Top Petting Zoos In Las Vegas

August 1, 2014 4:00 AM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

With the demise of the Las Vegas Zoo, many area residents were devastated that the last bastion for viewing critters in captivity was lost for future generations. With places like the Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary, Bonnie Springs and habitats for big cats and dolphins, there need be no fear. You may not be able to get as up close and personal at some places as you could at the Zoo, but there are numerous other spots where children can still pet the animals and have a true “hands-on” experience.
Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary
8103 Racel St.
Las Vegas, NV 89131
(702) 645-4224

Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary is exactly what it claims to be: a haven for unwanted birds and other critters plus a home for farm animals, a refuge for migrating birds and a place where children can go to appreciate the beauty of nature. Families come here to visit the petting zoo but they stay to marvel at the beautiful birds. Alongside parakeets and exotic parrots, farm-raised emus, ostriches and peacocks, you can find Peking ducks, swans and geese. But there are also turtles, giant tortoises, llamas, miniature horses and donkeys, rabbits and “Bambi,” the ever-popular mule deer. This is a labor of love by the Gilcrease family, much to the delight of generations of Las Vegas children.

Bonnie Springs Ranch
16395 Bonnie Springs Road
Las Vegas, NV 89124
(702) 875-4191

If you are looking for a place to spend an entertaining day with the kids, Bonnie Springs is one of the most highly recommended spots in the Valley. It has everything from a horseback riding stable, restaurant, train and pony rides to an Old Nevada Western Town (Wednesday through Sunday). Here you will find one of the best places to meander and relive the olden days, plus this place has a great petting zoo for the kiddies. There are goats, deer, llamas, peacocks, pigs (including the potbelly variety), turtles, ponies, ducks, chickens and more. Children can mingle with the creatures while adults recharge their batteries and remember simpler times. This is the perfect little getaway, where the destination is just as much fun as the journey.

Related: Top Botanical Gardens In Las Vegas

Flamingo Wildlife Habitat
Flamingo Hotel and Casino
3555 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 733-3349

The Flamingo Hotel and Casino has a secret: the amazing Wildlife Habitat nestled on the grounds of the hotel. The Habitat is a beautiful, lush oasis, with towering trees, shrubbery, flowers and colorful birds (including ring-tailed ducks and Sacred Ibis), but mostly there are the lovely, elegant pink flamingos, perched on one leg in the water or on one of the islands. Swans, ducks, koi and turtles swim the sparkling waters, framed by the waterfalls and foliage. Hummingbirds buzz around to visit their feeders and nest in the area, too. This is truly a quiet getaway in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, one so well-hidden that the traffic and noise seems to be miles away. While not an actual petting zoo, it is an experience for families, and the perfect opportunity to see species you may never otherwise glimpse in the desert. Best yet, it’s free of charge and open from dawn to dusk for a late evening or early morning stroll.

The Secret Garden of Siegfield & Roy
Mirage Las Vegas
3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 791-7111

Water fascinates desert-dwellers and ‘big cats’ enthrall almost everyone, so the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat of Siegfield & Roy is a win/win place to visit for almost everyone. This is a labor of love by the”Magicians of the Century” who have labored to create a little paradise. While it’s definitely not a petting zoo by any stretch of the imagination, it is a place to explore a beautiful, tropical habitat complete with exotic plants and palm trees in which you will find some dignified white lions and tigers, panthers and leopards. A healthy, nurturing, watery paradise is home for a family of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins  who enjoy posing for photos, delighting the children with the perfect photo-op. The animals’ habitat was modeled after their natural environments, making it a sanctuary for them and a one-of-a-kind experience for those of us just blessed with two feet. It’s pricey, but well worth the cost. To continue the experience, the Atrium at the Mirage has lagoons, waterfalls and exotic delicious blooms encased in a rainforest-like environment under a 100-foot dome. This hotel definitely lives up to its name.

Related: Top Zoo And Aquarium Events In Las Vegas

Sharon Damon is a preschool specialist, avid reader, passionate writer and creative baker/ cook. She has been a cooking instructor at a local Rec Center in Henderson, NV since 2011, and has written for Examiner and other publications since 2010. She knows her way around the keyboard and the kitchen! Sharon moved from a small city in Canada to Las Vegas 6 years ago, to marry the love of her life, and has since been swept up in the whirlwind known as Sin City. Her work can be found at

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