Have you ever wanted to see first-hand the creature that appears in so many crazy news stories about Florida? While Florida’s state animal is the panther, you’re much more likely to see an alligator here. Growing up in Florida, one of the first things you learn in school is how to run away from an alligator. In case you didn’t grow up here and you’re ever on the run from a gator, run zig-zag. Apparently, their legs are too stubby to make sharp turns. However, you shouldn’t worry too much because they don’t usually go sprinting after people. If you are curious about what gators are like in real life, definitely check out some of the spots on this list. 

Peace River Airboat Tours: Ride an airboat or swamp buggy through the Peace River to view the natural Florida landscape and wildlife. Stop at the Country Store afterwards to hold a baby gator. 

Sarasota Jungle Gardens: Visit all kinds of Florida animals. Here the flamingos roam free and are not scared of humans. They have a goat pen as well, just be careful bringing any paper in there because that is their favorite snack.

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium: Home to more than just freshwater gators, they care for all kinds of marine life with many interactive exhibits.

Smuggler’s Cove Adventure Golf: Play mini golf with live alligators as your spectators.

Upriver Adventures: Follow the riverside on horseback; just make sure the horse can run in a zig-zag formation. 

If you love animals, but you’re not thrilled about meeting one with such large teeth, don’t worry. There are lots more animals looking to be petted in the Sarasota-Manatee area. Big Cat Habitat and Save Our Seabirds are two organizations home to rescued and retired animals. Take a trip either to make some furry and feathered friends, or to meet some dairy cows at Dakin Dairy Farms. Cows have best friends just like humans, so if you spend enough time there, you might never leave. The baby cows are like big dogs because they are so playful and friendly.

There are many places in the Sarasota-Manatee area that are wonderful for animal lovers. Florida is home to so much wildlife and you can really experience all of it right here in Sarasota-Manatee.