Things to do / Travel Guide
There are some excellent animal habitats located in four of the five states the scenic southern Appalachian Mountains region covers.
The Western North Carolina Nature Center, in Asheville, is fascinating in that all animals it houses used to be mistreated pets; and having grown up with humans means that they wouldn't know how to survive in the wild. These animals include foxes, wolves, otters, and even birds of prey that were unfortunately harmed by their former owners.
The Greenville Zoo boasts 14 acres of exhibits that should pique your interest for a few hours. Along the way you'll see many native born South Carolina reptiles and amphibians, including the Black Rat snake, the ground skink (a type of lizard, not a skunk), and the southern cricket frog.
Among the cool exhibits at the Knoxville Zoological Gardens is Kids Cove, where you and your children can climb into a giant bird's nest, complete with eggs. You can also learn how to milk a cow, or just have fun sliding through a waterfall. There's also Chimp Ridge, where visitors can have close-up encounters with these cute mammals, and Stokely African Elephant Preserve where you can see the three largest residents of the zoo in a natural-looking habitat.
The Tennessee part of the southern Appalachian Mountains region also sports an aquarium; the famous Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. Among the exciting exhibits it showcases are the Tropical Rain Forest, the Coral Reef, the Shark Lagoon, and the Discovery Center. Groups can also have “sleepovers” at the aquarium, where they can enjoy a scavenger hunt, a fish printing activity, a behind-the-scenes tour, and breakfast at the Feeding Frenzy.
The only zoo in the Virginia section of the region is the Mill Mountain Zoo. More than 50 animal species call this zoo home, including “Ruby” the Siberian tiger. Set aside a few hours to see the whole zoo; it's worth your while. As a special treat, there's an open-air train running around the zoo's periphery that provides access to red wolves and deer, which aren't otherwise accessible by foot.
Zoos and Aquariums in Roanoke, Asheville, Smoky, Blue Ridge, Shenandoah and Southern Appalachian Mountains