Animal Activities for Kids in Palm Beach County
Some kids just can't get enough of animals: turtles, birds, big cats, you name it, they want to be around it. If you're raising an animal enthusiast, or simply want to teach your toddler the names of animals from life rather than from the pages of a book, there is an appropriate venue for you in Palm Beach County.
Fun fact: Giraffes have black tongues!
Lion Country Safari
Lion Country Safari is the only drive-through safari in Florida, and it is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The main attraction is a four-mile drive-through safari trail divided into seven sections named after famous wildlife areas in Africa, South America, and Asia. In addition to lions (behind multiple layers of chain-link fencing and other safety features), you can see hundreds of large mammals up close. The white rhinoceroses are particularly impressive, but the herds of zebra and wildebeest are great to watch, and there are more than a dozen types of exotic ungulates running free.
After you finish the drive-through safari, there is still the walk-through area, with more animals (mostly birds and reptiles), gentle amusement rides for kids, and a large water play area. Rides include a large carousel, a ferris wheel, a toddler train, paddle boats, and more. You can even take a camel ride or feed a giraffe.
There is a large air-conditioned cafeteria and several smaller outdoor snack stands. An extensive gift shop shares space with the cafeteria. Call ahead to confirm dates and times for water play areas, which may be closed due to inclement weather.
Palm Beach Zoo
The Palm Beach Zoo is the place to go in Palm Beach County for a classic zoo experience. With over 1400 animals and various shows, lectures, and special programming, you can spend the entire day. Some animals you won't want to miss are the jaguars, Mexican spider monkeys, the Malayan tiger, and the kangaroos. There is a reptile house, fish exhibit, and tons of birds and waterfowl. The peacocks roam free throughout the zoo, offering unexpected photo opportunities.
Have your kids bring their bathing suits to cool off in the interactive fountain, a huge water area right near the entrance. There is also a carousel where you can all take a load off for a couple of minutes, a restaurant, and, of course, gift shops.
Loxahatchee River District: Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and River Center
Some wildlife sanctuaries are open to the public, and you can walk through nature trails and spend time with animals who are being rehabilitated or who can no longer survive in the wild. One fantastic place to go with kids is Busch Wildlife Sanctuary at the Loxahatchee River District. Busch Wildlife has a wildlife hospital as well as a nature center and trails that lead through different types of native Florida habitats, including pine flatwoods and cypress wetlands. Over 100,000 people visit Busch Wildlife annually to see the bobcats, alligators, eagles, river otters, owls, and more. Their newest exhibit is a black bear habitat! There are also tours, educational programs, nature night walks, and a summer camp. Although some of the programs have fees associated, walking through the sanctuary and viewing the animals on your own is free. (Donations are encouraged.)
Another project of the Loxahatchee River District is the River Center, where kids can learn about animal life along the Loxahatchee River. Admission is free, and children can see aquarium tanks housing fish, shrimp, seahorses, and reptiles in several different aquatic habitats. There is also a touch tank where kids can feel sea cucumbers, horseshoe crabs, and more.
Palm Beach County beaches are host to some very special critters each spring and summer — nesting sea turtles! Two excellent research and conservation centers perform sea turtle research, educate the public, and rehabilitate injured turtles. In Juno Beach, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center operates a sea turtle hospital, a sea turtle yard where turtles can recuperate after surgery and the public can observe them, and an exhibit hall with salt water tanks and a replica skeleton of the largest sea turtle that ever lived. The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton also works for the preservation of coastal and marine ecosystems, and has its own sea turtle rehab facility. They also host other marine creatures in large open sea tanks, have a boardwalk nature trail, and a butterfly garden.
Both centers offer day camps and school field trips, and The Loggerhead Marinelife Center also offers birthday parties,
Palm Beach County Nature Centers
There are several small nature centers run by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, and they offer educational programs and contact with animals of different types (not including large mammals).
- Green Cay Nature Center in Boynton Beach has indoor exhibits of small turtles, frogs, and alligators. They also offer a bird checklist if you want to go birding along their mile and a half of boardwalk trails.
- Daggerwing Nature Center in Boca Raton specializes in its namesake butterfly, but also offers an observation tower and a boardwalk trail through a swamp, where you can view waterfowl and alligators.
- Okeeheelee Nature Center offers bird walks, science lectures about native species and ecology for seniors, and storytime with crafts and animal encounters for preschoolers.
Working farms and stables
Another great way to get kids spend some time with animals is to take them to a working farm or stable. The Good Earth Farm in Loxahatchee, a not-for-profit animal sanctuary and rescue facility, offers a petting zoo with over 160 farm animals on Sundays. They also offer school field trips, birthday parties, a llama-handling class, and a pet psychic. Wandering Trails, a working stable in Palm Beach Gardens, offers day camp, trail rides, and of course riding lessons to kids of all ages.
Petting zoo parties
Miniature Dream Parties is a company based in Jupiter that can provide petting zoos (and other party activities) for birthday parties, church or synagogue events, and any other childrens' event you can think of. Their animals are beautiful and well taken care of. In addition to pony rides and the usual goats and bunnies, they have all types of farmyard fowl, small pigs, and sheep. They can also provide exotic animals for smaller parties, included a ring-tailed lemur, a kinkajou, and a red-handed tamarind.