See your favorite animals (outside the zoo) by planning your next vacation around an animal encounter. Whether it’s polar bears in Canada or orca whales in San Juan Islands, a weekend getaway or a week-long trip, you can experience some of the most beautiful creatures in the world up close and personal in their natural habitats. We’ve outlined some cool spots near and far for you to consider as you plan your next trip.

United States

You may not be able to see lions and tigers in a natural setting in the U.S., but black bears call dozens of national parks around the country home. Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park also are home to grizzly bears. While there’s no guarantee visitors will spot a formidable grizzly, park rangers tell (warn!) hikers that their best chance to catch a glimpse is during the bears’ most active hours – dawn, dusk and nighttime. Chances are good that you also will encounter moose, elk, deer, bison or wolves. (Hint: If you’d rather view these impressive animals in a more controlled environment, head over to Yellowstone Bear World, a drive-through wildlife attraction in Rexburg, Idaho.

If you’re looking to take to the water for an animal encounter, consider the San Juan Islands in Washington state and take a kayak excursion for a chance to get close to orca whales. If you’re a whale lover, you’ll also want to check out our whale watching blog post for some added vacation inspiration.


Like in the U.S., you can see whales, bears and moose up in Canada, but did you know you can also see polar bears? You’ll have to brave the cold, but you can catch these bears in Churchill, Canada, as they migrate from the Boreal Forest in Northern Manitoba to the frozen Hudson Bay in the fall. Visit Natural Habitat Adventures as they maintain a remote tundra lodge for your next up-close encounter.


Last year, we wrote about some of the best spots to book a safari, whether you’re searching for affordable, family-friendly or luxurious. While you can see everything from lions and cheetahs to gorillas and gazelles, one of the most popular animals to see are elephants; and you can see more than 70,000 of them at Chobe National Park in Botswana. Book a viewing with African Profile Safaris and you can experience the roaming pachyderms from both the ground and air.

South America

From the jungles along the Amazon River to Machu Picchu and Patagonia, South America is home to beautiful destinations filled with unique wildlife. As the landscape can range from rainforests to glaciers to desserts, South America offers diverse animal encounters. If you have your heart set on seeing an Anaconda, sign up for a tour of the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland. If encountering a 30-foot, 250-pound snake while riding in a motorized canoe isn’t your thing, consider heading to the Colca Canyon in South Peru to bird watch. The majestic Andean Condor, a.k.a. the King of the Sky, is the largest flying bird on the planet with a wingspan of up to more than 10 feet. Visit Travel Amazing South America to learn more about its Top 6 recommendations for animal encounters.

If you’ve walked on the wild side and have recommendations for great animal encounters, share with us and other Fast Park guests on our Facebook page.