The mighty North Carolina Zoo is one of the largest natural habitat zoos -- sans concrete and steel cages. It spans 500 acres and is nestled in the center of the state, a little over an hour's drive southwest of Chapel Hill/Carrboro. The vast park is divided into two regions -- North America and Africa -- connected by shaded pathways linking animal exhibits. Those wary of hiking between "continents" can opt to shuttle by air conditioned tram. A walking tour can take up to seven hours to cover the entire park. Arrive early. Apply sunscreen. Sport the sneakers with the squishy soles.
(photographs taken at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, NC)