Where the WILD THINGS ARE
You don’t necessarily have to leave the United States to SEE LIONS, TIGERS, AND BEARS UP CLOSE. VISIT THESE EASY-TO-FIND SAFARIS CLOSE TO HOME. Rather than stare at sad zoo animals through man-made, miserable cages, show your kids the wonders of the wild in the wild (or close to it).
Fossil Rim Wildlife CenterGlen Rose, TXThe closest to Sub-Saharan Africa in Texas is this home to 1,100 animals representing 50 species on 1,700 acres. Exclusive under-the-radar safari programs are worth the extra fee. If you are lucky enough to see a giraffe give birth, your kids will have front row seats. (From $17 per adult and $11 per child, fossilrim.org)
Wildlife Safari Winston, OR Come to this non-profit preserve to see more than 500 animals from Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Best known for its cheetah encounters, thePachyderm Picassos course ($90), where an elephant creates an abstract painting from the colors you choose, is equally cool. (From $18 per adult and $12 per child, wildlifesafari.net) Wildlife Research InstituteEly, MNIts no-frills, three-day Black Bear Field Study course literally puts you within hugging distance. Escorted by a biologist, your family tracks and observes collared cubs and adults at the million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Emphasis here is on preservation and photographs. Wide-eyed teenagers only. (From $2,500, including meals and rustic accommodations, bearstudy.org) Six Flags Great Adventure Wild Safari Jackson, NJIt may be known for rollercoaster rides, but we found an off-the-beaten path thriller that blood-pressure monitoring grandparents and grands can enjoy alike. The VIP Off-Road Adventure Tour is a custom private viewing of 1,200 animals on some 350 acres. Kids can actually roll down their windows—not allowed for regular visitors—as elephants, baboons, kangaroos, and zebras approach. Book in advance for the three-hour ride. ($150 per person, 732-928-2000 x2076) Wild Animal SafariPine Mountain, GAHere’s a rare opportunity to feed animals from the car at this 200-acre Serengeti adventure where parents are as nervous as the kids when endangered species come within reach. The three-and-a-half mile paved road gives kids the chance to reach out and touch giraffes, elk, bison, and antelopes. (From $18 per adult and $15 per child, animalsafari.com) Safari West santa rosa, caWith fun titles like “Wine, Wheels, and Warthogs,” Safari West is home to both adult and kid adventures. Found in the heart of California’s wine country, the 400 acres are home to more than 400 exotic mammals and birds. Stay overnight as a “Keeper for the Day” (from $250) to discover how to clean, feed, and care for wild animals. Family reunions are often held at this Sonoma Resort that can also organize in-room massages. (From $68 per adult and $10 per child, safariwest.com)