Zoo Atlanta has a nicely maintained collection of animal exhibits, but if you really feel like getting to know some tigers, camels and other more exotic creatures, consider heading to the drive-thru Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain, Georgia. You can experience the five-mile tour either in your own vehicle or with a guide in a tour group. Either way, you are sure to have a memorable family day trip.
Some of the animals you’ll see as you tour the 250-acre grounds are bison, elk, water buffalo, hyenas and zebras. The park was founded with an interest in making these creatures more accessible, especially to younger visitors. Exotic critters like watusi, nilgai and black buck antelopes will be going about their business as you take your leisurely drive.
Adult admission tickets are $21.95, with discounted tickets at $18.95 available for seniors (65+) and children aged three to 12. Children under age three get in for free. The ticket covers admission to both the drive-thru safari and the park’s walk-about, which is more of a typical zoo experience where you can interact with and feed gentle animals like alpacas. AAA members, military and emergency personnel such as firefighters and EMS workers receive a $2 discount, and guests who wish to return the next day may do so for only $12. There are also group discounts available upon request for parties of over 20 people. During November 2014, all military and emergency services professionals and their families may purchase park tickets for only $14.95 each, upon showing an ID.
You may wish to feed some of the animals during your visit, and food prices range from $3.50 for a small bag to $43.95 for a 50-pound bag if you really want to fatten up the herd. If you want to take your own vehicle through the safari, be advised that open tops and open doors are not allowed, and no one is permitted to sit in the back of a truck, for understandable safety reasons. If your car doesn’t meet these standards, or you’d simply rather use a rented car, the park has zebra vans available for rental for either $18 or $20, depending upon the size you require. You will need to watch a short safety video prior to taking your tour, and it is recommended that you feed the animals by tossing the food onto the ground rather than by having them eat out of your hand. Don’t worry, they won’t be insulted!
The park is generally open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., with hours running one hour later during the summer months (mid-May through August). During the week from September through November, and daily from December through January, the park closes at 5:30 p.m. There is also a cafe onsite offering standard family-friendly fare. Finish up your visit with a trip to the gift shop to purchase the stuffed versions of your children’s favorite creatures, and you’ll have some happy campers on the ride home. You may want to hit the shop at the beginning of the trip as it offers “Slobber Towels” to protect you from the drooling beasts.
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Keely Herrick is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.