Unique Adventures with Animals in the Midwest

I’ve been fortunate to experience lots of incredible ethical animal encounters in the Midwest. I’m sharing a few of my favorites that are perfect for animal lovers of all ages.


Take an Open-Air Safari Tour at The Wilds

14000 International Rd, Cumberland, OH

The Wilds resides on over 9000+ acres that were formerly used for strip mining in Cumberland, Ohio.

photo courtesy of Laura Watilo Blake

During the 2+ hour open-air safari tour, you will see several rare and endangered species, along with rhinos, ostriches, and giraffes roaming around in a natural setting.

An Ostrich at The Wilds
photo courtesy of Laura Watilo Blake
zebras at The Wilds
photo courtesy of Laura Watilo Blake

You will learn a lot about each animal that you encounter and more about the conservation efforts being made around the world.

animals at The Wilds
photo courtesy of Laura Watilo Blake

The Wilds also offers a variety of specialty tours in addition to the guided open-air safari tour.


Call a Falcon With Ohio School of Falconry

7925 N High St, Columbus, OH 

You can experience an unforgettable hands-on adventure that allows you to interact with and engage with hawks.

The “Walks with Hawks” program from the Ohio School of Falconry program near Columbus takes up to 8 guests, ages 9 and up, for a  1.5-2 hour session.

walk with hawks
Ohio Falconry
wolf encounter in Brookville Indiana
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Calling the bird. @ohiofalconry

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During the session, you will learn more about the lives of birds of prey, their ecosystem, and you’ll have multiple opportunities to fly the birds to your glove or lure them during your walk.

The hawks free-fly which makes walking in the literal woods with them even more exciting. This program allows you to get a taste of what falconry is like without going through lengthy training.

You can read more about this adventure here. 

Let a Wolf Play With Your Hair

Seriously, you can. And I have the footage to prove it.

wolf creek habitat and rescue

YouTube video

Wolf Creek Habitat and Rescue is located in Brookville, Indiana about an hour away from Cincinnati and is dedicated to rescuing wolves and educating the public about these amazing animals.

It started with rescues and then a few wolves were born at the habitat.

wolf encounter Wolf Creek Habitat and Rescue
give an elephant a bath at Wilstem Ranch
Elephant Retreat at Wilstem Ranch 30
Kitty Brew Cat Cafe 10

At Wolf Creek Habitat and Rescue, you can learn more about wolves and why they were never meant to be pets…which is a big reason why their rescue exists.

People think they can have a wolf as a pet while it is little but as it grows they realize that wolves are wild and cannot be domesticated. That is where Wolf Creek Habitat comes into the picture.

They give these animals a place where they can be part of a pack and live as normal of a wolf life as possible.

The wolves are free to see from the observation deck and you can experience the encounter for an additional suggested donation.

You can read more about this adventure here.

Help Give an Elephant a Bath

You can help be a part of the pampering process for retired circus elephants at Wilstem Ranch in Indiana. Elephant encounter participants are divided into groups to help with the bathing process.

Some groups helped hose down the elephant with water, add the special bath wash, some scrubbed, and others did the pedicure of a mineral treatment on their feet.

Toledo Zoo 2
African Safari Wildlife Park
Equine Assisted Development
team building with horses
Kitty Brew Cat Cafe 3
Kitty Brew Cat cafe
Kitty Brew Cat Cafe 4
fly fishing for salmon in Michigan
fly fishing Muskegon River
fly fishing

It’s such a special experience to be able to get so close to an elephant and be a part of the pampering process.

We noticed a few guests that became emotional at the joy of experiencing such an intimate encounter that humanly allowed them to interact and share their great love of elephants.

You can learn more about this adventure here. 

Take a Behind the Scenes Tour at a Zoo

I’ve personally taken a behind the scenes tour at both the Toledo and the Cincinnati Zoo. The tours can vary depending on what animals are available during the season and the day of your encounter.

During our Behind the Scenes tour at the Toledo Zoo, we got to go access areas of the aquarium that are not open to the public and even feel the suction of the tentacles of an octopus which was really cool!

Adventure Mom with elephant at Cincinnati Zoo
Picture with Elephant at the Cincinnati Zoo
feeding a bison at African Safari Wildlife Park in Ohio
bison at African Safari Wildlife Park
giraffe at African Safari Wildlife Park in Ohio

You will learn more about what the animals eat, their habitats, and how you can help with their conservation efforts.

At the Cincinnati Zoo, I took a behind the scenes tour that allowed me to get up close with Asian Elephants and giraffes.

Proceeds from your behind-the-scenes experiences help fund conservation work in the field and help protect elephants in the wild.

Get Bison Slobber on your Car

Yes, I said bison slobber.

At African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio,  you can experience an unforgettable drive-thru animal experience that takes you up close to animals throughout the park.



You cannot bring outside food to bring the animals but you can purchase food at the gift shop which I highly recommend because it gives you the opportunity to feed the animals from your vehicle.

This adventure will provide non stop laughs and smiles!


Experience Teambuilding Exercises With A Horse

A teambuilding exercise with the horses at EAD (Equine Assisted Development) in Grand Rapids, Michigan was one of the most beautiful and powerful encounters that I’ve ever had with a horse.

During your session you will participate in a variety of exercises that will not involve riding a horse, instead, you are interacting with the horse.

You are also learning a lot about self-awareness, leadership, and personal development.

I loved my teambuilding experience so much that I brought both of my boys back for a family session.

Through the exercises with the horses, my boys learned a lot about how they interacted with each other along with their natural giftings.

They also grew in confidence when they were able to call a horse and the horse followed their instructions by voice commands.

You can read more about our experience here. 

Visit a Cat Cafe

Grab a drink from the Kitty Brew Cafe and then enjoy playing with kittens and cats who are eligible for adoption…. in case you fall in love with one and want to make your house it’s forever home.

The drinks are served in a separate area and you will be happy to discover that it doesn’t smell like the cat house at the zoo.

We don’t have pets and I really enjoyed interacting with the cats with the knowledge that the proceeds help save more lives and provides a great experience for animal lovers and potential adopters.

You can learn more about this adventure here.


Take a Guided Fly Fishing Trip

Learn about the local ecology and try something new during a guided fly fishing trip with Betts Guide Service on the Muskegon River in West Michigan.

This is a memorable experience for both novices and pros thanks to the guides intel of the best fishing spots and step by step instructions for the newbies.

I’m a total city slicker and my friend and I outfished everyone on the water and caught the most salmon that day thanks to our great guide.

You can read more about this adventure here.

Go Dog Sledding in Northern Michigan

Travel through the snow led by a team of beautiful dogs who are eager to run on a guided dog sledding adventure at Shanty Creek Resort in Northern Michigan.

animal enconters at the Cincinnati Zoo
Behind the Scenes Tour at the Cincinnati Zoo
penguin encounter newport aquarium
dog sledding Shanty Creek Resort
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Twiga Overnight Camp

Kids under 100 lbs. can go for a dogsled ride with beautiful Siberian Huskies at Shanty Creek Resort.


Pets that Pull operates rides on Saturdays and holidays on a looped trail.

The Huskies are really friendly and LOVE to run!

You can read more about this adventure here. 

Sleep Near the Giraffes

Experience an overnight adventure at the Cincinnati Zoo during the Family Twiga Overnight camp at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Sleep in African safari-style tents with views of the giraffe habitat and enjoy behind the scenes access to areas of the zoo that are not available to the public.

There is even a really special surprise, animal permitting, and you will be given the opportunity to get up close to a few different types of animals.

You can read more about this adventure here.

Play with Penguins

At Newport Aquarium, guests can purchase tickets for a 20-minute penguin encounter that gives you access to be up close with African penguins.


Sleep with the Sharks at Newport Aquarium
Newport Aquarium 6
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During the penguin encounter, you will learn more about what penguins eat and their natural habitat.

You can ask the Animal Experience Specialists questions and even have the opportunity to touch a penguin and get a memorable photo opp.

You can read more about this adventure here. 

Sleep with the Sharks

Watch the sharks above and below you before you fall asleep during an overnight at Newport Aquarium, located directly across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.

Guests will take a behind the scenes tour of the aquarium and can even sleep in the shark tunnel that night.

You can read more about this adventure here. 

Do you know of an animal adventure in the Midwest that I need to add to my list?

Let me know in the comments below.

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5 thoughts on “Unique Adventures with Animals in the Midwest”

  1. I love this and now have several places to add to my list! And am writing up one on things in Indiana – you have to go to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Centerpoint IN.

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