You’re a natural bird watcher, an advocate for animals, and have never met a dog you didn’t like. Your kids are equally enamored with wildlife and domestic friends. Rejoice! Virginia’s Blue Ridge is a haven for both!

Explore our natural beauty and meet our residents. You know, the furry and the cold blooded kind. We have ways for you to get up close and personal, and even overnight with some four-legged friends.

Mill Mountain Zoo | Roanoke

Perched on its namesake is Mill Mountain Zoo, Roanoke’s animal destination, celebrating 65 years in 2017. Here you’ll meet over 40 species of animals, including the adorable red pandas. Plus, there are new exhibits on the way! Soon you’ll be able to meet and learn about animals native to our area, like black bears, bald eagles, and raccoons! If you’re bringing little ladies and lads, plan to join the animals for breakfast every third Saturday between May and October.

Center in the Square | Roanoke

It’s easy to spend a day at Center in the Square, thanks to a variety of museums. The main attractions for folks like you, however, are easy to spot and hard to leave. The 8,000-gallon coral reef aquarium is the largest aquarium of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic region, and you’ll see fish just like Dory and Nemo! 

Two 300-gallon tanks are home to jellyfish and starfish, and an Amazon Rainforest exhibit includes silver Arowana, a top-feeding fish native to the Amazon River. 

On the roof is a large koi pond and a unique way to see the Butterfly Habitat: through the ceiling! Enter the habitat from the Science Museum of Western Virginia on the fourth floor and be greeted with fluttering about your head. If you time your visit for the chrysalis hatching, you’re in for an incredible treat! Inside the Science Museum is a touch tank, a real treat for any age.

Smith Mountain Lake Farm Alpacas | Hardy

Smith Mountain Lake Farm Alpacas

Spring is the perfect time to visit an alpaca farm because little cria (baby alpaca) are making their debut about this time. Tours are offered daily with an appointment, and a gift shop gives you the chance to take home their warm fleece products. A hug from an alpaca is a hug you’ll never forget.

Bridgewater Marina | Moneta

Have you ever seen a carp? They’re large fish that love popcorn and bread, as evidenced by the feeding frenzy that occurs along the docks at Bridgewater Marina on Smith Mountain Lake. Carp can grow to more than 30 pounds and have been known to suck your toes, should you dangle your feet from the dock. Some call it a “Smith Mountain Lake pedicure,” and we’d venture a guess that it probably tickles. 

After you feed the fish, get a bite yourself at Mango’s Bar & Grill.

Buksbari Ranch | Rocky Mount

Get to know all about horses when you visit Buksbari Ranch, a horse farm offering rides around the ring for toddlers on up. Feed them, groom them and make plans to do it all again during another visit.

Spikenard Farm | Floyd

Spikenard Farm

We often flinch when we see bees, don’t we? The truth is, they’re helpers and the folks at Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary can show you what honeybees do and the role they play in our lives. Fridays are Open House days between April and October. That’s a time you can visit, take a tour, and purchase bee products from the farm store.

Black Dog Salvage | Roanoke

Sally and Stella are the greeters at Black Dog Salvage, a place you might recognize from television. The crew and space of BDS are featured on Salvage Dawgs on the DIY Network, a show about salvaging and upcycling materials to create furniture and décor. Visit the 40,000 square-foot space and find something unique to take home.

Horse Shoe Creek Stable | Roanoke

Horse Shoe Creek Stable

After you’ve gotten comfortable around the horses at Buksbari Ranch, take a trail ride with Horse Shoe Creek Stables. Miles of trails over streams and winding through the mountains will show you some of the stunning beauty of Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Blue Ridge Institute & Museum | Ferrum

The resident donkey at the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum is Klara, and she is as loveable as any donkey you’ll ever meet. She tends to her flock of sheep as any good shepherd would. In fact, guard donkeys are a real thing. Klara acts as a protector against predators, though you’d probably never know it given her chill personality.

Roanoke Valley Greenways

Owl in the Trees

About that bird watching you love to do … we have just the place! Our Roanoke Valley Greenways meander more than 30 miles along streams and rivers, through parks, and afford great views, easy exercise, and wonderful bird watching. According to the Roanoke Valley Birding Club, you should keep an eye open for Yellow-Crowned Night-Herons along the Roanoke River at Smith Park.

Lake Spring Park | Salem

Ducks at Lake Spring Park - Salem

The duck pond at Lake Spring Park is a great place for a picnic with some waterfowl entertainment. Feeding stations and duck shelters are relatively new additions to the pond. Pop in a quarter and get a handful of fowl food to make some new best friends. Then, spend some time exploring Main Street in Salem.

Roanoke Mountain Adventures | Roanoke

If you want to get wild in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, you may need an outfitter. Roanoke Mountain Adventures is a great option for securing bicycles, kayaks, paddleboards, and more. It’s also where you’ll be greeted by King the Dog. He’s the shop dog and always lends a friendly paw.

Applewood Inn & Llama Trekking | Glasgow

Have you ever hiked with a llama? They’re adventurous companions who are happy to carry a light load for you, say a pair of binoculars and a birding book? They’ll guide you through 35 acres along a trail leading to amazing scenic views.

The big draw at Applewood is not just the ability to trek with the llamas, but to stay the night on the farm. In fact, overnighting is the only way you can experience the trek, so make your reservation and hike on!


See our birding and wildlife section to learn about more animals and hot spots. You can also visit our Pet Friendly section for ideas on things to do in Virginia's Blue Ridge with your own pet. Remember to subscribe to our monthly E-Newsletter and request a free copy of our Visitor's Guide!