Zoos are a great way to visit a variety of animals but for an up-close-and-personal experience, the drive-thru safaris are the best choice. Stay in your car and let the animals come to your open window for some food you purchased at the onset of the safari. Plenty of opportunities to get that perfect picture of your favorite mammal. And, with so many drive-thru safari centers placed throughout the United States, finding one near you won’t be difficult. From coast to coast, anteaters to zebra, there is a drive-thru safari for you. As a starting point, this article will highlight 18 of the best drive-thru safaris throughout the nation, separated into state groupings.
There are many drive-thru parks within Texas, but only four will be highlighted below. These four are highly rated and have many five-star reviews.
Franklin Drive Thru Safari
Open daily from 9-5, Franklin Drive Thru Safari has plenty of activities to keep you busy. Before listing out the add-on options, the drive-thru itself runs $20 per person, with toddlers aged 2 and under free. There are hundreds of animals available for viewing, with giraffes, camels, llamas, and monkeys are a few examples.
Be sure to purchase a feed bucket or two for feeding the zebra, camels, or any of the other animals waiting beside the road. You can feed the giraffe and monkeys as well, but they both require a separate type of feed. Buckets of giraffe greens and monkey cups can also be purchased. Before or after your drive-thru, head up to the giraffe feeding platform and hand over some greens while posing for a great photo.
Now, for the add-on packages. A group of six can take a short boat ride in a pontoon boat over to Lemur Island. Tricolor, brown, and ring-tailed lemurs will welcome you. Guests can feed, hold, and pet the lemurs while watching the adventurous ones running and playing. The visit lasts 20 minutes and is $20 per person.
Another division of the safari is the baby animal room. Pick up your tickets for this add-on at the gift shop upon arrival. These tickets are also $20 per person. Entrance here allows interactive experiences with a variety of exotic baby animals. While each visit will provide different animals, a few examples would be lemurs, armadillos, baby goats, ferrets, and coatimundis.
Private tours can be requested upon your arrival. Get the VIP treatment while learning from one of the experienced caretakers. Ask as many questions as you would like.
Another option guests can tack on is cabin rental. Guests in the cabins can expect to hear from the flocks of birds within the safari and have the possibility of seeing some of the animals residing in the safari grounds.
For more information, reach out to Franklin drive-thru on Facebook, or call 979.828.5256.
Lonesome Dove Drive-thru Safari
Located in Jefferson, Texas, Lonesome Dove consists of over 400 animals and 80 different species. Peacocks, zebra, kangaroo, rhea, pot-bellied pigs, Pere David, and several variations of antelope, along with various types of goats and chickens are just a sampling of examples available to see in each trip.
Open daily, 10:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., weather permitting, guests can purchase a bag of feed for $5, and/or veggie cups for $2.50. Tickets are $18 per adult, and children 4-11 are $12 each. Additionally, kids 3 and under are free.
Entrance to the petting zoo is included in the ticket prices. For instance, donkeys and pigmy goats are on hand, among others.
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
This company’s tagline, ‘African Safari*Texas Style’ might just sum up the visit to this wildlife ranch. Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is in San Antonio. Lots of choices are offered here, such as self-guided tours, and guided tours, plus lots of add-on options. Excursion add-ons include the Prehistoric Experience the Aviary Experience and the Giraffe VIP Experience.
No matter if you take your vehicle and move at your own pace or opt for the ranger tour guide on the drive-thru safaris, the result is the same; the adventure of seeing and feeding over 500 animals from 40 different species.
Cheetahs, African Crowned Crane, Sicilian Donkeys, Elands, Gibbons, Impalas, De Brazza’s Monkeys, ostriches, and Wildebeest are a few species included within the safari.
Visit their calendar to learn of open days and times.
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Specializing in exotic and indigenous endangered and threatened species, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is a 1,800-acre park that offers some options for their drive-thru safaris. Housing more than 1,100 animals, including more than 50 species of native and non-native animals, this facility is the first of its type to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Plenty of viewing options here, ranging from self-guided tours, public guided tours, private guided tours, and behind-the-scenes guided tours. Additionally, there is a guided trip during sunset that ends with some time around the campfire.
Round-year admission is offered, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Also, the hours of admission are 8:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m., with the last vehicle exiting by 5:30 p.m.
There are a variety of drive-thru safaris throughout the Sunshine State but two of the best are detailed below.
Lion Country Safari Experience
Palm Beach County is where guests can explore nearly 600 acres of natural settings for hundreds of animals. In addition to their drive-thru safaris, Lion Country offers an adventure park that consists of rides, a carousel, a water park, and plenty of animal encounters. Add a ticket for giraffe feedings, the petting zoo, and the lorikeet feedings.
Other activities include gemstone mining, a maze, mini-golf, and a fun slide. These extra activities are free, except for gemstone mining.
The four-mile drive-thru is divided into seven main habitats, there are some of the largest herds of giraffes, rhinos, and zebra on record within the country. Here’s a breakdown of the seven habitats and their animals:
Las Pampas-Aldabra Tortoise, Alpaca, Greater Rhea, and Brazilian Tapir.
Ruaha National Park- Greater Kudu, Impala, Ostrich
Kalahari Bushveldt- Gemsbok, Wildebeest, Ostrich, Waterbuck, Eastern Bongo and Nile Iechwe
Gir Forest-Asiatic Water Buffalo, Blackbuck, Lowland Nyala, Nilgai, Scimitar-horned Oryx
Gorongosa Reserve– home of the African Lion pride
Serengeti Plains-Common Waterbuck, Common Eland, Impala, Marabou Stork, Watusi, and ostrich
Hwange National Park- Chimpanzee, Giraffe, Plains Zebra, white-handed Gibbon, and Greater Kudu
Open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., Wild Florida drive-thru safaris provide views of more than 150 native and exotic free-range animals. From the African savanna to the deciduous forests of North America, a variety of species can be viewed from the safety and comfort of your car.
Covering over 170 acres, guests can see giraffes, eland antelope, zebra, American bison, and mouflon sheep, among many others. Spend some time on foot at the Gator Park (admission included with drive-thru purchase) where you can view hundreds more of animals, including the 1,000-pound American alligator named Crush. Live shows are scheduled daily at Gator Park.
Add-in activities range from animal encounters to an airboat ride. Consider an adventure package and see all the Wild Florida drive-thru offers.
There is only one drive-thru safari within the state of Virginia, but what a good one it is.
Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge, VA describes itself as ‘180 acres of drive-thru adventure’. Many guests agree as this drive-thru was voted as the 2023 Travelers’ Choice via TripAdvisor.
The location is open daily, 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., with the last car admitted at 3:30 p.m.
Throughout the 180-acre drive-thru, there will be many unique animal encounters. Specifically, there are 85 species throughout. Be sure to snap some pics of the king cheetah pride, as they are Africa’s rarest big cat.
A stroll through the 10-acre village walk-thru is included with the admission to the drive-thru. Additionally, there are extra add-ons available, such as animal encounters and animal feeding.
Out of Africa Wildlife Park
Situated snuggly halfway between Phoenix and Flagstaff is the Out of Africa Wildlife Park. Part wildlife preserve, part drive-thru safari, this tour provides a 40-minute open-air bus ride around the property. During the ride, guests can see antelope, zebra, as well as other African native animals.
A unique activity at this location is the possibility of safely feeding a tiger. Kids and adults alike might enjoy the chance to see a swimming tiger. After the animal sightings, guests can purchase tickets to participate in the two-hour zipline tour.
A few of the many animals to be seen include the American black bear, black leopard, gray wolf, grizzly bear, spotted hyena, and the Sable antelope. Also, be sure to meet Bart, the two-toed sloth, within the sloth exhibit.
Camp Verde, Arizona is where this drive-thru is located and is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., except for two days a year. The park is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
The Wilds is one of the most innovative and largest conservation centers in the world. With opportunities to learn, play, and lodge, an entire vacation can occur all within this one location.
In addition to more than 500 animals, which represent 25 threatened or endangered species, there is a golf course, water park and additional animal experiences.
For the kids, there are discovery field stations, overnight programs, and a scout day program. Lodging options are lake cabins, yurts, or for a large party, the lodge.
The variety of animals is the real star of the show at The Wilds, such as the African Painted Dog, Bactrian Camel, Banteng, Cheetah, and the Greater One-Horned Rhino.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Spread out over 15,998 acres, this refuge is about nine miles outside of downtown Denver, Colorado.
In addition to biking and hiking trails, guests can take the self-guided 11-mile wildlife drive for plenty of wildlife viewing. There are 330 species calling the refuge home, including the bald eagle, bison, coyotes, deer, and prairie dogs. The drive takes approximately one hour to complete.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Tiffany Noel Videography/Shutterstock.com
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