Exotic animals from six continents call Hollywild Animal Park home, though many have also firmly planted their paws and hooves in the entertainment business?hence the name Hollywild. Tank the rhino, for instance, has appeared in multiple national advertising campaigns, avoiding the paparazzi by hiding himself in his dressing room. But the nonprofit park gives visitors more than a brush with stardom, as many of the animals they shelter are extinct in the wild. Virtually nowhere else on earth will guests get to visit a Syrian Brown Bear or get up close and personal with a waffalo (a cross between an African Watusi and a buffalo).
Hollywild gives visitors a bounty of ways to experience this variety. On Safari Rides, knowledgeable guides drive tour buses through more than 70 acres where zebra, emus, donkeys, camels, antelope, and other animals roam free. In the ampitheater, audiences get close encounters with fascinating fauna thanks to interactive Creature Feature shows. And throughout the park, visitors have ample opportunities to pet and feed the animals.
Unlike their mythical cousin, the velociraptor, modern-day raptors are real birds of prey that strike like death from the sky. Visitors can expect to see a wide variety of these fearsome creatures, from eagles to owls, some of which can be seen up close and personal at one of the center's several live programs and tours. On a clear day, fortunate guests can catch a clear view of the resident raptor, Emma, a white barn owl taken under the wing of the center following a series of broken bones. Too fragile to survive in the wild, Emma now pitches in around the center, raising wildlife awareness and taloning up rogue litter.
Anytime from 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, December 4 or Sunday, December 5, families can embark on 25-minute hayrides through the woods and pastures of Harris Farm. As you travel over the scenic Reedy Creek, gorge your eyes on area wildlife and cute farm animals as you chat with Santa himself about wish lists, cheerful holiday memories of yore, and the universal appeal of Seinfeld -themed stocking stuffers. Bring home some seasonal spirit by getting your photo snapped with St. Nick (an additional $5) or picking out the perfect evergreen from the farm's Christmas-tree lot.
The vision of a local North Carolina man, Zootastic Park sends animal lovers on an educational, interactive journey with an ever-expanding selection of exhibits, attractions, and activities. Owner Scottie Brown?who, along with his family, has been working with exotic animals for more than 30 years?transformed his dream into reality in 2009, when the zoo finally opened its gates after several years of construction and growing inside a kangaroo pouch. Today, the zoo's themed areas, such as Western Town and the Barnyard Petting Zoo, let visitors explore reptiles, farm animals, and exotic beasts including antelope, birds, and tigers who go by the names Sasha and Jasmine. Zootastic Park also hosts or furnishes animals for special events and can provide an exotic feel for events including birthdays, weddings, and corporate gatherings. When winter rolls around, the zoo morphs into a wonderland of lights, complete with an appearance from a Santa Claus who is clearly just a zebra wearing the sheep's cast-off wool.
Since 1868, the lush land at The Hunter Farm has provided for five generations of the Hunter family. A sprawling lineage of sons, daughters, nieces, and nieces' husbands have weathered the seasons on its plot, giving rise to plump crops and healthy livestock. Throughout the year, they throw the barn doors wide to share their bounty with the community. It begins in the spring, when visitors fill buckets with the farm's ripe strawberries, beloved for their unusual sweetness. In the summer, camping kids learn about farm life firsthand as they milk cows and plant crops. The farm is in full swing come fall, inviting harvest-season visitors to trundle along on hayrides and pick the most spherical pumpkins they can find. As the days shorten into winter, the farm welcomes the Cox family, who bring with them a stock of freshly cut fraser firs.
Cold Blooded Encounters fills guests' days with a variety of science-related exhibits, interactive presentations, and games. The newly-opened Science Center schools visitors on topics from fossils and gemstones to fun kitchen chemistry and turtle races. At the Reptile Zoo meanwhile, an affable red-footed tortoise named Confucius and a gentle black rat snake named Oreo greet visitors. Secluded and multispecies habitats house more than 150 species of amphibians, fish, reptiles, and invertebrates, including fire salamanders, jewel cichlids, Kenyan sand boas, and whip scorpions.
Annual memberships grant gift-shop discounts, guest passes, and a family photo posed with an animal. Cold Blooded Encounters also reaches out to school groups from preschools to colleges with effusive educational programs and sends ambassadors to birthday parties, where children can help feed turtles or pose for photos with 8-foot snakes.