Real or stuffed, our fascination with animals of all kinds can turn into something much more. With the animal kingdom at your disposal, skip the Lion King re-runs or trips to the local zoo for a chance to experience real encounters with some of nature’s most majestic creatures:

Mush a Team of Dogs

Feel the snow now fly across your body as you face mother nature head on with the most trusted guides on this planet. Kids can now live out their Alaskan dog sledding dreams (thank you Balto) without having to travel to Alaska. Those 10 and older can drive their personal team of sled dogs in McMillan, Michigan or across the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania as part of a 10 or 20 mile trip into the snowy tracks. Stay overnight to help feed and care for the sled dogs as an added bonus.

Swim with Manatees

Teach your children to carry on the legacy of Steve Irwin by embracing wildlife in the water. Check out Crystal River where families can come nose-to-nose with hundreds of Florida manatees. Snorkel an ocean shared with these gentle giants or take a dip into deep turquoise springs for the ultimate relaxation.

Howl with the Wolves

Meet one of the largest wolf packs in the region at a wildlife refuge! Just 1.5 hours North of Seattle, wolf ambassadors will escort visitors through hidden trails to observe the wolves natural habitat. Learn about the behaviors, myths and misconception of this alpha creature. Kids can touch, photograph and even howl with the wolves in this once-in-a-lifetime setting!

Spot the Orcas

Travel to one of the best corners of the world where the waters are swarming with life to spend a day with the most famous locals yet, the killer whale. The San Juan Islands, an archipelago of about 175 forested and rocky islets that separates Washington from Canada, are home to these stunning orcas. Local whale naturalists will give an in depth tour less known areas of the islands.