Have you ever wished that you could travel to South America or Africa to spend your days relaxing to the sounds of wildlife or reading a book as tigers bask in the sun nearby? Daydreamed about spending the night in a zoo interacting with the animals with nobody else around?
Now, you can have a similar once-in-a-lifetime experience right in Ohio – for less than $200 a night. Similar experiences typically cost thousands, if you can book them at all.
The Union Ridge Wildlife Center is raising money to expand its sanctuary and care for more animals by allowing visitors to come and sleep in a lovely cabin in the middle of the property.
The sanctuary is not typically open to the public, which means you get the entire place to yourself — other than the owner Cy and his husband Michael, who are there taking care of the animals and making you feel like an old friend.
Upon your arrival, you may catch a glimpse of the two massive tigers that reside on the property, hear the sounds of the three rescue chimps playing, notice the bald eagle relaxing on a perch, or spot adorable monkeys running through the tunnels that connect their indoor enclosures to large outdoor play yards.
For primate lovers, this is your chance to spend as much time as you want to observe and “hang out” with various species from all over the world. There are capuchins, lemurs, spider monkeys, Japanese snow macaques, and of course, the chimps — who you may get lucky enough to see eat their dinners with forks.
Biographies of the animals and how they ended up at this sanctuary are provided to guests upon arrival, along with a map so that you may explore on your own.
In the foyer of the Airbnb area, there is a large window connecting you directly to the Japanese snow macaque enclosure. The friendly and adorable female, Jamie, will sit with you for hours watching you scroll through photos on your phone — which seems to be one of her favorite activities, aside from playing in their massive enclosure outside.
There is a private patio with a barbeque and hot tub just outside your door, which overlooks a pond that a large otter lives in. In the evening, you can see him swimming around under the lit waterfall. You also have a great view of the snow owl’s enclosure and various large and majestic birds and other critters who freely roam the property.
While spending the weekend there, my 11-year-old daughter repeatedly exclaimed that her “cheeks hurt from smiling so much.”
The photos simply do not do this place justice, but you will find nothing but glowing reviews from their previous guests.
“I promise you, you will not find another location as amazing as Union Ridge. We plan on visiting at least once per year. Each time we have gone, it has been a remarkable experience that we will never forget. Cy & Michael are fantastic hosts who have gone above and beyond. You can see each step of their hard work and dedication. The animals are the main reason to go, but the accommodations are so comfy and nice. They have truly thought of everything. Union Ridge is our slice of paradise,” a guest wrote in October.
Truly, the accommodations are so comfortable that this insomniac was in bed by 10 p.m. and awake, fully rested, by 7 a.m. each morning of my stay.
Another reviewer wrote, “We ran away for our 18th anniversary to UnionRidge Wildlife Center. The roommates are two snow macaques! There were monkeys, pelicans, owls, wildebeest, otter, etc to watch from the hottub!! We got to watch the tigers being fed and were chaperoned by THE SASSIEST pelican I’ve ever known. We fed the monkeys (and Turkens) raisins and peanuts… just in complete AWE of how majestically LARGE Chimpanzees are. Michael and Cy have built their garden of Eden and WE CANNOT WAIT TO GO BACK!!! Currently making plans to take our kids back with us!”
The owner, Cy, has clearly put just as much thought and attention to detail into the needs of humans staying at this sanctuary as he has for the animals. There is a mini kitchen, a bed that does just about everything — including give massages — an electric fireplace, and lovely decor that adds to the full immersion in this incredible experience.
“Amazing. Beautiful. Tranquil. Orderly. So much love. These cannot even begin to describe how magical Union Ridge was! I truly did not want to leave. The house is lovely and has everything you could need. The animals are so happy and well cared for. You can just feel the love and light in every inch of this place. You will be greeted by your wonderful host and owner, and a slew of animals friends. Be prepared to have your mind blown!” another wrote.
To visit this hidden gem and help save some animals, visit their Airbnb page.
You can also donate to help them expand here.
Union Ridge Wildlife Center is accredited by the American Sanctuary Association and is one of only two sanctuaries in the state holding a rescue facility permit for dangerous wild animals.
This magical getaway is nestled in the sprawling Southeastern Ohio hills and is a trip you will never forget.
While this article is an independent review after staying there with my family, Union Ridge is working with SPARTN, which was founded by Timcast journalist Michael Robison.