The 23 best ways to see animals up close in Central Florida

With summer racing towards us, one might be looking for ways to fill the days that isn't at one of Orlando's theme parks. So instead of heading to Disney or Universal, here are 23 Zoos and preserves in Central Florida where visitors can get up close with animals from all over the world.

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Brevard Zoo 
8225 N. Wickham Road, Melbourne
Brevard Zoo is an internationally accredited facility with animals from all over the world. Between the many enclosures to explore, and the Zoo’s zipline adventure, there’s plenty of fun to go around. 
Photo via Brevard Zoo/Facebook

Brevard Zoo

8225 N. Wickham Road, Melbourne
Brevard Zoo is an internationally accredited facility with animals from all over the world. Between the many enclosures to explore, and the Zoo’s zipline adventure, there’s plenty of fun to go around.

Photo via Brevard Zoo/Facebook
Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge 
10525 Clapp Simms Duda Road
Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest rehabilitation centers for native species in Central Florida. Guests can  tour their Wildlife Walks and visit the resident animals.
Photo via Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge/Facebook

Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge

10525 Clapp Simms Duda Road
Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest rehabilitation centers for native species in Central Florida. Guests can tour their Wildlife Walks and visit the resident animals.

Photo via Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge/Facebook
Clearwater Marine Aquarium 
249 Windward Passage, Clearwater
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is more than just a great family experience. They spend their time rescuing and rehabilitating injured animal life, including non-marine animals, and then releasing those able back into the wild. They also focus their time on conservation and research, and educating and inspiring the public. Guests can check out their brand new whale exhibit, featuring a virtual reality dive and life-size models.
Photo via Clearwater Marine Aquarium/Instagram

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

249 Windward Passage, Clearwater
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is more than just a great family experience. They spend their time rescuing and rehabilitating injured animal life, including non-marine animals, and then releasing those able back into the wild. They also focus their time on conservation and research, and educating and inspiring the public. Guests can check out their brand new whale exhibit, featuring a virtual reality dive and life-size models.

Photo via Clearwater Marine Aquarium/Instagram
Audubon Center For Birds of Prey 
1101 Audubon Way, Maitland
Open since 1979, the Audubon Center has rescued over 20,000 birds of prey in their raptor conservation program. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.  
Photo via Audubon Center for Birds of Prey/Facebook

Audubon Center For Birds of Prey

1101 Audubon Way, Maitland
Open since 1979, the Audubon Center has rescued over 20,000 birds of prey in their raptor conservation program. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Photo via Audubon Center for Birds of Prey/Facebook
Gatorland 
14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail
Gatorland is “The Alligator Capital of the World” and has gators - and some crocodiles- of all shapes and sizes. Their breeding marsh is home to hundreds of them, and the park also has an aviary, snake terrariums, a petting zoo, and animal shows. 
Photo via Gatorland/Instagram

Gatorland

14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail
Gatorland is “The Alligator Capital of the World” and has gators - and some crocodiles- of all shapes and sizes. Their breeding marsh is home to hundreds of them, and the park also has an aviary, snake terrariums, a petting zoo, and animal shows.

Photo via Gatorland/Instagram
Black Bear Wilderness Area 
5298 Michigan Ave., Sanford
Black Bear Wilderness Area is a Seminole County hiking and nature trail. It cuts straight through several wetland habitats.  As the name suggests, visitors might spot black bears among other Florida wildlife on their trek.
Photo via Black Bear Wilderness Area/Google Maps

Black Bear Wilderness Area

5298 Michigan Ave., Sanford
Black Bear Wilderness Area is a Seminole County hiking and nature trail. It cuts straight through several wetland habitats. As the name suggests, visitors might spot black bears among other Florida wildlife on their trek.

Photo via Black Bear Wilderness Area/Google Maps
Central Florida Animal Reserve 
500 Broussard Road, Saint Cloud
A non-profit sanctuary for big cats, the Central Florida Animal Reserve  houses lions, tigers, leopards and cougars at their sanctuary. Guests who visit can get up close to the enclosures, while learning about the different challenges these animals face in the wild. 
Photo via Central Florida Animal Reserve/Facebook

Central Florida Animal Reserve

500 Broussard Road, Saint Cloud
A non-profit sanctuary for big cats, the Central Florida Animal Reserve houses lions, tigers, leopards and cougars at their sanctuary. Guests who visit can get up close to the enclosures, while learning about the different challenges these animals face in the wild.

Photo via Central Florida Animal Reserve/Facebook
Circle B Bar Reserve 
4399 Winter Lake Road, Lakeland
If this reserve sounds familiar, that’s because this is where not one, but two separate viral photos and videos of a gator eating a smaller gator originated from. And alligators are just one of many different Florida wildlife one might encounter on these gorgeous nature trails.
Photo via Circle B Bar Reserve/Facebook

Circle B Bar Reserve

4399 Winter Lake Road, Lakeland
If this reserve sounds familiar, that’s because this is where not one, but two separate viral photos and videos of a gator eating a smaller gator originated from. And alligators are just one of many different Florida wildlife one might encounter on these gorgeous nature trails.

Photo via Circle B Bar Reserve/Facebook
Sea Life Orlando Aquarium 
8449 International Drive
This Orlando aquarium is geared to educate their guests on all things sea-life, including conservation efforts. Guests can drop by to check out the 360 degree ocean tunnel for an up-close experience, and stick around to learn about the aquarium’s conservation efforts.
Photo via Sea Life Orlando Aquarium/Facebook

Sea Life Orlando Aquarium

8449 International Drive
This Orlando aquarium is geared to educate their guests on all things sea-life, including conservation efforts. Guests can drop by to check out the 360 degree ocean tunnel for an up-close experience, and stick around to learn about the aquarium’s conservation efforts.

Photo via Sea Life Orlando Aquarium/Facebook
Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens 
3755 W. Seminole Blvd., Sanford
The Central Florida Zoo in Sanford is currently operating on limited hours, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., but there is still plenty of fun to be had throughout their enclosures and available experiences for guests to enjoy. 
Photo via Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens/Website

Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens

3755 W. Seminole Blvd., Sanford
The Central Florida Zoo in Sanford is currently operating on limited hours, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., but there is still plenty of fun to be had throughout their enclosures and available experiences for guests to enjoy.

Photo via Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens/Website