You don’t need to go far to experience some of the world’s most intriguing animals. Colorado is home to thousands of animal species and many are part of programs that will allow you to interact with them. These opportunities help support conservation efforts as well as teach the public about the importance of maintaining biodiversity. Occasional events— like Binturong Day on May 6 and last weekend’s National Alpaca Show— come and go quickly, so it’s a good idea to check these sites regularly as not to miss meeting your favorite animal.

View Large Cats and other Animals from Above

Photo courtesy of The Wild Animal Sanctuary on Facebook.

Where: 2999 Co Rd 53, Keensburg

Cost: $30

The Lowdown: The Wild Animal Sanctuary is home to more than 450 rescued lions, tigers, bears, leopards, wolves and more. Take an elevated 1.5 mile walk over the enclosures to see the animals run, play and experience life.

For more information, go here.

Wrestle Alligators

Photo courtesy of Colorado Gators Reptile Park on their website.

Where: 9162 CR 9 N, Mosca

Cost: $15-$100 for adults

The Lowdown: It’s exactly how it sounds. At Colorado Gators Reptile Park you will start out learning to catch a 2-4 foot alligator, then a 5-7 foot gator, then if you’re feeling up to it, an 8-foot gator. The alligator’s mouths are not taped and the animals are not trained, so this activity is not for the faint of heart. Plenty of bloody photos on their website show how dangerous and memorable this experience can be. If you’re not up for gator wrastlin,’ every visitor to the park has the opportunity to hold smaller alligators, feed the gators and pet turtles.

For more information, go here.

Feed Giraffes 

Photo courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo on Facebook.

Where: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, 4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, Colorado Springs

Cost: Zoo Admission plus $3 per lettuce bundle or 2 for $5

The Lowdown: Ever been licked by a giraffe? You and all your friends can feed and touch members of the giraffe herd at this mountainside zoo. The giraffes come up to the fence for lettuce and pats. They love to show off their long, blue, slimy tongues.

For more information, go here.

Spot Buffalo from I-70

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Herd Overlook on Facebook.

Where: I-70, Exit 254, Golden

Cost: Free

The Lowdown: Pull off at Buffalo Herd Overlook to hopefully get a glimpse of a herd of buffalo. These buffalo are kept in a natural setting and are direct decedents of the last wild buffalo herd in America. Although you can’t get super close, the photo opportunities are worth the drive.

Interact with Stingrays

Photo courtesy of Downtown Aquarium on Facebook.

Where: Downtown Aquarium, 700 Water St., Denver

Cost: Aquarium Admission, plus $2 for stingray food

The Lowdown: Spend some quality time with these graceful animals. Hold stingray food—dead fish— between your fingers, and the stingray will come take it from you. It’s a little daunting the first time because the stingray has to cover your whole hand with their splashing bodies, but it’s totally worth it.

Click here for more information.

Learn about Falconry

Photo courtesy of The Broadmoor on Facebook.

Where: 1 Lake Avenue, The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs

Cost: $125 for adults

The Lowdown: Spend time with magnificent birds of prey like owls, eagles, hawks and falcons while you learn about the 4,000-year-old sport of falconry. You’ll get to experience firsthand the intelligence of these birds and even get to hold some yourself—with gloves of course. Experience falconry up close and personal with these trained birds.

For more information, click here.

Meet and Greet Wolves

Photo by Kyle Cooper.

Where: 4729 Twin Rocks Road, Divide

Cost: Varies

The Lowdown: Get up close and learn about several wolf species, wolf dogs, foxes and coyotes. You can take a guided tour and afterward have a photo shoot with your favorite wolf. The staff and volunteers will take your photos and put them on a USB drive for you to take home.

For more information, go here.

Surround Yourself with Butterflies and other Invertebrates

Photo courtesy of Butterfly Pavilion on Facebook.

Where: 6252 W 104th, Westminster

Cost: $11 for adults

The Lowdown: The Butterfly Pavilion is home to more than 5,000 animals. Hold a tarantula, see underwater invertebrates, watch chrysalises turn into butterflies and of course, spend time with butterflies themselves. 

For more information, go here.

Assorted Animal Encounters

Where: Denver Zoo, 2300 Steele St., Denver

Cost: Varies depending on encounter

The Lowdown: These behind the scenes opportunities at the Denver Zoo will bring you closer than you’ve ever been before to some of the world’s most interesting animals. You’ll have the opportunity to help prepare animal meals, feed and interact. Spend time with penguins, a rhino, birds, hippos and more.

For more information, go here.

Where: Downtown Aquarium, 700 Water St., Denver

Cost: $45

The Lowdown: Have you ever heard of a binturong? Ever had one climb on your shoulders? You have the opportunity to spend time with animals like the binturong, eagles, sloths, servals and more at the Downtown Aquarium. Get your picture taken and hang out with the animals.

For more information, click here.

Where: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, 4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, Colorado Springs

Cost: $253 per encounter for up to four people, includes zoo admission

The Lowdown: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo offers behind the scenes opportunities to get up close with nearly 20 different animals. You can tong feed an Amur Leopard, hand feed an African Elephant or watch an Orangutan paint a picture just for you.

For a full list of available encounters, click here.

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