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Statewide Berryville Cabot Eureka Springs Hot Springs Little Rock Rogers
Statewide Travel 1

Arkansas Animal Encounters


If you are a nature enthusiast or animal lover like me and my family, and you are ready for a wild adventure, you will love these Arkansas animal encounters. If you’re passionate about our furry, feathered and finned friends, then Arkansas won’t disappoint. The state is home to a variety of animal encounters, from small, family-friendly zoos to larger, more specialized facilities that will provide plenty of photo ops, teach you about a variety of animals and allow you to get hands-on with some of your favorite critters.

Animal Encounters from small farms and petting zoos to animal sanctuaries and formal zoos can be a treasure trove of both native animals and exotic animals from around the world. You’ll learn about conservation efforts and in some cases, you can even feed or handle the animals. Check out these great spots around the state.

Little Rock Zoo

The Little Rock Zoo is an urban oasis nestled in the capital city with various exhibits where you can hear lions roar, watch penguins waddle and see lemurs swing through the trees. The zoo is both entertaining and educational.

Hands-on Experiences: Young ones will love the petting zoo, where they can interact and get up close with a variety of barnyard animals. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the Burmese python feed, the great ape scatter feed and presentations that showcase the elephants, rhinos, penguins and more. For those who want to get up close and personal, sign up for the Penguin Experience and the Elephant Experience, where you can paint with the animals, bathe them or get a behind-the-scenes opportunity.

Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo – Hot Springs

Get ready for a wild adventure at the Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo! Tucked away in the charming city of Hot Springs, this unique destination offers an up-close encounter with a diverse array of animals. From the impressive American alligators that give the farm its name to the delightful petting zoo featuring cuddly critters, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Imagine getting a chance to touch-friendly goats, adorable rabbits and even some slithery reptiles.

Hands-on Experience: Visitors can watch the gator feeding at selected times each day and you can even hold a baby alligator. You can also feed the goats, rabbits and other animals with feed provided at the farm.

Cockrill’s Country Critters – Cabot

After suffering a devastating loss from a fire in early 2022, Cockrill’s Country Critters made a huge comeback thanks to support from the local community. A must-visit gem, this family-owned animal sanctuary and education center hosts a variety of animals that you can get up close and personal with. The farm is open every Saturday and Sunday, and is available for scheduled field trips. If you can’t come to them, they can bring the farm to you with their mobile zoo option.

Hands-on Experience: With a petting zoo, live boa, kangaroo and more, every experience at Cockrill’s is a hands-on experience. Consider booking a birthday party or the mobile zoo for a more personalized event. You can also schedule a special visit from Miki the Monkey, which is sure to be memorable.

Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge – Eureka Springs

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is a non-profit animal sanctuary located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It is home to over 200 big cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, cougars and bears. The animals at Turpentine Creek were rescued from circuses, roadside zoos and private ownership. They are given a safe and loving home at the refuge, where they can live out their lives in peace.

Hands-on Experience: Although Turpentine Creek is a hands-off facility, there are still plenty of opportunities to get up close with many of the animals at the wildlife refuge like the Carnivor Caravan tour or Coffee with the Curator. You can also spend the night in one of their RV spots or glamping tents.

Blue Zoo Aquarium – Rogers

Blue Zoo Aquarium is a new interactive aquarium located in Pinnacle Hills Promenade Mall in Rogers, Arkansas. It is the first aquarium in Arkansas to offer a variety of hands-on experiences, including touch pools, feedings and animal encounters. Blue Zoo is home to over 2,000 animals from all over the world, including sharks, rays, sea turtles and fish.

Hands-on Experience: There is a touch pool where you can touch stingrays and sea stars, a feeding station where you can feed the fish, and a shark tank where you can watch the sharks swim overhead.

More Animal Encounters Worth Investigating

Hamilton’s Farm – Alexander
Snake World – Berryville
Bacchus Family Adventure Farm – Lamar
Mae Farm – Fayetteville
LoLo’s Backyard Barn – Waldo
J-Rocks Rockin’ Ranch – Ward
Barnyard Friends and Stables – Morrilton
Rockin H Alpacas – Judsonia – And read more about Arkansas Alpaca Adventures!

Seasonal Animal Experiences

Circle D Funny Farm – Malvern
Peebles Farm and Corn Maze – Augusta
Schafer’s Pumpkin Patch – Mayflower
BoBrook Farms – Roland
Hick’s Family Farm – Lonoke
Pumpkin Hollow – Piggott

If you have a passion for creatures great and small, Arkansas is the place to be. Pack your camera, don your adventure hat, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime. The animal kingdom of Arkansas is ready to welcome you with open paws, wings and fins!

Cover photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

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Julie Kohl works from home as a writer and teaches art part-time at a local private school. A former Yankee who was "converted" to the south by her husband, Julie has grasped on to rural life in a sleepy, blink-your-eyes-and-you'll-miss-it town in central Arkansas where they raise chickens, farm hay and bake bread. Julie loves adventure and sharing it with her husband and son. They frequent the trails, campgrounds and parks of Arkansas, always on the hunt for new adventures and new stories to share. Learn more on her blog Seek Adventures Media.

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