10 Animal Adventure Destinations Close to Home

Lions and tigers and bears – oh my!! Not to mention camels, stingrays, buffalo, and giraffes…in your own backyard!

Looking for a fun, convenient, and memorable experience with your family? Check out our guide to “animal adventure” trips!

Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or just a short afternoon excursion, there’s something just right for you. These experiences are great for all ages, with plenty of options that won’t break the bank. The best part? They’re all just an easy drive from Frisco.

So what are you waiting for?  Pack a picnic, load up the kids, and get ready for your animal adventure!

A Day at the Zoo

Close to Home: The Dallas Zoo

Just a quick drive down the Tollway, our “local” zoo is a great family destination. The newer “Wilds of Africa” and “Giants of the Savannah” sections are first rate (don’t miss the giraffe feeding!) and the original “Zoo North” has more animals than you could possibly see in one visit. There’s a family-friendly picnic area with a toddler train and lots of space to run around.

For a fun family night out, try “Safari Nights”, the Zoo’s summer concert series. Concerts start with a special animal show and feature a great line-up of local bands. Bring your own blanket and enjoy food truck fare and cold drafts on tap from the craft beer garden.

Thinking of making a return trip? A family annual pass is a great option if you plan to visit even a few times each year. With its convenient location and full calendar of special events  (like “Boo at the Zoo” and holiday “Zoo Lights”), the Dallas Zoo is an ideal pick for family fun.

Worth the Drive: The Fort Worth Zoo

With lush habitats and just about every animal imaginable, the Ft. Worth Zoo is definitely worth a drive to the other side of the Metroplex. Plan to get there early and enjoy a full day of fun. The Zoo is beautifully landscaped, with exciting animals around every corner. Don’t miss the brand new “African Savanna” – a 10-acre exhibit with giraffe feeding, black rhinos, and underwater hippo viewing!

A fun feature for kids is the Wild West play area. Kids can take a ride on the Yellow Rose Express Train, visit the Wild West petting zoo, and slide, climb, and crawl through the colorful “Play Barn.”

The Safari Splash water play area is fun bonus for summer visitors (and just $5 with Zoo admission.) This 14,000 square foot splash area features four slides, a water dumping tower, animal-shaped water cannons and a toddler play area (plus plenty of shady seating for mom and dad.)

With gorgeous animal habitats, kid-friendly perks, and plenty of Texas charm, the Ft. Worth Zoo is a “must visit” for North Texas families.

Best zoo you haven’t visited yet: The Cameron Park Zoo

The Cameron Park Zoo, located about 100 miles away in Waco, is a hidden gem. It features many of the same exciting animals as the larger zoos in a more intimate and budget-friendly setting. Kids will be thrilled to get up close to the animals without fighting big crowds (the tiger, orangutans, and bear exhibits are highlights).

The shady walking paths make the journey just as enjoyable as the exhibits themselves. There’s plenty to see without being overwhelming and parents and kids alike will love exploring the different exhibits at a leisurely pace. There’s also a playground and picnic area.

Cameron Park Zoo is ideal for young children, grandparents and any family looking for a relaxing and memorable afternoon. Bonus: the Zoo is just minutes from the very popular Magnolia Silos, so make the most of your road trip and enjoy both attractions!

Perfect toddler trip: Frank Buck Zoo

Located in Gainesville, about an hour northwest of Frisco, the Frank Buck Zoo is a great destination for families, especially with young children.

Little ones will love seeing the variety of animals (including zebras, giraffes, donkeys, ostriches, camels) and feeding the goats and flamingos. Parents will appreciate the stroller-friendly terrain and budget-friendly admission (only $5 for kids).

After seeing the Zoo, stay and play at Leonard Park, which surrounds the Zoo. The tree-filled, 85-acre park offers picnic tables, a large playground, miniature train rides and the Leonard Park Aquatic Center (with a splash pad, pool, and slides).

Animal Experiences and Petting Zoos

Fun on the Farm: Cathy’s Critters

Cathy’s Critters, located 45 minutes away in Princeton, gives Frisco city slickers a chance to enjoy a day on the farm. “Open Farm” days (usually once a month) include a petting zoo, pony rides, “outback tours” (to view kangaroos, wallabies, and more) and exotic animal presentations.

Kids will love seeing all their favorite farm animals up close and discovering new, exotic species. Cue “Old MacDonald” for the car ride and get ready for a day of fun!

Top pick for a weekend getaway: Fossil Rim

Fossil Rim, in Glen Rose, is a top-notch wildlife park with more than 50 species of animals. Most visitors drive through Fossil Rim in their own cars, although guided and group tours are available.

The Gosdin Scenic drive, which winds through the park, has exotic animals around every corner and gives kids a thrilling sense of adventure. The park also has picnic areas, a café, and a hands-on Children’s Animal Center.

Fossil Rim offers breathing taking views of the northern Texas hill country and several on-site lodging options. Consider spending the night at Fossil Rim and then continue your adventure the next day at nearby Dinosaur Valley State Park.

Just around the corner: Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch

Located just up the road in Pilot Point, Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch is a fun and convenient destination. Open to the public on weekends, Sharkarosa features Safari Tram rides, a petting zoo, and exotic animal presentations.

The mission of the 1126-acre wildlife park is to “provide the opportunity to view rare and endangered exotic wildlife in a personal and unique setting.”

With a wide variety of animals (camels, kangaroos, zebras, miniature horses, and more!) and an expansive area to explore, Sharkarosa is a perfect family adventure.


Best pick for a rainy day: SeaLife Grapevine

SeaLife Aquarium, located along 121 at Grapevine Mills shopping center, is a great choice for an indoor experience. The aquarium boasts countless tanks of colorful fish and a cool walk-around stingray tank.

The highlight is the shark tunnel, where sharks and rays soar right overhead. The aquarium isn’t huge (which can be a plus) and has an intimate, immersive feeling that really holds kids’ attention. Bonus points for child-centric touches (like viewing bubbles and climbing tunnels) and interactive learning tools.

Quick, easy, (and air-conditioned!), SeaLife should definitely be on your summer to-do list. (For the brave and energetic, add on a discounted visit to neighboring Legoland and make it a full day!)

Great choice for an urban adventure: The Dallas World Aquarium

At the Dallas World Aquarium in downtown Dallas, you get two great adventures for the price of one. The rainforest section is almost zoo-like, with monkeys, tropical birds, otters, and huge crocodiles.

After exploring the rainforest, head to the more traditional aquarium (with tropical fish, spider crabs, and a very popular manatee) and wrap up your visit at the outdoor penguin exhibit.

The Aquarium does draw big crowds, so plan to go early. Afterward, continue the urban adventure with a stop at nearby Klyde Warren Park (with food trucks, play areas, and a small splash pad).

Best place to touch a stingray: The Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

Designed with kids in mind, the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park offers eye-level, interactive zones, and exhibits. While not as big or flashy as the other local aquariums, it’s definitely a “win” for families. Kids will love the interactive exhibits (especially the stingrays!) and parents will love the price (just $6 for kids and only $4 if you happen to have a Zoo membership).

While at Fair Park be sure and check out the Texas Discovery Gardens and Butterfly House, which offers affordable family-friendly events like story time and a butterfly tea.

Related Articles: 

Frisco Guide to Family-Friendly Day Trips

5 Places to Road Trip in 5 Hours or Less

Hit the Road: Day Trips North of Frisco