If your kids love animals, you’re likely searching for experiences where you can help them expand their knowledge of different species. Whether your brood is intrigued by local critters like white-tailed deer or you’re looking for a way to see animals from around the world, you have plenty of opportunities to see wildlife close to home. The area around Westerville boasts an array of state parks and zoos that make seeing wildlife easy whenever the mood strikes.
Of course, finding the right experience for your family can feel challenging when you don’t know where to look. So, Crème de la Crème of Westerville put together this list of great places to see wildlife without traveling far.
State Parks Around Westerville
Living in Westerville makes it easy to access a wide variety of Ohio’s state parks. Ohio boasts more than 70 of these amazing places, so you can easily treat the family to a day out in nature, having fun spotting wildlife. Here are some of our favorite state parks within a 90-minute (or less) drive from home:
Deer Creek State Park
Deer Creek State Park, located close to Westerville in Mt. Sterling, sits on the eastern edge of Ohio’s great till plains. This relatively flat part of the state makes an ideal home for a range of exciting critters. When you visit the park, you might spot amphibians, like the chorus frogs, spring peepers, and American toads, or reptiles, such as box and painted turtles, black rat snakes, and eastern garter snakes.
The park is also home to small mammals like opossums, rabbits, raccoons, red foxes, skunks, and woodchucks. You may also catch sight of a white-tailed deer, Ohio’s state mammal. The ring-necked pheasant population in Deer Creek is well-known, and the park is a great spot for birdwatching. You can see area birds like barn swallows, cowbirds, eastern bluebirds, eastern meadowlarks, song sparrows, and woodcocks.
Malabar Farm State Park
Head over to Malabar Farm State Park for another great day getting up close and personal with some animals. The park has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973. Today, it’s still a working farm, so it offers a fantastic opportunity to check out animals raised right on site while touring the property, hiking in nature, and beyond. The two ponds boast bluegill and catfish for a relaxing day of fishing, too.
The Main Barn will make a surefire highlight for kiddos who love animals. Furry friends here include cattle, goats, sheep, horses, and ponies, not to mention rabbits and even some barn cats. If you visit during the springtime, you’ll have the chance to check out newborn lambs and goat kids. Pigs join the barn in the summer months.
Salt Fork State Park
Ohio’s largest state park is easy to reach from Westerville, too. Salt Fork State Park encompasses the woodlands and fields around Salt Fork Reservoir, boasting rolling meadows and rich forests that lead to diverse animal and plant life.
If you’re here to spot the wildlife, you can see everything from white-tailed deer to wild turkeys, red foxes, ruffled grouses, and barred owls. Salt Fork is also a birdwatcher’s dream, thanks to the variety of songbirds that make their home in the area, including cardinals, goldfinches, Kentucky warblers, scarlet tanagers, and more. The soundscape takes on another life in the spring when you can hear chorus frogs, wood frogs, and spring peepers as well.
Zoos Around Westerville
Ohio also offers some of the best zoos in the country, so you can’t go wrong by planning a family day at a zoo when your kids are eager to learn more about their favorite species. Zoos near Westerville make it easy to visit wildlife from the local area and around the world.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Make the quick trip from Westerville to Columbus and visit the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for an exciting adventure with animals from across the globe. Of course, you don’t have to travel far from home at all to see the more than 10,000 animals from seven regions that live at this local zoo.
From wolves to wolverines, seals to sharks, and so much more, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium species are sure to create memories that will last a lifetime. You can even check out unique experiences like feeding giraffes or petting reptiles. These hands-on activities will delight your kids and get them even more excited about wildlife.
Located in Cumberland, The Wilds is a nonprofit organization managed by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. as the name implies, this is a great place to visit for a next-level wildlife encounter.
Do your kids love dogs? You’ll want to see the African painted dogs and dholes (Asian wild dogs) here. Do insects enchant them? Put the American burying beetle on your list of species to investigate. You’ll also find zebras, cheetahs, camels, and many more creatures at The Wilds, so plan a day to take your family to see the wildlife that makes their home at this zoo.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Though you have to drive a bit further, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is still easily accessible from the Westerville area. That’s good news, considering the amazing experiences that await your family with a visit here. The zoo spans 183 acres and boasts many opportunities for your kids to connect with wildlife. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is the most visited year-round attraction in northeast Ohio.
It’s easy to see why as soon as you start exploring the zoo. Check out the African elephant crossing close to the main entrance to start the day off on an awe-inspiring note, then feed some giraffes, get up close and personal with koalas, or let rare snow leopards make an impression. You’ll also discover tigers, reindeer, and so much more at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
That wraps up Crème de la Crème of Westerville’s list of some of our go-to places to explore wildlife locally with kids. Does your family have another favorite park or zoo we didn’t include? Let us know so we can add your recommendations!