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.
The days of dragons, princesses, and magic wands are revived at MagiQuest, an interactive medieval quest experience for all ages. The course takes visitors through a live-action game that creeps through dungeons, a village, and a fairy forest as players encounter myriad characters, sneak through secret doors, defeat a goblin king, and return jewels to the princess. The fun doesn’t stop when the game ends, as MagiQuest also has an on-site black light mini golf course, a laser spy challenge, and a mirror maze.
Barely able to walk on his own and many years away from becoming a reverend, a 3-year-old Jim Chambers rode a horse for the first time and was immediately enchanted. At 7, Chambers owned his own mare and paid for her necessities by selling rides for $0.15. Now, on his own ranch overlooking the tangled green of the Cherokee Valley, Chambers is still providing trail rides, campfire cookouts, and western horseback weddings. The Douglas Lakeview Stables crew leads trail rides every day, the Smoky Mountains cutting a rolling gray swath from the distant horizon. The adventures go on regardless of weather conditions, allowing riders to watch snowstorms unfurling over Lake Douglas or rain performing its natural role of ruining papier-mâché hats.
Tucked away in the Smoky Mountains, Rainforest Adventures Zoo nurtures a diverse family of more than 120 tropical and temperate species, many born in captivity. Brilliantly hued macaws and finches share space with eccentric guests such as lemurs, hissing cockroaches, and reclusive business mogul Howard Hughes. Elsewhere, guests get up close with a cuddly collective of mammals such as a giant porcupine, African servals, and coatimundi, as well as cold-blooded crocodiles, lizards, and snakes.
Sprawling across 160+ acres of verdant grounds, Circle G Ranch curates a herd of more than 700+ exotic animals, allowing visitors to cruise down a 3-mile path to get close to the curious creatures. Zebras, emus, deer, and alpaca trot up to vehicles for handfuls of delicious feed, and guided safari-truck and camelback tours impart nuggets of information on the park's wildlife. After treks, visitor head to the petting zoo to visit a rotating gang of cuddly animals, such as baby lambs, goats, and parrots, along with an African crested porcupine and a family of sulcata tortoises.
Ijams Nature Center is committed to outdoor conservation and recreation, supplying members with rugged nature trails, an eco-friendly learning center, and a wildlife sanctuary spread over 300 acres. The visitor's center reduces energy emissions through passive solar heating, and most of the building's surfaces were constructed using materials made from recycled newspaper, cardboard, and grocery bags. New and permanent exhibits fill this space, such as Ijams Family History—which showcases the traditional preserved birds that highlight their passion for ornithology. Inside the forest exhibit, correct answers to questions light up components inside a giant walk-through tree, and glass cases hold specimens such as a hummingbird nest and snakeskin.
Heading outside, guests enter the raptor enclosure—a sheltered structure and small amphitheater housing a red-tailed hawk and turkey vulture, who read excerpts from their favorite Looney Tunes fan fiction during educational demonstrations. From here, all-ages visitors explore a greenhouse and organic garden. Children can frolic in Jo's Grove—an interactive nature play area replete with hidden spaces and materials for building a nature fort. Hikers and mountain bikers can traverse ten miles of surface trails that wind through mature woodlands, as well as Mead's Quarry and Ross Marble Natural Area.