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The Wilds Animal Park: An African Safari Experience in Ohio

Last updated: December 4, 2021 - Written by Jessica Norah 22 Comments

The Wilds is one of the largest conservation centers in North America, set on about 10,000 acres of land in Southeast Ohio. The Wilds safari park is home to a number of rare and endangered animals from around the world, including cheetah, rhinos, camels, antelope, zebra, and giraffes, as well as a number of local native species.

Visitors can not only do regular bus safaris to see the animals, but The Wilds in Ohio also offers horseback safaris, fishing safaris, ziplining, a butterfly habitat, education programs, summer camps, and overnight lodging. This non-profit open-habitat safari park is a pretty amazing place given that this is reclaimed land which was strip mined for coal from the 1940’s to the 1980’s, which destroyed most of the natural wildlife and resources in this area.

If you are in Ohio, this is definitely a place to consider adding to your itinerary. We’ll give you all the information you need to plan a trip here and tell you about our own experience visiting The Wilds animal park.

giraffes the Wilds Ohio animal safari park

Table of Contents:

Basic Information for Visiting The Wilds in Ohio

Here is all the info you need to start planning your trip to The Wilds in Ohio.

What is the Address of The Wilds?

14000 International Road, Cumberland, Ohio 43732

How to Get to The Wilds Ohio?

The Wilds is located outside the small town of Cumberland, Ohio and the best way to get here is by car. I could not find any public transportation options but you could of course book a taxi or Uber if needed.

It is approximately 75 miles (1.5 to 2 hour drive) from Columbus, OH, 20 miles (35 minute drive) from Zanesville, OH, and 140 miles (2.5 hours) from Cleveland, Ohio. You can find   directions online provided by The Wilds depending on your location. Note that there is a $6.00 parking fee to park at The Wilds unless you are a member.

When is the Best Time to Visit The Wilds?

The best time to visit The Wilds for most activities is from May through September. The Wilds is typically open for its regular visitor season daily from 10am to 4pm May through September and then weekends only in October.

Recently, The Wilds has also started the Winter at the Wilds Tour that allows for pre-registered guests to visit and tour The Wilds from November to March. While many of the regular tours are not available during the winter, the Winter at The Wilds tour is run twice a day. These are more intimate tours with up to 6 people.

What Safari Tours are Offered at The Wilds?

The most popular activities not surprisingly are the Wilds safari tours, and most people take one of the group safari tours that are led by knowledgeable guides. The main tours are given in an open-air bus with a canopy, and there are a couple of places the bus stops where you do a bit of walking.

Tours last approximately 2 hours, but I would allot at least 3 hours for your visit as you’ll need to get the shuttle to and from the parking area, may want to visit the butterfly habitat or other exhibits, and there are also places to shop and eat. 

If you interested in a more intimate experience, you can reserve a Wildside Tour and get a more exclusive safari experience with an Animal Management specialist amongst a smaller group (these are typically offered in an open-air pickup truck) and you get to see some of the daily happenings at The Wilds such as an animal medical procedure, help in feeding the animals, or an ongoing conservation project.

All of the tours at The Wilds take you through all the open-range enclosures where you’ll get to see many of the animals roaming in the fields as well as stops at Lake Trail and the Carnivore Center. You also have access to the Butterfly Habitat which you can explore at your leisure before or after the safari tours. On the weekends during the summer months, these tours are also offered at sunset and include a buffet dinner at the Overlook Café.

Check out The Wilds website for current tours and tour prices , with the open-air bus tours (May through October) currently set (as of October 2021) at $35.00 per person. Wildside Tours (and Winter at the Wilds tours) are currently priced at $137.50 per person for non-members.

Note that all tours must be booked online in advance prior to visiting.

the Wilds Ohio animal safari park

Other Activities at The Wilds?

In addition to the main animal safari tours, there are a number of other visitor activities offered at The Wilds. You can easily spend a full day or a full weekend at the Wilds. These include fishing, horseback riding, sunset tours, and ziplining. The Wild Zipline Safari provides the opportunity to view parts of the large preserve and some of the wildlife from above across 10 different ziplines (a shorter version that includes only five ziplines is also available).

For those who live nearby or have more time for a visit, the Wilds also offers educational programs, WildeCamps, and Family Camp weekends during the summer months. They can also accommodate a wide range of events from corporate retreats to weddings to birthday parties.

The Wilds has also been recognized one of Ohio’s Most Important Birding Areas by Audubon. It is a good place to see a number of birds, including raptors, grassland nesting birds, and ospreys. The Wilds has made a birding station located at Jeffrey Point accessible to the public and it is open 24/7 for no charge. 

Accessibility at The Wilds

The visitor areas at The Wilds are generally accessible for those with reduced physical mobility and those in wheelchairs and meet ADA guidelines. There are tour buses and shuttles that can accommodate those in a wheelchair, and you can denote that you need a wheelchair space when you book your ticket.

Most of the tour is spent inside the bus but there are stops where participants can disembark to see the parakeet aviary (a short distance) and the carnivores’ enclosures (a slightly longer distance). 

As with most places, it is wise to call in advance to discuss any special accessibility needs before booking.

What Dining Options are there at the Wilds?

Food and snacks are available for purchase at the Safari Snack Depot, Terrace Grill, and Overlook Café. Note that many of these close during the winter months. Food available includes hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, chicken, ice cream, snacks, soda, coffee, and beer and wine. Evening safari programs during the summer often include a buffet dinner at the Overlook Café.

the Wilds Ohio animal safari park

Can you Stay Overnight at The Wilds?

You can stay within The Wilds parkland or you can stay in a nearby town. The Wilds as you might imagine are in a very rural location but there are towns with lodging within 20 miles of the park.

Staying Overnight in The Wilds park

You have a few options if you want to stay overnight at The Wilds, including staying in a luxury yurt or a large family-friendly cabin.

The yurts are currently adults-only (21+) and are located within the park at Nomad Ridge and are built on large platforms with screen windows, bamboo floors, wooden doors, a private bathroom, and an observation deck for private wildlife viewing.

There are also several cabins that have been recently built around Straker Lake within The Wilds which provides another option. These can accommodate up to 6 persons and are perfect for families or small groups.

If you are coming with a big group or family, you might also consider The Lodge which is a large 6-bedroom cabin complete with a fully-equipped kitchen, bathrooms, television, Internet, washer and dryer, gas fireplace, outdoor fire ring, games, books, canoes, and fishing and boating equipment.

If you book a reservation in one of the yurts or The Lodge, you’ll receive discount pricing on many of the tours and activities offered at The Wilds. We did not stay in any of these lodging options, but we did see them while we were there and both options looked quite nice.  

NOTE: No pets are allowed on The Wilds property, including in any of the lodging, for obvious reasons. They may also not be left in your vehicle, so please be sure to leave your dogs at home. Service animals are of course welcome.

Staying Outside The Wilds

If you are looking for nearby lodging outside the park , you can find a range of options in the nearby cities of Caldwell, Cambridge, Zanesville, and Marietta. The closest lodging is in the town of Caldwell which has several motels and hotels. Some recommended properties are as follows:

  • Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham , Caldwell – a 2* well-reviewed good value hotel offering en-suite rooms with inclusive continental breakfast. Offers wheelchair-accessible rooms. Free on-site parking. About a 25 minute drive from The Wilds.
  • Best Western Caldwell Inn – This hotel offers a 24 hour front desk, indoor swimming pool, free Wifi, fitness center, and free breakfast. Note that the included breakfast is often served at the nearby family-owned diner (walking distance) Lori’s Restaurant. Offers wheelchair-accessible rooms. A 25 minute drive from The Wilds.
  • Baymont by Wyndham , Cambridge – a 2* hotel offering en-suite rooms which also feature a microwave and free on-site parking. Breakfast is included. Just over 30 minutes drive to The Wilds.
  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites , Zanesville – found in downtown Zanesville, this 2* hotel offers rooms with coffee makers and refrigerators. Free parking is available, breakfast is included, and there’s an indoor hot tub. Offers wheelchair accessible rooms. Around 30 minutes drive from The Wilds.
  • Comfort Suites , Marietta – conveniently located for the Interstate, this 3* hotel has an indoor heated pool and a fitness centre. Offers wheelchair-accessible rooms. It’s also pet friendly (fee applies). Free parking is available nearby, and rooms have microwaves and fridges. Around a 50 minute drive from The Wilds.

You can see more options and compare prices here . 

The Wilds Ohio luxury yurts at Nomad Ridge

Need More Information to Plan Your Trip to The Wilds? 

The official  official website  for The Wilds is a very useful to find information or book tickets, but you can also call them at 740-638-5030 or check out their active Facebook page where you can see recent photos as well as potentially find a discount code or win a free visit.

If you want to explore the area around The Wilds more fully you check out other things to do nearby  around Zanesville, Ohio and wider tourism information for the state of Ohio . 

Our Experience Visiting The Wilds 

I grew up near The Wilds and it is by far the largest tourist attraction in our local area, but for some reason or another I had never visited while I was growing up. During college, I knew several people who did research practicums and internships here given the amazing educational and research opportunities that are available here to local students.

In fact, I went to the same college as Jack Hanna , a famous zookeeper and animal expert who has worked with and promote The Wilds. I guess it is one of those things where you look back and realize that you never visited many of the cool places in your own backyard after you have left.

So on a return visit to Ohio to see my family in winter 2014, I made sure that I had time to include a visit to The Wilds. It was definitely time I finally made it here!  After that winter 2014 visit, I returned again in the summer of 2017 to experience one of the open-air tours that was not offered when I visited in the winter in 2014. So I’ll break this down by The Wilds winter visit first and then a bit about the summer open-air safari experience.

Winter at The Wilds Tour Experience

I made a reservation in advance for the Winter at the Wilds tour which is the only tour that is regularly given during the winter months. Ethan and I visited in November 2014 and it was a cold day and so we were bundled up in coats, hats, and gloves for our visit. We arrived at the parking lot (there is a $6.00 parking fee) and we were met within a couple of minutes by someone from the park management team and then our guide who was a member of the animal management team.

The Winter at the Wilds tour is similar to the regular Wildside Tours given during the rest of the year. However, instead of an open-air vehicle, we were in an enclosed heated vehicle, but we were able to roll down the windows as needed to take photos so that was not a problem and we needed the heat! While you cannot get out of the car within the open animal enclosures, you’ll get to walk around in other areas  such as around the Carnivores Center and if you visit the barns during the winter. 

The Wilds Ohio Jess at sign

A Bit of Ecology & Conservation at the Wilds

Our first stop was actually not to see wildlife but to see a restoration project being conducted by the Wilds Restoration Ecology department. Friendly Rachael and Kelsey who were hard at work in the wetlands area, talked to us about conservation within the wetlands and they showed us a neat water system they use to monitor and maintain water in the wetlands area.

This is a good reminder that a visit to the Wilds does not just have to be about the animals, but there is almost 10,000 acres of land here and all kinds of ecosystems. Strip mining negatively impacted much of the land and streams in this area and it is amazing to see the revival that has come about because of the hard work by the folks at the Wilds. If you are interested in ecology, botany, water management, birding, insects, etc. let your guide know as there are many different types of environmental projects happening here at any given time!

The Wild Ohio staff showing us water system

The Big Cats and Dogs

The next major stop on the tour was to the Wilds’ Carnivore Center. Here you can get out of the car and walk around and see the animals from various viewing points. During our visit, there were painted dogs, dholes, and cheetahs.

Be careful to stay back if you get near the African painted dog enclosures as they are not friendly puppies! I had never seen a dhole before but I remember my friend in college talking about these while she worked at the Wilds. They are super cute canines that are native to Asia and look quite a bit like a fox.

Breeding programs and research at the Wilds is geared towards helping the survival and conservation of these threatened and endangered species. The Wilds has been successful with its cheetah program as the first cheetah cubs were born here in 2010!

The Wilds African Painted Dog

The Open Range Animal Pastures

The rest of our visit focused on driving through the open range enclosures, which contain the vast majority of the animals at the Wilds. These include camels, bison, zebra, Southern white rhino, wild horses, ostrich, giraffes, and various types of deer and antelope. You are also likely to see some of the native species that roam around the Wilds such as local deer, birds, or coyote.

If there are certain animals that you are very interested in seeing or want to learn more about, just tell your guide so they can better allocate your time as there is a lot of open space. As animal management specialists who work with the animals, they can help give you the best chance to see the animals you want to see and also give you more time with them if they can. 

During any tour, since the animals live in large open enclosures you’re likely to see many of the species up close while others are likely to be hidden a bit in the trees or near the lake where you might not get an up close view. For instance, we only got distant views of the ostriches who preferred to hide themselves amongst some trees on the opposite end of the lake from us.

We got a good look at most of the animals and we were able to get within touching distance (no touching!) of several animals who largely ignored our vehicle. The Sichuan takin are interesting animals that I have never seen before and there were a lot of these critters along with a number of deer, horses, and antelopes. Some of the deer were losing their antlers or were in the process of doing so which occurs in the winter months. The type of camels at the Wilds are quite funny to watch as they are very curious and will get very close to the vehicle. When they walk, their two humps of fat flop around quite a bit on the older camels. 

Typically, visitors would have the opportunity to tour some of the winter facilities for the animals on a Winter at the Wilds tour to see animals that need to be kept inside on cold days such as the giraffes. But a white rhino baby had just been born a day or so before our visit and so we were unfortunately not able to visit the barns. The animal management team did not want anyone disturbing the new rhino calf and there had not been a press release yet about the new baby. Although this sadly meant we could not visit the animals that were in the winter housing and barns that day (rhinos, zebra, giraffes), it is a remarkable event as the calf was the first fifth generation white rhino born outside of Africa and is a testament to the breeding and conservation program at the Wilds.

The Wilds Ohio Sichuan Takin

Summer at the Wilds Open Air Safari Tour Experience

In the summer of 2017, I returned again to the Wilds with my husband Laurence. This time we did an open-air animal safari tour. These are the most common type of tour that people take on a visit to the Wilds and are typically available from May to September. The tour took two hours and was in an open-air bus.

It was definitely a different experience to visit on a hot summer day, and it was nice to not be all bundled up in a winter coat and gear. It was also nice to see the green grass, full trees, and local wildflowers.

In terms of the animal, we saw many of the same animals I had seen in 2014; however, we also got to see a few animals I had not been able to see on my winter visit such as the parakeets in the small aviary, the giraffes, the white rhinos (although at a distance), and the ostriches. We also got to see the tankins really up close as they were fighting, playing, and mating near our vehicle!

the Wilds Ohio animal safari park

Overall Thoughts on Visiting the Wilds in Ohio

Overall, we had a fun time on both our safari tours at the Wilds. We learned a lot, saw lots of animals, and received a warm welcome from our knowledgeable guides and other staff. A great advantage to visiting in November was that we had the park to ourselves since there are relatively few visitors during the winter months. The only disappointment during that visit was not being able to see the giraffes or rhino, but we totally understood that the health of the newborn rhino calf took precedence over our visiting the animal barns!

During the summer tour, it was nice to see the Wilds all green and alive. It was also nice to see some of the animals like the giraffes and rhinos that I had missed on the previous winter tour. The open-air safari bus makes for a nice way to experience the park and see the animals, and reminded my a bit of my safari experience in Africa. Another good thing about the summer is that there are more food facilities open so you have more opportunities to get a snack or have a meal.

 Overall, I would definitely recommend a trip to the Wilds if you find yourself in this part of Ohio. Not only is it a great place to view wildlife, but the organization is a top-notch research and conservation facility committed to a number of good causes. For me, this was a great chance to visit a cool place that I had missed growing up in this area! 

camel the Wilds Ohio animal safari park

Are there places near where you have lived that you never took time to visit and then regretted it once you left? Planning your own trip to the Wilds and have a question? As always, feel free to ask us questions about our visit to the Wilds in Ohio or share your own experiences in the Comments section below!

**Disclosure: Just so you know, we received complimentary tours at the Wilds as press. However, as always, this article contains only our own honest thoughts and opinions. You can read more in our  Ethics Code  about how we work.**

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Emma Post author

June 10, 2023 at 7:01 am

Hello All. It is now 2023 and I am just now becoming aware that this place even exist, hopefully it still does. I am very interested in visiting there. Is the reservation still operating? I imagine Covid played an enormous role in why it seems the comments went silent. Also is the climate uninhabited by primates? I absolutely love the great Silverbacks and the chimps. Is this climate not suitable for them? Do you plan on ever having them?

Jessica & Laurence Norah Post author

June 14, 2023 at 7:50 am

Yes, The Wilds is alive and well, and you can certainly come and visit. COVID-19 certainly was not great for the park but all is now open and most of the services have returned to normal. The summer season tends to be the busiest and most popular time to visit as it is a nice time to do the open-top buses or the Wildside Jeep or truck rides.

I don’t personally work for The Wilds, I am just a travel writer but I did grow up near The Wilds and have visited several times now over the years.

So there are no primates such as chimpanzees or gorillas at The Wilds. The focus of The Wilds is mainly on conservation and research and most of the animals are ones that can live in open enclosures, basically fields, such as the rhinos, horses, camels, zebra, giraffes, ostrich, etc. Primates would require large enclosures/tress etc. and it would probably not be a great fit for them here. At The Wilds, they do have a couple of enclosures for predators (e.g., painted dogs, dholes, and cheetah), but most of the rest of the animals can roam fairly freely in the open fields. There is also a barn area to keep animals protected and warm in the winter as needed.

In terms of climate, I would say that Ohio is probably not a good fit in terms of the natural habitat for chimps or gorillas. We recently were in Uganda which has both mountain gorillas and chimps and the reclaimed coal fields in southeastern Ohio is a pretty different climate and habitat than most of the places you would naturally find these animals.

As far as I know, there are no plans to have primates but you can of course ask yourself if you visit for any plans and reasoning on their part! The Columbus Zoo, the sister organization to The Wilds, has several primates in its care, although I don’t believe they have any chimps.

Hope that helps and hope you are able to enjoy a visit to The Wilds soon!

Best, Jessica

Becky Malterer Post author

March 30, 2023 at 8:31 am

Have the animals ever attacked anyone?

March 30, 2023 at 9:36 am

As far as I know (I don’t work here), there have not been any serious injuries of visitors caused by an attack by an animal at The Wilds.

When you visit, you are in a bus or Jeep for most of the visit when in the areas where the animals live and roam. The carnivores are behind fences. So visitors are fairly well protected from the animals and most of the animals (e.g., giraffe, cattle, zebra, ostrich) here rarely attack humans anyway. However, they are still wild animals and of course visitors should always be careful and aware during their visit and follow all the staff instructions.

Hope that helps and hope you enjoy your time at The Wilds if you decide to visit!

Jack Alloway Post author

July 15, 2021 at 4:32 pm

I was down in about 10 or 12 years ago and it was a beautiful place and it sounds like you people have done a lot more with it I’m looking forward to coming back down and staying the weekend. Thank yo

July 16, 2021 at 4:01 am

Hope you get a chance to return to The Wilds. Yes, it has changed quite a bit from 12 years ago!

tom hamm Post author

February 29, 2020 at 3:37 pm

look like a great place to visit. Would like to make a trip there in the spring or summer of 2020.

March 1, 2020 at 4:31 am

Yes, Spring or early Summer is a great time to visit The Wilds. It is nice to go when it is warm out but not super hot.

Enjoy! Jessica

Kurstin Chandler Post author

January 6, 2020 at 1:47 pm

Hi, interested in visiting your place.

January 6, 2020 at 1:58 pm

Hi Kurstin, If you are interested in visiting The Wilds now, or between November and April, they are only open to the public for their Winter at the Wilds tours. These need to be booked at least 72 hours in advance of when you want to visit. So I’d go onto their website or give them a call to schedule one of those if of interest. You can find links and their phone number above in the post.

But if you are visiting in the Spring/Summer months, then there are more daily tour options that will be available and you don’t have to book in advance (although still a good idea if you know when you want to do the tour).

Terri Mitchell Post author

April 13, 2019 at 6:56 am

Thank you for your comprehensive review! Just caught the end of Jack Hanna’s wildlife safari insisting The Wilds. I found your site when I searched for info. Happily it sounds like this is a trip that all ages can enjoy and we can camp too! Thanks to your thorough review we’re planning our own visit to The Wilds this summer!!! Happy Travels

April 13, 2019 at 12:10 pm

Hi Terri, Glad you enjoyed our review of The Wilds, and do let us know if you have any questions about planning your trip to The Wilds. Yes, Jack Hanna was very much involved in the planning and conservation efforts at The Wilds (he is a former director of the zoo in Columbus Ohio) and has been a long time ambassador for the park 😉 Best, Jessica

Mark Staib Post author

March 28, 2019 at 2:50 pm

I have a scout troop ,and we are interested coming down and camping either there or near by. We will want to tour and zip line. We would be arriving July 21 and have all of the 22nd to do all of the above.Please let me know if this is do able and how much it would cost.

March 28, 2019 at 4:42 pm

Hi Mark, That sounds like a fun scout trip. You’ll need to call The Wilds directly to get pricing and to book the trip for your group, phone number is (740) 638-5030. Best of luck, Jessica

DONNA AZZ Post author

July 4, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Hi – we will be visit “the wilds” in two weeks and staying for 2 nights (July 19&20). Are there any suggestions you can give us to enhance our visit?

travelcats Post author

July 4, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Hi Donna, I am sure you will have a great time at The Wilds! The summer is a great time to visit as all the facilities will be open and the animals should be out and about.

I would reserve your tour in advance so you get the dates/times you want. The open-air safari tours are great in the summer and a good value, you can also consider a private encounter or a Wildside Tour if they are within your budget.

As many animals will seek shade and naps in the middle of a summer day, I’d recommend trying to be on the first tour of the day or the last as you may see more animals and also it may be less crowded.

Since you’ll be there for two nights, you have plenty of opportunity to see the full park and choose the time of your tour and also explore at a slow pace. If you are staying overnight in the park, be sure to ask what activities are going on during your stay. Often there are boating, fishing, swimming, ziplining, and horseback riding activities available.

If you are traveling with kids, it can be really fun to teach them about some of the animals and have them try to then spot them during your tour and from the observation deck of where you are staying. If you have a pair of binoculars, these can be fun to bring. I’d also recommend buying a few snacks/drinks to bring with you at a grocery store before getting here so you don’t have to rely on always eating at the park as it can add up.

Have a great trip and feel free to come back and comment about your visit to The Wilds!

AwesomelyOZ Post author

August 3, 2015 at 3:36 pm

That’s so awesome! I love the photos of all the animals, esp the camels 🙂 That was a big boy! Looks like a great safari experience 🙂 Thanks for sharing and have a great one Jessica! -Iva

August 14, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Hi Iva, I think that may actually be a big girl:) It was a fun experience, it was not quite Africa but it is as close as you can get in Southeast Ohio and a great place to visit!

Seana Turner Post author

July 25, 2015 at 1:05 pm

You know, this is why I follow bloggers. I’ve been in that part of the country many times and had no idea this even existed. What a fun place! I think I’d rather roam around on a warm day, but I’ll bookmark it for the next time I’m driving though Ohio!

July 26, 2015 at 7:57 pm

Hi Seana, yes the Wilds is a great place to visit the next time you are in Ohio. It is a bit out of the way but a great place to spend an afternoon!

Mar Ward Post author

July 25, 2015 at 6:26 am

When I worked at the Zoo in Alaska, Jack Hanna was a guest speaker at our yearly fundraiser and talked about the Wilds. Ever since I had wanted to visit. Thanks for sharing your experience and some great photos.

July 26, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Hi Mar! Yes, I almost mentioned Jack Hanna in the post. I went to the same college as an undergrad that both he and his wife graduated from and the Wilds is located only about 20 minutes away. He was director of the Columbus Zoo in Ohio for many years and the Wilds now has a close partnership with that zoo. Jack Hanna has visited the Wilds many times and helped promote it. If you are in the Midwest, you should definitely plan a visit as I think it is still the largest wildlife conservation center in North America.

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african safari near sandusky ohio

Drive Thru African Safari Wildlife Park in Ohio

  • Posted By Katy Mann

Add To My Planner 11

african safari near sandusky ohio

Our family went on an adventure that I wholeheartedly recommend to every family looking for a memorable experience. We set our sights on Port Clinton, Ohio near Sandusky. After a five-hour road trip from Indy , we arrived at our destination: the African Safari Wildlife Park. Given the length of the drive, I suggest making this more than a day trip. Stay overnight and explore the area’s offerings, from its beaches to ferry boats and the excitement of Cedar Point!

african safari near sandusky ohio

Our time on the beach was delightful, but the highlight of our journey was undoubtedly the Safari. Our little one was surprisingly calm, a stark contrast to my reactions! Imagine the thrill of having an animal approach your car, stick its face inside, sneeze on you, and then gently take a carrot from your hand. At one point, while I turned to speak to my husband, I was greeted by the snorting breath of a creature right in my ear through the open car window! The reactions from everyone in the car were priceless.

Planning Your Visit

Before you go, it’s worth noting that the rates and schedules vary throughout the year. African Safari Wildlife Park is a seasonal park and operates from Spring through Fall. Admission for ages 7 and up is generally less than $20, while it’s less for ages 4-6, and kids under 4 are free. Always check their website for the latest deals and coupons. We found a coupon that allowed our car, holding up to 6 people, entrance for less than $40 in the spring.

african safari near sandusky ohio

Admission generously includes unlimited drive-thru or walk-thru access. There are other animal encounters available during certain times. I highly recommend purchasing additional animal feed, as it enhances the experience. For human visitors, the park provides several dining options but you are welcome to bring your food.

The Safari Experience

The drive-through safari is the park’s crown jewel, allowing you to meet over 50 species of animals, including giraffes, zebras, and alpacas, from the comfort of your vehicle. This immersive journey offers a unique opportunity to feed the animals directly from your car, using specially formulated food pellets provided by the park to ensure their well-being.

Educational Opportunities

Beyond the excitement, the park is deeply committed to education and conservation. It offers educational programs and exhibits designed to inform visitors about animal habits, habitats, and the challenges they face. The walk-through area allows for more intimate encounters with animals, including petting zoos and live demonstrations, fostering a deeper connection with the natural world.

Conservation Efforts

The park’s conservation initiatives are an integral part of its mission, with partnerships worldwide to protect endangered species. Visitors can learn about these efforts and how they can contribute to global conservation, emphasizing the role each of us plays in preserving biodiversity.

african safari near sandusky ohio

Visitor Experience

The park caters to all ages, making it an ideal family destination. With amenities such as picnic areas, gift shops, and dining options, the park ensures a comfortable and enjoyable day out. Throughout the year, it hosts special events and seasonal activities, adding extra excitement to your visit.

As a mother, watching the wonder in my children’s eyes as they interacted with the animals was priceless. It was a reminder of the beauty and diversity of our planet and the importance of preserving it for future generations.

african safari near sandusky ohio

So, if you’re looking for an experience that combines fun, education, and conservation, pack your bags, and head to the African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio. It’s an adventure that you and your family will never forget, and it’s completely worth the drive!

Katy Mann

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african safari near sandusky ohio

9 Fun Things to Do Around Sandusky, Ohio, Year Round

The Shores and Islands Region in Northern Ohio along Lake Erie has a lot to offer for fun things to do.

Most people associate Sandusky with Cedar Point Amusement Park , but the area also offers additional adventure all year round.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if you click a link and purchase something we have recommended.

1. Appreciate History and Craftsmanship at the Merry-Go-Round Museum

301 Jackson St, Sandusky, OH 

The historic building that houses the museum was a former post office.

The museum’s post office roots came into a literal full circle. The inspiration for the museum came from four carousel postage stamps that were issued in 1988.

Inside the museum, you will see a beautiful collection of artifacts and memorabilia from amusement parks and carousels from around the world.

Bonus: You can also take a spin on the merry-go-round while you are there.

2. Enjoy swimming in warm water all year round at amazing Indoor Waterparks  in Sandusky

7000 Kalahari Dr, Sandusky, OH 

Sandusky offers several indoor waterpark options that have perfect swimming conditions all year long.  

  • Cedar Point’s Castaway Bay
  • Great Wolf Lodge
  • Kalahari Waterpark Resort

Kalahari is one of the largest indoor waterparks in the United States.

Your experience doesn’t have to stop at the waterpark.

Kalahari offers Spa Treatments, indoor mini golf, and a variety of other activities for the whole family.

Learn more about how to make the most out of your visit to Kalahari here. 

3. Learn about the History of the Sandusky Area at the  Maritime Museum of Sandusky

125 Meigs St, Sandusky, OH 

This museum offers activities for kids, informational documentaries, and hands-on exhibits.

You will also learn about the ice harvesting industry and Sandusky’s role in the Underground Railroad.

4. Take a hike at  Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve 

2715 Cleveland Rd W, Huron, OH 

This nature preserve has incredible views year-round. You can hike trails and see an assortment of birds and animals here.

The area draws close to 300 bird species, plants, and animals associated with its marsh ego system.

This is a beautiful spot to take scenic nature photos during each season and there is no fee to visit the preserve.

5. Participate in a variety of outdoor activities at Sawmill Creek Resort

400 Sawmill Creek Dr W, Huron, OH 

You don’t have to stay here to enjoy year-round activities like snowshoeing, ice skating, golf, and ziplines.

Sawmill Creek Resort also has a restaurant that offers special-themed events. There is a good chance you might want to stay overnight after you spend a little time by the fireplace.

Guests get to take in beautiful sunset views of Lake Erie on their private beach.

The resort has 239 guest rooms and suites, an 18-hole championship golf course, an indoor and outdoor pool, and a 176-slip marina.

7. Drink Eat and Drink Locally

Sandusky has several great local establishments where you can enjoy a great meal or your beverage of choice.

Enjoy a Great Breakfast at Sandusky Bay Pancake House

4710 Milan Rd, Sandusky, OH 

If you’re looking for an incredible breakfast to start your day, you definitely need to check out Sandusky Bay Pancake House.

You’ve got plenty of delicious options on the menu for both savory and sweet preferences.

I’d recommend sharing both for the best of both worlds.

Wine Tasting at Firelands Winery

917 Bardshar Rd, Sandusky, OH

Savor a wine tasting in a relaxed atmosphere that also happens to be Ohio’s current largest winery.

Additionally, Firelands Winery is one of the state’s oldest wineries, dating back to 1880.

Enjoy a Drink at Volstead Speakeasy

316 E Water St, Sandusky, OH 

This unique bar has a lighting system above the door to let patrons know how many seats are available.

A green light above the door means that 5 or more seats are open and a red light means that there is no seating available.  

This little craft cocktail gem is a must when you are in Sandusky.

Enjoy a Frozen Drink at Paddle Bar Waterfront Tiki Bar

305 E Water St, Sandusky, OH

Paddle Bar is an island-style vibe tiki bar that features fresh squeezed cocktails and a great beer list.

They have tons of outside seating with amazing views of Sandusky Bay.

During the summer months there is live music and a Daiquiri Dock with feature frozen drinks for both adults and children. 

Visit Ohio’s Oldest Dairy – Toft’s Dairy Ice Cream Parlor

3717 Venice Road, Sandusky Ohio 

Toft’s Ice Cream has bragging rights as the oldest dairy in Ohio, dating back to the early 1900s.

The dairy farm has evolved to a 74,500 sq ft dairy plant. At the ice cream parlor, guests can choose from 50 flavors of ice cream along with other dairy products available for sale.

8. Go on a Drive Thru Animal Safari at African Safari Wildlife Park

267 S Lightner Rd, Port Clinton, OH

You can visit this destination for the majority of the year. It’s open from sometime in March until late November.

You can see and feed a variety of animals during the drive-thru experience at Ohio’s safari park.

Admission for the drive-thru safari includes unlimited trips that day and 1 cup of feed. Guests can purchase additional food to feed the animals from their vehicles. (You can’t feed the animals any outside food.)

Learn more about what we loved during our adventure at African Safari Wildlife Park.

There is also a walk-through safari open throughout spring and summer.

9. Admire the Views at Marblehead Lighthouse

110 Lighthouse Dr, Marblehead, OH 

Marblehead Lighthouse is one of the most photographed landmarks along Lake Erie. During the summer months, guests climb 77 steps to the top of the lighthouse for great views.

Marblehead Lighthouse has bragging rights as the oldest continuously run lighthouse on the Great Lakes. The lighthouse was built in 1821 and was originally known as Sandusky Bay Light.

While you’re at the park make sure that you admire the view of Cedar Point Amusement Park.

Looking for Additional Ideas in the Area?

The fun doesn’t stop here.

I’ve also got some seasonal ideas of things to do in Sandusky too.

Top Things to do Around Sandusky Ohio

How to make the most out of your visit to kalahari resorts.

Tips for visiting Kalahari Indoor Waterpark in Sandusky, Ohio.

Continue Reading

Reasons Why Sandusky Makes a Great Girlfriend Getaway

The top things to do during a girlfriend getaway to Sandusky, Ohio including Kelleys Island.

Reasons to Stay Onsite at Cedar Point's Hotel Breakers

Advantages of staying onsite during your visit to Cedar Point Amusement Park.

Adventures at Cedar Point Amusement Park

Tips for visiting Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio.

Survival Tips for HalloWeekends at Cedar Point if You Don't like Scary Things

Tips for visiting Cedar Point around Halloween if you don't like being scared.

Volstead Speakeasy Bar in Sandusky

Learn more about tips for visiting a speakeasy in downtown Sandusky, Ohio.

Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve in Sandusky

Learn more about a beautiful place to hike and watch wildlife in Sandusky, Ohio.

Relaxation and Recreation at Maumee Bay Lodge

Things for families to do during a stay at Maumee Bay Lodge in Ohio.

Snowshoe Trek to Lake Erie from Sawmill Creek Resort

Things to do at Sawmill Creek Resort in the winter.

5 Reasons Why I loved African Safari Wildlife Park

Why African Safari Wildlife drive-thru Park is fun for animal lovers.

You can have an adventure in Sandusky, Ohio all year round. Find a few more places to add to your list on your next visit.

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THE 10 BEST Things to Do Near African Safari Wildlife Park

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  1. African Safari Wildlife Park

    Plan your next visit to African Safari Wildlife Park, the Midwest's original drive-through safari! It's family fun for all ages!

  2. African Safari Wildlife Park

    Educational Attractions in Sandusky, Ohio. Welcome to African Safari Wildlife Park ... 419-732-3606. Address. 267 S Lightner Road, Port Clinton, OH 43452. Get Directions. Share. Share this African Safari Wildlife Park has been delighting families for over 50 years! ... Safari. Catch educational shows and special animal encounters throughout the ...

  3. The Wilds Animal Park: An African Safari Experience in Ohio

    The Wilds is one of the largest conservation centers in North America, set on about 10,000 acres of land in Southeast Ohio. The Wilds safari park is home to a number of rare and endangered animals from around the world, including cheetah, rhinos, camels, antelope, zebra, and giraffes. We'll give you all the information you need to plan a trip here and tell you about our own experience visiting ...

  4. African Safari Wildlife Park

    Hotels near African Safari Wildlife Park: (0.64 mi) Holiday Inn Express & Suites Port Clinton-Catawba Island, an IHG Hotel (1.50 mi) Our Sunset Place (0.85 mi) Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Port Clinton, OH (9.23 mi) Getaway Inn at Cooper's Woods (0.76 mi) Sleep Inn & Suites; View all hotels near African Safari Wildlife Park on Tripadvisor

  5. African Safari Wildlife Park

    African Safari Wildlife Park is located on Lightner Road in Port Clinton, Ohio. It's a 20-minute drive northwest of Sandusky and a 55-minute drive east of Toledo. Driving from Cleveland will take between an hour and a half and two hours.

  6. African Safari Park is a great addition to a family trip to Sandusky

    African Safari Wildlife Park: African Safari Park is a great addition to a family trip to Sandusky / Lake Erie Islands! - See 1,080 traveler reviews, 1,019 candid photos, and great deals for Port Clinton, OH, at Tripadvisor. ... Sandusky, Ohio. 43 31. Reviewed August 17, 2023 via mobile . Budgies are the best! First time here. You can buy cups ...

  7. Go Wild at African Safari Wildlife Park

    This family fun park also offers a playground, café and dining area, gem mining, and gift shop. African Safari Wildlife Park is open daily from March-December, rain or shine. To maximize your drive-thru experience, the last car is admitted one hour before park closing. Reservations are available for weekends and can be purchased online ...

  8. African Safari Wildlife Park

    African Safari Wildlife Park, Port Clinton, Ohio. 163,626 likes · 1,716 talking about this · 133,436 were here. From alpacas to zebras, you'll meet hundreds of amazing animals in our 65-acre...

  9. Why You'll Want To Drive Through This Ohio African Safari Park

    Experience the thrill of an African safari in Ohio! African Safari Wildlife Park offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal. ... Drive Through This African Safari Park Near Sandusky For An Epic Adventure. By Deb Thompson April 19, 2023 January 28, 2024. 12 Comments.

  10. African Safari Wildlife Park

    This free-range animal park has been delighting families for over 50 years. Feed giraffe, zebras, bison, deer and other amazing animals from the comfort of your vehicle. One Cup of animal food per car is included with admission. Stroll through the Walk-Thru Safari to see more exotic wildlife and take in educational programs. See website for days and hours of operation.

  11. African Safari Wildlife Park

    The African Safari Wildlife Park is a drive through wildlife park in Port Clinton, Ohio, United States. Visitors can drive through the 65-acre (26 ha) preserve and watch and feed the animals from their car. Visitors can spend as much time in the preserve as they wish, observing and feeding the animals, before proceeding to the walk through part ...

  12. African Safari Wildlife Park

    197 reviews and 622 photos of AFRICAN SAFARI WILDLIFE PARK "I took a special trip coming up here to surprise my girlfriend. we personally love the safari thing, and since we most likely will never visit Africa, this was the place to go. Yeah kinda pricey, but that fact that you get actual hands on with these animals, it was an awesome experience.

  13. Directions

    Directions to the nearest drive through safari can be found here in Ohio! Make your way to African Safari Wildlife Park and enjoy everything we have to offer!

  14. African Safari Wildlife Park

    Fresh Mediterranean Inspired Cooking Class in a Unique Detroit Home. 8. Food & Drink. from. $104.00. per adult. The area. 267 S Lightner Rd, Port Clinton, OH 43452-3851. Reach out directly.

  15. Drive Thru African Safari Wildlife Park in Ohio

    We set our sights on Port Clinton, Ohio near Sandusky. After a five-hour road trip from Indy, we arrived at our destination: the African Safari Wildlife Park. Given the length of the drive, I suggest making this more than a day trip. ... African Safari Wildlife Park is a seasonal park and operates from Spring through Fall. Admission for ages 7 ...

  16. Ohio's Drive-Thru Safaris

    The Park is open daily, rain or shine, from 10am to 5pm with the last car admitted at 4pm for the Spring Season. Summer Season begins the last week of May. The Midwest's Original Drive-Thru Safari Park, African Safari Wildlife Park, is at 267 S. Lightner Rd. in Port Clinton, Ohio. Ohi's Drive-Thru Safaris.

  17. African Safari Wildlife Park

    :The African Safari Wildlife Park is a drive through wildlife park in Port Clinton, Ohio. Visitors can drive through the 100-acre preserve and watch and feed the animals from their car." Bookmark

  18. 9 Fun Things to Do Around Sandusky, Ohio, Year Round

    301 Jackson St, Sandusky, OH . The historic building that houses the museum was a former post office. ... Go on a Drive Thru Animal Safari at African Safari Wildlife Park .

  19. THE 10 BEST Things to Do Near African Safari Wildlife Park

    3936 E Harbor Light Landing Dr, Port Clinton, OH 43452-3876. 0.6 miles from African Safari Wildlife Park. Miller Boat Line. #1 of 21 things to do in Port Clinton. 465 reviews. 5174 E Water St, Port Clinton, OH 43452-9783. 4.8 miles from African Safari Wildlife Park. The Lake House. #4 of 9 Shopping in Port Clinton.

  20. Hotel in Sandusky, OH

    1021 Cleveland Road, Sandusky, OH, 44870-0353, US. (419) 626-6852 . 808 Real Guest Reviews