More than 500 animals inhabit the grounds at Capital of Texas Zoo, a haven for wildlife education and a breeding ground for more than 14 endangered species. The zoo's residents include zebras, ringtail lemurs, and a rare white tiger, not to be confused with a ghost tiger. Other appearances from the animal kingdom include peacocks, kangaroos, turtles, and lions.
Educational animal shows highlight a specific member of the zoo, such as the Wings show, which stars eurasian eagle owl Hedwig, who has made appearances on Late Show with David Letterman and in the movie Furry Vengeance. The zoo also takes to the road with traveling animal shows that involve a cast of six exotic reptiles, mammals, and birds, which makes appearances at birthday parties, schools, or events. With lessons catered to the age of the audience, the animals teach children to respect other living things and remind adults why they can’t keep falcons as pets.
Austin Zoo originated as Good Day Ranch in 1990 featuring pony rides and goat-milking demonstrations. Over the next four years, the founders began rescuing exotic animals and evolving into a rescue center, renaming the facility under its current moniker. After becoming a safe haven for more than 300 rescued animals of more than 100 different species, the Austin Zoo began the process of becoming a nonprofit organization, which it completed in 2000. Housed in native Texas Hill Country enclosures, the animals can enjoy real grass and landscaping instead of concrete exhibits or studio apartments. African lions and Bengal tigers stretch out in the big cat habitats while colobus monkeys and a marmoset swing from tree to tree in monkey areas. In addition to wild creatures, the zoo houses domesticated animals such as a miniature donkey, potbellied pigs, and llamas.
The San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium has more than 3,500 animals in a variety of realistically themed exhibits. A family membership gives two adults and their kids or grandkids unlimited, express member entry to the zoo for 365 successive days. Tour the African plains and visit the ostriches, antelopes, and baby-lugging Marabou storks as they gather around the water hole to demonstrate the newest Kindle, or brave the tropical mysteries of Amazonia in search of an anteater, macaws, and the giant Andean condor. Membership also includes discounts on programs, special events, gift-shop and concession-stand goodies, and free or discounted access to a lengthy list of zoos and aquariums across the country.
Beginning atop a 20-story cliff, Lake Travis Zipline Adventures's final zipline carries riders above Lake Travis for more than 2,500 feet at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. To reach the cliff, a pair of professionally trained guides lead 2.5-3 hour hikes through Texas Hill Country, affording panoramic views of Lake Travis along the way. Before the finale over the lake, groups stop at four other ziplines that snake through canyons and soar above inlets.
Back on land, the company reserves more than 10 acres of Lake Travis shore for post-tour picnics and beach games. For guests embarking on a nighttime zipline tour or looking to linger in central Texas, Lake Travis Zipline Adventures rents out private cabins. Accommodations include a front porch overlooking the lake, as well as access to two private beaches.
More than 500 exotic animals prowl, scamper, and crawl through their expansively recreated habitats at Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo. One of the rarest and most beautiful of all the animals is on display in the Ghosts of the Jungle presentation. There, two white lion cubs, some of a very small number in the world tumble and play. They're not albinos, but uniquely pigmented animals first seen in the Timbavati region in 1938, and they have beautifully colored eyes that flit intelligently around their space.
There's plenty else to see there, as well. Guests quake with curiosity as they watch the alligator and crocodile ponds. Patrons can interact with cuddlier critters at the petting zoo, where dozens of fluffy goats, alpacas, and llamas gather to tie-dye their coats. Elsewhere, cackles of hyenas reverberate throughout the grounds, spurring a pack of wolves to emit a more introspective sound by baying at the moon. Wizened tortoises bask in a field of lettuce and racing trophies as a duo of ring-tailed lemurs relax in their environment.
Though it's only about 25 minutes outside of San Antonio, Enchanted Springs Ranch transports its guests to a totally different world—and to a totally different century, for that matter. Considered an enchanted place by early Native Americans for its rolling hills and flowing rivers, the 86-acre working ranch serves as a living, breathing reincarnation of the Old West. It bustles with activity and has been recognized by Oprah as one of the country's best "Wacky Family Attractions."
Rugged structures, lush pastures, and trickling springs surround guests while they explore the property. Perhaps the best way to do that is not by tossing a saddle on a rocking horse, but by climbing aboard tractor-pulled wagon rides. These tractor tours tote passengers across the premises and past a collection of wildlife that includes longhorns, buffalo, deer, and zebras. On foot, guests may encounter pistol twirlers, bull whip champions, trick ropers, and real cowboys and cowgirls that populate the ranch. Such an authentic experience hasn't been overlooked by film creators or party planners, either: the ranch doubles as a movie set, and can also be rented for wedding receptions, birthdays, and other special events.