forested hills at 27 mph for a total of seven minutes. Afterward, you’ll have plenty of time to pet and feed the goats roaming freely about the gift shop.

Snack on some fudge and ice cream, and search for precious stones at the gem mining shop while you’re at it!

Kid-Friendly Animal Attractions

In Conclusion

The Great Smoky Mountains are full of fascinating creatures and fun ways to see or learn about them. You can never go wrong with a classic trip to the zoo or aquarium. Plus, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find plenty of unconventional animal attractions, too.

Between the horses, stingrays, goats, and exotic birds, the Smokies are the perfect vacation destination for families with kids. After all, few things engage a child’s entire mind, heart, and spirit like animals!