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There are a lot of zoos all over the country, but Tennessee is home to some of the best. If you and your family have a lazy afternoon on your vacation schedule that needs filling, here are three of the best zoos in the Smoky Mountains. These zoos are the most popular options, and for good reasons!

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1. RainForest Adventures

First up is Rainforest Adventures. This zoo is home to many ambassador animals from the rainforest, Africa and even other areas of the United States. This zoo specializes in the smaller exotic animals like fancy birds, Serval cats, and plenty of reptiles. So while you won’t see any lions or tigers here, you do get the opportunity to see the smaller animals up close. 

They’ve got some new additions, as well, so even if you’ve been to Rainforest Adventures before, there’s still a reason to stop by. Some golden-headed lion tamarins have recently moved to Rainforest Adventures, and if you’ve never heard of them, then now’s the time to learn! They’re some of the smallest and rarest monkeys in the world, native to only a specific area of Brazil. 

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2. Deer Farm and Exotic Petting Zoo

Next, we have the Deer Farm Exotic Petting Zoo, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Not only do you get to see zebras, deer, kangaroos, camels and more, but you’re allowed and even encouraged to give the critters a friendly pat. 

Between petting elk and going on horseback rides, the Deer Farm Exotic Petting Zoo is really an up-close and personal zoo experience. 

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3. Parrott Mountain and Gardens

Here’s another zoo where you get to touch the animals. They have a ton of exotic birds for you to observe, and all of them spread out over acres of beautiful gardens. Parrot Mountain is like stepping into an exotic painting full of colorful plants and birds of all sizes. 

The landscaping is beautiful, too. That may not seem like a big deal, but it really completes the atmosphere here. Instead of walking around what looks like a commercial business, you get to stroll down cobbled paths and past ivy-covered buildings while you listen to and watch for all the birds. And if you’re lucky, you might just get to hold one of the little feathered friends!

You may think that zoos are the same no matter where you go, but the selection here in the Smoky Mountains is really unique and worth checking out while you’re here, whether you have children or not!