Springfield and Branson, MO Zoos and Animal Parks
Our local wildlife seems awfully tame once you check out the critters that live in zoos and animals park around the region. These places are especially good if you have youngsters on vacation with you.
Springfield's Wild Side
Springfield's Dickerson Park Zoo Delighting young and old alike for decades. More than 150 species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals from around the world. A petting zoo and a chance to feed some of the animals. Come see the elephants, toucans and bongos. Wait, bongos? What's that? Come find out for yourself! 1401 W. Norton Rd, Springfield. 417-864-1800.
Wild Animal Safari Less than 15 miles from Springfield. Drive the grounds in your own vehicle or take the complimentary guided bus tour. More than 650 animals on 250 acres, and a petting zoo where you can feed smaller, friendly critters. Gift shop and grill. 124 Jungle Road. 417- 859-5300
Lekey Livestock Auction Ever been to a country livestock auction? 1st and 3rd Sat. of each month at 11 a.m. Poultry, large and small animals, exotics, tack and horses for sale. The auctioneer is always entertaining. Food counter, too. 11813 State Hwy M, Billings. Call to confirm dates. 417-748-3056.
Wildlife Parks - Branson
Branson can be a pretty wild place, and we're not talking stage productions. Only ten minutes north of town you can encounter some really big cats. In town, finned creatures, creepy crawlers, venomous snakes and even carnivorous plants are on display. There's even a palace where butterflies are the royalty. Here's where to find all the critters:
Butterfly Palace and Rain Forest Adventure Thousands of exotic butterflies from around the globe, in environments that mimic their home turf. Also visit the new Rainforest Critter Center and the Emerald Forest Mirror Maze. The theater shows a 3-D film capturing the unfolding life of the butterfly. Bring your camera. Open every day. 4106 W. Hwy 76, Branson. 417-332-2231
Branson's Wild World Saltwater bullsharks, beautiful fish, alligators, lizards, crocs, snakes, other reptiles and wolves. Feed the bullsharks, play in the free Jungle Arcade full of games, and try 3D blacklight mini golf. 2020 W. Hwy 76, Branson. 417-239-0854
National Tiger Sanctuary View the animals from just three feet away, and maybe feed them. (This is the first USDA-approved facility for this experience.) Once you hear a big cat roaring this close, you don't forget it. Guided tours Wed-Sun; call for more information. 518 State Hwy BB, Saddlebrook. 417-587-3633
If you prefer your wild animals completely uncaged, be sure to take some time to hike or bike through the Mark Twain National Forest (see Cycling) where you may see Ozark Mountains inhabitants--deer, racoon, squirrels, possum, red fox, otters, beavers, minks, wild turkeys, turkey vultures, and others--as well as many native birds.