When you’re ready to tackle an adventure beyond your own backyard, consider an African safari, Texas style. Enjoy the sights of the Serengeti from the comfort of your car when you motor through these Texas drive-thru safaris.
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
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Opened to public tours in 1984, Fossil Rim is located in Glen Rose, about four and a half hours from Houston. The 1,800-acre ranch is an endangered species research and conservation center and home to some 1,000 animals from almost 50 different species.
The wildlife center’s most popular attractions are its self-guided and guided tours, of which there are over ten, which include a mix of family-friendly and speciality tours.
If you opt to go it alone in your own car on a self-guided tour, expect the journey to take about two hours round trip. The paved route has two lanes and you can pull over on the right side whenever you’d like to stop and ogle at the animals. Roughly halfway through the drive, you can stretch your legs, take a bathroom break and grab some food at the Overlook Cafe.
Fossil Rim is open every day, rain or shine. The park opens at 8:30 a.m. and closes to new visitors at 4:30 p.m.
2299 County Road 2008, Glen Rose; fossilrim.org
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
Meander through 450 acres of rolling hills, creek beds, and magnificent live oak trees on this drive-through safari and animal park located in the Texas Hill Country. Get an eyeful of the exotic along the way, from fan favorites like zebras to the more obscure like the barasingha. For more than 500 animals from over 45 different species, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is their home away from home.
Ranch Admission includes all-day access to the safari drive-thru and a walk-a-bout portion of the ranch, which features giraffes, lemurs and kangaroos, to name just a few of the animals.
On the drive itself, which typically lasts about an hour and half, you’ll travel a whopping six miles and see as many as 30 different animal species. The ranch provides each vehicle with one free bag of animal feed. Additional bags are available for $2.50 each. Warning: Some of these critters might look the part, but, when food is in play, there are no bashful Bambis amongst the ranks of these wild animals. While these pack animals aren’t known to ram cars, gnaw side view mirrors or dislodge bumpers, you Imperil your car at your own risk.
Safari over and craving a little more adventure? Drive three minutes down the road and voila, an underground adventure awaits you at Natural Bridge Caverns, the largest commercial cave in the state.
26515 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd, San Antonio; wildliferanchtexas.com
At Aggieland Safari, an exotic-animal park and drive-through in Bryan, take a wild ride through 250-acres packed with hundreds of animals, including zebras, bison, ostriches and more. Pro tip: Purchase a bucket of feed (prices range from $4.95 - $19.95) and you’re bound to make some friends along the way.
Need to stretch your legs? Take the safari on foot and explore 20 acres of up-close exhibits and walk-through animal experiences featuring 150 animals, hippos, kangaroos, lemurs and tortoises included.
If you get hungry, take a beat under the pavilion where you’ll find shade, food and beverages aplenty.
Gates open at 9 a.m. and close to new visitors at 4 p.m. daily.
18075, FM974, Bryan; aggielandsafari.com
Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari
Nestled in the piney woods of East Texas, 12 miles East of Jacksonville, Cherokee Trace wildlife park is home to hundreds of animals from over two dozen exotic and endangered species including but not limited to aoudad, bison, llamas, kangaroos, elk, watusi, camels, capybara and even alligators (Don’t worry: The alligators in their own fenced-off enclosure).
Take a self-guided drive through the hills and open plains of the 300-acre preserve. The drive will take around one and half to two hours.
Cherokee Trace opens at 10 a.m. and closes to new visitors at 3 p.m. Monday though Saturday. On Sundays, the preserve opens at 1 p.m. and admits its last visitors at 3 p.m.
1200 CR 4405, Jacksonville; cherokeetrace.com
Franklin Drive Thru Safari
Interact with exotic animals at Franklin Drive Thru Safari, located in Franklin, some two and a half hours from Houston.
On your drive through the 100 acre park you’ll see a host of animals including zebras and camels. Grab a feed bucket for $5 and you’re sure to draw out some cute and incredible critters. Expect to the drive through the park to take around and two hours.
If you’re still craving some more animal interaction once your done, explore the park’s walk through exhibits where you might spot kangaroos, anteaters, camels and monkeys.
The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
4324 W Hwy 79, Franklin; franklinsafari.com
Don’t get caught off guard. Before going, familiarize yourself with adjusted hours and follow guidelines around social distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures required by the destinations you visit.