If you’re heading to the Great Smoky Mountains to come face-to-face with a variety of animals, you’re in luck. There are several locations where you can get up close and personal with wildlife—both native and exotic.
Located in The Island, Parrot Mountain is a perfect destination for bird-lovers. Spanning four acres, Parrot Mountain offers hundreds of tropical birds to see and thousands of flowers and plants to enjoy in their gardens. The secret garden area offers a unique way you experience the birds. Flying freely overhead are hornbills, toucans, and magpies. The bird garden hosts around 70 birds on perches. Enjoy feeding them from your hands, taking photos, or just walking around. The lorikeet aviary allows you to feed the stunning multi-colored Australian Lorikeets. Parrot Mountain also has a bird nursery where you can pet the babies and see them at varying stages of development.
Goats on a Roof
Come to see one of the only places where you’ll see goats eating overhead. Use the goat-cycle to transport a can of feed, which can be purchased at the store, up to the roof. Then watch them chow down. Then, treat your own pallet from their excellent selection of sweets like homemade fudge, cookies, or ice cream. The store also has a superb selection of children’s toys, candies, hot sauces, and jellies.
Enjoy over 30,000 square feet of aviary space where you’ll see America’s iconic bird—the majestic bald eagle. Dollywood expects a good nesting season this year with their breeding pairs, Independence and Franklin, and Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson. If you would like to see if there are eggs or eaglets before your visit, you can check out their live nest cam on the American Eagle Foundation website. Independence laid her first egg of 2016 on March 22. Dollywood also has a Wings of America show that features additional raptors with a close view of each. You can access both areas in Craftsman’s Valley.
In the spirit of eagles, don’t forget to leave without a visit on the Wild Eagle—America’s First Wing Coaster.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
An obvious place to visit during your trip to the Smokies, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is home to Cades Cove. If catching a glimpse of native black bears suits you, it’s the perfect place to stop (and stay in your car if you see one). There is one black bear per square mile in the Park proper, but Cades Cove is a favorite stop for them, too. The best viewing time is morning or early evening. You might also spot a fox or two as they love both the forest for protection and open fields for hunting. Cades Cove is accessible via an 11-mile one-way loop (except before 10:00am on every Saturday and Wednesday from May until late September for bikes and walkers) and is about 27 miles from Gatlinburg. Bikes are available for rent at the Cades Cove Campground Store.
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