Ask a child to name a favorite animal, and while the answer may change day-to-day, it’s always emphatic. Luckily, in Florida, there are plenty of animals to choose from—and we’re not just talking about those in zoos.
Thanks to the state’s diverse ecology, Florida is home to a stunning array of wildlife—many with which you can safely interact. Whether it’s kayaking with manatees, watching 300,000 bats vacate their homes for an evening meal, or seeing a baby alligator emerge from its egg, there’s no shortage of ways to get up close with wild animals throughout Florida. The state is also home to several unique rescue facilities and refuge areas, meaning you can meet rare silky-haired stallions, or a group of particularly social parrots. There’s even a family of spider monkeys inhabiting a tiny man-made island in the middle of a busy river—but that’s, as they say, a whole ‘nother story.
Check out these nine animal-adjacent destinations, then ask yourself—what’s your favorite animal now?