Points of Interest: Browns Oakridge Zoo

"I love them all, the bears, the lions, but there's just something magical about a tiger," Brown said.

It's the only family-owned zoo in Illinois.

Just 90 miles east of Quincy, the Browns Oakridge Zoo has been a Smithfield mainstay for 23 years.

Its gates will open the first week of May, but KHQA got a sneak peak for this week's Points of Interest.

"A lot of our animals have a story behind them. They all answer to their names and have all been bottle raised by us," Nancy Brown said.

Peoria native Nancy Brown never set foot on a farm until she moved to Smithfield, Illinois. That's where she and her husband decided to experience life on the wild side.

"I said we'd have anything and everything I wanted, not knowing it would go to this extent and then we started rescuing animals," Brown said.

Brown's small animal farm soon turned into the state's one and only family owned zoo. The Browns' Oakridge Zoo is outside of the city limits. As long as you don't might kicking up a little dirt, you're in for a treat.

"I love them all, the bears, the lions, but there's just something magical about a tiger," Brown said.

Your visit begins with a tour of the grounds.

"Then you can go back and look at anything you want," Brown said.

The zoo often plays home to cubs in their first weeks of life, like LuLu, the black bear cub currently on site, who's ready to play with you, maybe a little too much at times.

"They can come out and have hands on contact with the little cubs when we have them available up till they're 12 weeks of age," Brown said. "You can also pet the llamas, the donkeys, the deer, the horses."

You can also buy some feed cones and they'll become your best friend.

The Brown's don't make much money from the zoo. All the money made goes back toward the care and feeding of the animals.

"We're nothing fancy here, but you're going to see wonderful animals up close and personal. We're out in the country where it's peaceful and quiet and not in the asphalt jungle," Brown said.

You can visit the Browns Oakridge Zoo Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

The cost if $6 for adults, $3 for children and children 2 and under are free.

The zoo also holds free days for military servicemen and first responders.

You can also arrange for the zoo to come to you. Contact Nancy Brown at (309) 313-5966.

Find the Browns Oakridge Zoo on Facebook here.