Bordering the Yellow River, this 24-acre animal preserve allows for close encounters of the four-legged kind -- a chance to view, pet, feed, and generally mingle with some 600 animals (always including quite a few babies) who live in open enclosures or right out in the open along a 1-mile oak- and hickory-shaded forest trail. The ranch is home to one of the largest buffalo herds east of the Mississippi. Owner Art Rilling knows every animal on the ranch by name and can give you chapter and verse on each one's personality, preferences, and, in some cases, romantic history. The animals know they're among friends here and are highly socialized, so you'll have a unique chance to study them up close. Keep in mind that all these animals smell like, well, animals. If a barnyard atmosphere bothers you, don't visit.

Inhabitants include donkeys named Rhett and Scarlett, Georgia black bears that stand up and beg for marshmallows, goats, dozens of rabbits in Bunny Burrows (kids can pet the bunnies), an assortment of interesting-looking chickens, a herd of buffalo, sheep, burros, goats, ponies, and a groundhog named General Beauregard Lee (we are in Georgia, after all) who lives in a white colonnaded southern mansion complete with miniature satellite dish.

Consider packing a picnic lunch. There are tables throughout the property, and one especially nice picnic area overlooks the river.