Pets are great and zoos are cool, but if you’re looking for something a little more exciting, a unique animal encounter is just what the veterinarian ordered. From exotic preserves to animal sanctuaries and protected environments, we’ve found amazing animal experiences in every corner of the country. Read on for everything you need to know before you go.

Swim with Manatees in Florida – Crystal River, Fl

In the picturesque waters of Crystal River in Florida's nature coast, families can enjoy the sunshine and company of manatees—gentle giants that make the river's headwaters their home because of a constant 72-degree temperature. In the winter more manatees migrate to the river, but some stick around as year-round residents. Crystal River is one of the only rivers in Florida where people can legally interact and swim with the manatees in their natural habitat.

Check It Out
Multiple touring outfitters provide river cruises and snorkeling/swimming options for visitors (ages three and up). Not sure you want to get in the water with these lovable sea cows? They surface regularly for air, so a river cruise or a viewing from the Three Sisters Springs will still afford an exciting encounter.

River Ventures
498 S.E. Kings Bay Dr.
Crystal River, Fl 34429
877-581-8401
Online: riverventures.com

Photo: River Ventures

What are your favorite spots to get wild with your wee animal lovers? Tell us in the comments section below!

—Shelley Massey