Seeing wildlife from all around the world is best done through either a zoo visit or a safari tour. Many people have safari tours on their bucket list, and for good reason–they provide epic and unforgettable animal encounters! For those of you who don’t have it on your bucket list, it’s time to add it!
Did you know that you don’t actually have to fly overseas and spend thousands of dollars on safari tours? That’s right, you can actually get the safari experience right here in the United States! Yes, we’re happy to announce that it is possible to see zebras and giraffes roaming freely in the grasslands from an open-air vehicle (or even your own vehicle). You just have to know where to find these places!
There are many safari parks or wild animal parks spread throughout the United States for you and your family to enjoy. A few of these are super well known, while others are more off-the-beaten-track. Regardless of their popularity, they all offer spectacular wildlife viewing experiences.
The safari parks listed here all have received accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). This accreditation is important because it ensures that the animals are being treated compassionately and receiving qualified care and attention.
Here are the 12 best wildlife safaris in the United States, listed from West to East.
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12 Best Family-Friendly Wildlife Safaris in the USA
WILDLIFE SAFARI (WINSTON, OREGON)
Wildlife Safari, located near Roseburg, Oregon (approximately 3 hours south of Portland, Oregon), is like one big drive-through zoo. This means you get to stay in your car while driving around and viewing them, while most animals wander free!
Wildlife Safari is an AZA-accredited safari with one of the most successful cheetah breeding programs in the USA. It takes about 1.5 hours to drive and walk around the wide range of animal habitats. Along the way, you’ll see zebras, African elephants, tigers, bears, camels, giraffes, ostriches, and many other animals.
For an additional cost, you can choose to participate in several other activities, such as group/private cheetah encounters, giraffe encounters, or wine and art with elephants.
Address: 1790 Safari Rd, Winston, OR 97496
SAN DIEGO ZOO SAFARI PARK (ESCONDIDO, CALIFORNIA)
Did you know the award-winning, world-renowned San Diego Zoo has a wild animal safari park? Yes, it’s the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, made up of 1,800 acres of land that is separate from the San Diego Zoo.
The Safari Park contains over 400 species of wildlife spanning across six continents. In total, there are more than 3,500 animals roaming around in large enclosures that replicate their natural habitat.
The park provides a few different options to explore–you can view the safari on a guided tour bus, hot air balloon, zip line, or tram. They even offer sleepover adventures and camping programs in the park for both kids and adults!
Pre-book your tickets online to bypass the line on the morning of your visit:
Address: 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd, Escondido, CA 92027
SAFARI WEST (SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA)
Although Sonoma County may best be known for its wine culture, it’s also home to Safari West, a 400-acre wildlife reservation. This AZA-accredited safari, located just an hour from San Francisco, is nicknamed the “Sonoma Serengeti.” The animals here are loved, cared for, and allowed to roam freely. You can expect to see animals such as cheetahs, oryx, gazelle, wildebeest, and giraffes.
Safari West offers a 3-hour ride for you and your family to enjoy. If you’d like to experience more, there is a behind-the-scenes walking tour that takes you around the preserve and gets you up close and personal to some of the animals.
If you’re looking for an even more immersive experience, you can opt for the nighttime safari to encounter all the nocturnal animals.
Pro Tip: If you can swing it, we recommend staying the night glamping in a luxury tent cabin at Safari West. They have rooms with bunk beds for the kids and on-site wine tastings for the adults.
Address: 3115 Porter Creek Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
BEARIZONA (WILLIAMS, ARIZONA)
Bearizona is a drive-through wildlife park nestled amongst the pristine forests of Northern Arizona (2.5 hours from Pheonix, AZ). This park offers visitors to Northern Arizona a new and exciting way to enjoy wildlife the way it was meant to be–in their natural environment.
A drive through Bearizona park offers visitors the opportunity to spot a variety of wild animals like black bears and wolves living out their best lives. In addition to bears and wolves, visitors can expect to see Bighorn sheep, bison, and burros strolling around and grazing in the forested setting.
Once you complete the driving section of the safari, you can continue on foot to Fort Bearizona to see some of the smaller animals. If you’re traveling with younger children, they will love the Bearizona Barnyard, where they’ll get the chance to interact with animals at the petting zoo and learning more about them from the guides.
Address: 1500 Historic Route 66, Williams, AZ 86046
WILDLIFE RANCH (SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS)
The Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in San Antonio, Texas is a wonderful family-friendly safari attraction. You’ll be able to drive through their 450-acre scenic hill country ranch where you’ll witness over 500 exotic and native animal species in a free-roaming environment.
The safari trek covers 4 miles and takes most visitors 1-2 hours to meander and enjoy. With admission, you can take multiple treks, as every trip through the ranch will grant you a different adventure.
After your trek, park your car and enjoy the ranch’s Walk-A-Bout on foot. The giraffe barn is an obvious favorite, allowing visitors the chance to get up close to the giraffe environment. There is also a gift shop and restaurant, Safari Camp Grill.
Address: 26515 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd, San Antonio, TX 78266
FOSSIL RIM WILDLIFE CENTER (GLENROSE, TEXAS)
If you or your children have always dreamed about hand-feeding a giraffe, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is the ideal place to make your dreams come true! Simply purchase a bag of animal feed and head out on the 9.5-mile scenic wildlife drive-through safari.
Many residents of Fossil Rim are endangered species. As such, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is dedicated to the conservation of these precious species and providing education to the public. In fact, Fossil Rim specializes in breeding programs for endangered animals. You’ll get to learn all about it on one of their guided safari tours.
They offer self-guided tours where you experience the park in your own vehicle, or guided tours, where you’ll ride in one of their larger vehicles on a guided Safari Tour. They also offer special events, camps, and even a nighttime safari tour complete with a campfire and s’mores!
WILDLIFE SAFARI PARK (ASHLAND, NEBRASKA)
Embark on your next outdoor adventure at Wildlife Safari Park, a four-mile, drive-through safari experience in Ashland, Nebraska.
Don’t feel like spending all your time in the car? Stretch your legs with a hike to one of the overlooks in the park to view bears, wolves, elk, bison, and waterfowl from above! Or step inside the Eagle Aviary to get up close and personal with the eagles. There is also a picnic area where you can enjoy your own food.
The Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari also offers visitors various opportunities to get educated on wildlife animals through special programs.
Address: 16406 292nd St, Ashland, NE 68003
BUFFALO SAFARI JEEP TOUR (CUSTER, SOUTH DAKOTA)
Get closer to nature on an off-road adventure in Custer State Park, 71,000 acres big! Once you hop into an open-air Jeep to go off-roading on the Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour, you’ll be roaming through South Dakota’s iconic buffalo herds. Not many other places offer glimpses of what the Great Plains looked like back in the day!
While passing through vast stretches of green rolling hills, you can enjoy views of elk, pronghorns, and buffalo grazing in their natural habitat.
Guests can do a guided tour in an open-air jeep, or there’s the self-drive option, on the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road. The guided tour is quite educational–not only will you learn about the animals, but you’ll also learn historical and educational facts about the park.
Pro Tip: Add on Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills to make this an even more eventful family-friendly vacation.
Address: 13389 US Hwy 16a, Custer, SD 57730
PINE MOUNTAIN WILDLIFE SAFARI (PINE MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA)
The Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari is home to dozens of animals from all across the globe. The 250-acre safari park features 120 species spanning from bears, alligators, monkeys, birds, lemurs, wolves, and even adorable little wallabies.
There are several ways that you can choose to enjoy the safari park. The main attraction is the Serengeti Adventure. This option allows you to bring your own vehicle, catch a ride on a tour bus, or rent a van for the 3.5-mile loop drive. On the drive, not only can you view the animals, but you can also touch and even feed the animals!
From there, head to the family-friendly Walk-About section where you can enjoy other animal viewings on foot. In this section, you can hand-feed smaller, more docile animals. You and your children are sure to love this part of the safari park!
Pro Tip: The tour bus option is seasonal so don’t forget to check its availability before you go.
Address: 1300 Oak Grove Rd, Pine Mountain, GA 31822
AFRICAN SAFARI WILDLIFE PARK (PORT CLINTON, OHIO)
At the African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio, you can stay in your own car, grab a handful of approved feed, and start off a wild adventure with hundreds of exotic animals! A drive through the safari will grant you the opportunity to see and feed camels, bison, zebras, alpaca, and even kangaroos that’ll come right up to your car for a bite to eat.
Other unique features of this safari park include a walk-through safari and special animal encounter activities like riding camels, feeding kangaroo, or watching the pigs race. Don’t forget to attend the free EdZOOcational Animal Programs while you’re there!
Address: 267 S Lightner Rd, Port Clinton, OH 43452
VIRGINIA SAFARI PARK (NATURAL BRIDGE, VIRGINIA)
Virginia has a lot of expansive lands, but Virginia Safari Park is the only drive-thru wildlife park in the entire state of Virginia. The park features over 1,000 animals on the 180-acre property (cheetahs, rhinos, anteaters, and many more) that can be seen in a variety of ways. There are three main attractions here — the Safari Drive-Thru Zoo, Village Walk-Thru, and Public Wagon Rides.
On the Safari Drive-Thru, you can drive your vehicle on the 3-mile driving course and feed the animals through your car window along the way (think zebras, moose, deer, and llamas). In the Safari Village, you can explore various exhibits/petting zoos and interact closely with the animals. The Public Wagon Rides will cost an additional fee.
This is a must-do wildlife safari if you’re in Virginia, especially if you or your children love interacting and feeding animals!
Address: 229 Safari Ln, Natural Bridge, VA 24578
LION COUNTRY SAFARI (WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA)
Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach, Florida has been in existence since 1967. Since then, the park has seen millions of visitors and has grown to house more than 1,000 animals throughout the property.
There are two ways to explore Lion Country — on foot through SafariWorld or by vehicle, meandering through its seven distinct regions reminiscent of African habitats. You can even enhance your driving trip through Lion Country Safari with a free audio tour.
The park has also expanded to more than just a safari experience, as it now hosts amusement park rides, boat cruises, water splash zones, mini-golfing, and even camel rides.
For an additional cost, visitors can enjoy premium experiences like a giraffe painting experience, parrot painting experience, and a flamingo mingle experience!
Pro Tip: If you still want to see more wildlife after your Lion Country safari experience, head to the nearby Panther Ridge Conservation Center, a center specializing in the care and needs of endangered and threatened species of big cats.
Address: 2003 Lion Country Safari Rd, Loxahatchee, FL 33470