It’s one thing to take your kids to the zoo. It’s quite another to visit the Virginia Safari Park.
Here in this 180-acre compound you and kids can actually mingle with more than 1,000 free-roaming llamas, bison, ostriches, giraffes, peacocks, zebras and kangaroos—just to mention a few of the resident species.
Located in Natural Bridge*, less than an hour north of Roanoke, the park opened in the spring of 2000, and is open seven days a week from mid-March to November. Probably the most popular aspect of the park is the slow three-mile Safari Drive Thru, where animals of almost any sort will poke their nose through your window in search of a snack. This close contact never fails to thrill children.
The park has a specialty grain that visitors can use to feed the animals (on the drive only). You can drive your own car or jump into a tractor-drawn wagon for even closer contact. (You must stay in your vehicle in the drive-thru section of the park. It is permissible to ride in the back of a pickup as long as the tailgate stays up and no one gets out.)
Another choice is 10 acres of walk-thru exhibits, which feature Tiger Territory and Cheetahs, a Giraffe Feeding Station, Petting Area, Kangaroo Walk-About, a Bird Aviary, Reptile House and more. You can even see an endangered African Penguin.
The park offers guided, special-rate tours for public, private and home-schooled students with teachers and/or chaperones. In fact, education is a big part of the reason the park was founded in the first place.
“We wanted to showcase animals in a more natural environment than a zoo, said Safari Park CEO/Corporate Director Eric Mogensen. “I was raised within the industry and transported animals between zoos for many years. We push education through entertainment. We want our guests to enjoy their visit, learn more about the animals in the park, take a more active role in conserving our wild spaces….and have a wild time,” Mogensen added.
Virginia Safari Park is not just a wonderful family attraction. The owners are dedicated to wildlife conservation through public education, captive breeding programs, habitat preservation, and providing financial aid and assistance to projects in the wild. The park has had four rhino calves born within their captive breeding program. Several species of rhinos are now extinct in the wild, and only five species remain; all five are threatened.
Virginia Safari Park is one of three zoological facilities operated by the Zoofari Parks Corporation, working in conjunction with the Gulf Breeze Zoo and the Alabama Safari Park to provide aid to over 25 countries around the world.
Amenities at the park include an the Safari trading post, where you can get souvenirs, toy animals, apparel and collectibles; and the Watering Hole café, serving hot dogs, pizza, nachos and other delights. Finally there is the Safari Sweet Shoppe offering hand-dipped ice cream.
In June, the park is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Gates close at 5:00 p.m. 2019 ticket prices at the park start at $21.95 for ages 13 – 64, and discounts for children and seniors apply.
*Note: Virginia Safari Park is NOT associated with Natural Bridge Zoo.