At first glance, Purdy's Petting Zoo looks like a traditional barnyard: ducks quack and waddle, lop-eared rabbits silently hop, and pygmy goats nibble stalks of grass. But in addition to these familiar creatures, the zoo is home to exotic animals such as kangaroos, peacocks, zebras, and African tortoises. After feeding and petting the animals, visitors can mine for gems or fish for blue channel catfish in an onsite pond. The zoo also hosts field trips and birthday parties with pony rides.
At Adventures Unlimited, infants to 12-year-olds develop their love of learning through hands-on exploration in a safe environment, overseen by a team of first-aid- and CPR-certified caretakers. The center combines a park-like outdoor play area, ideal for aspiring tag-players and botanists alike, with an onsite trove of dress-up clothes to aid children as they become pirates or tiara-wearing pirates. Adventures Unlimited also fuels fun with snacks throughout the day, though children are responsible for bringing their own sack lunches.
Age-targeted activities abound throughout the year, with story time for infants and toddlers, after-school activities and transportation to local elementary schools for school-age children, and a pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds with semi-structured art, science, math, and language classes. A registered private kindergarten pampers 5-year-olds with attention before transitioning them seamlessly into local public schools. During the summer months, the center’s camp hinges on weekly themes that can transform participants into chefs or educate them on Oregon’s history of hiding gold in its rivers and children's ears.
The North Georgia Zoo's 30 acres have been home to some unlikely friendships. A prime example: three wolves, who grew up alongside a basset hound, now happily greet zoo visitors and even allow a few pats and scratches. These sort of animal encounters introduce zoo-goers to many exotic creatures, including camels, kangaroos, and snakes. The grounds even house the working Paradise Valley Farm, an area ripe for petting with potbelly pigs, miniature goats, and other livestock. And while not all of the zoo's 80 species are huggable, several programs let visitors peer into the habitats of everything from a white handed gibbon to a mountain lion or zebra.
Alligators, fennec foxes, lemurs, and other animals make appearances and refuse to sign autographs during guided tours, which travel by foot and wagon. For a more in-depth education, zookeepers offer a shadowing program, during which participants help feed, clean, and train various animals.
In 1975, four friends with hearts full of the great outdoors decided they needed a place to get gear indoors. This quest for adventuring equipment lead Bubba Sloan, Gerald Marshall, Denny Mays, and Ned Buxton to found High Country Outfitters as a gear shop for all manner of activities performed under the sun. These days, Bubba runs the retail side of things in Buckhead, while Gerald continues to captain daring cruises down the Ocoee River's relentless rapids. The store kits out customers for safe communing with nature with tools and togs from manufacturers including The North Face, Patagonia, and Big Green Egg, whose verdantly painted smoker grill creates hot meals in the midst of a long trip or particularly boring wait in the airport. Meanwhile, guides lead expeditionary parties along on waterborne trips down the Middle and Upper Ocoee’s burbling banks, recapturing the sun-dappled fun that inspired the store's creation in the first place.
North Georgia Corn Maze twists and turns for seven acres, or nearly three miles. Beyond this vast stalk-linked labyrinth lies an abundance of family-friendly activities, including hayrides that circle past stunning mountain views and grazing cattle. More fun awaits in the kid's corner, where youngsters can greet petting zoo critters or frolic in a sandbox filled with 8 million corn kernels left over from a giant's popcorn bowl.
When night falls, the maze's grounds turn into a theater for the movie under the stars series, which shows some of Hollywood's latest on a giant outdoor screen. The films' soundtracks mostly drown out the screams emanating from the nearby House of Burm, a "dungeon of fear" teeming with giant pythons, bloodied zombies, and other creepy characters.
At more than 900 learning centers across the world, Sylvan offers kids a leg up through personalized, one-on-one programs prescribed by an in-depth skills assessment. Students build on past lessons to learn progressively, and sessions may hone in on different disciplines, granting kids the confidence to interpret literature and the rhetorical skills needed to negotiate a later bedtime. The positive mindset of personable, invested instructors helps to inspire kids to greater academic feats, as does a prize program that rewards hard work with CDs and gift cards.