As diverse as Virginia’s wildlife population is, one doesn’t normally think of it as a haven for llamas, bison, ostriches, giraffes, peacocks, zebras and kangaroos. Yet you can see all these species and more roaming the 180-acre Virginia Safari Park.
Located in Natural Bridge*, near Lexington, the park is about a three-hour drive from Washington, DC. Opened in the spring of 2000, the park is open daily from mid-March to November. Probably the most popular aspect of the park is the slow three-mile drive where animals of almost any sort will poke their nose through your window in search of a snack. The park has a specialty grain that visitors can use to feed the animals. You can drive your own car or jump into a tractor-drawn wagon for even closer contact.
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. In all, more 1,000 animals inhabit the park.
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.
Astute travelers often check Yelp when considering destinations, and we did so for Virginia Safari Park. Rarely have we ever seen such a high percentage of positive comments about an attraction. One from Alissa B. of Florida that we found most interesting read: “Best day of my life. I am the director of an animal rescue and REFUSE to visit zoos or aquariums because I do not support caging animals. The animals here are free range and so very well taken care of. I met one of the keepers and she sincerely loves these animals. It’s a wonderful place and so much fun.”
Amenities at the park include an extensive gift shop and the Watering Hole café, serving hot dogs, pizza, nachos and other delights. In July, the park is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; the gate closes at 5:00.
Visit Virginia Safari Park to learn more.
*Note: Virginia Safari Park is NOT associated with Natural Bridge Zoo.