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America’s Seven Best Group-Friendly Animal Encounters

Why watch animals from behind a glass when you can float next to giant manatees, observe penguins’ artistic ability up close and encounter other animals up close? The thrill or snorkeling next to a shark or standing near a herd of running Chincoteague ponies will stay with your group members long after the experience.

Think about splurging for one of these unforgettable animal encounters on your next domestic group trip.

1.) Float with Manatees
Crystal River, Florida
Gentle, underwater giants curious of humans swim in groups yearly in Florida’s Crystal River. Tours take passengers to swim with the loveable manatees for two- to four-hour tours. Sunshine River Tours is one of the many reputable tour operators who operates these trips.

2.) Penguin Painting Package in the National Aviary
Penguins dip their feet in a variety of colors and waddle across the canvas while interacting with participants at the National Aviary’s Penguin Painting Package. This new group experience allows guests to learn about the beloved bird, while interacting up close with these “artists” at work.

3.) Snorkel with Sharks at the Adventure Aquarium
Camden, New Jersey
You might not think swimming in shark-infested waters would be a desirable thing at first hearing, but the Adventure Aquarium offers a safe snorkeling experience with their sandbar and nurse sharks. Those seeking an adrenaline rush next to these powerful creatures will love the bragging rights that come with this experience. The experience can also include a swim with stingrays in the Stingray Lagoon where you can feed them as well.

4.) Chincoteague Island Pony Swim
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
For those raised on the children’s classic “Misty of Chincoteague,” the Chincoteague Island Pony Swim can prove a dream come true. For everyone else, the experience of watching about 150 ponies swim from Assateague Island to shore remains memorable and fun. The festival not only allows guests to watch these adorable creatures in mass, but also offers numerous festival events throughout the weeklong July event.

5.) Play Time with a Baby at the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park
Wynnewood, Oklahoma
When you first spy a darling baby animal at the zoo, your first instinct is often to go cuddle with them. Now you’ll at least satisfy that wish with some a playful encounter with a baby animal at the Garold Wyane Interactive Zoological Park. The zoo offers a variety of baby animal species based on what is available, but most often tiny tigers make the rounds.

6.) Lemur Experience at Jungle Island
Social lemurs enjoy interacting with humans at the Jungle Island’s Lemur Experience. The 45-minute encounter allows participants to cuddle and play with these intelligent creatures. Other tour packages add on visits with a red kangaroo, reptiles and selected birds.

7.) Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park
Custer, South Dakota
You might at first think it’s an earthquake, but the ground shaking at the Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park is the normal sound of 1,300 buffalo running across the plains. The spectacular sight during this annual September event draws groups around the world to this 71,000-acre state park.