When was the last time you fed giraffes out of your hand, observed zebras in free-roam pastures or spent the night on a wildlife preserve? It’s about time to get the full safari experience -- without even leaving the country.
But these safaris aren’t just for entertainment; the parks are based on principles of conservation and education, and take steps towards protecting the animals in a time our earth (and its inhabitants) need us more than ever. Supporting these preserves is a way of ensuring that future generations will be able to have their own safari adventures.
Keep reading for the best safaris in the U.S.
Safari West in Santa Rosa
Turns out, wine tasting/guzzling isn’t the only thing to do in SonomaWine Country: Visitors to this acclaimed American Viticultural Area can also get up close and personal with giraffes, rhinos, zebras and other animals at the Santa Rosa Safari West
wildlife preserve. A research institute, tourist destination and hotel wrapped into one, Safari West offers a mix of African-style jeep tours, luxury glamping tents and conservation efforts, including public lectures and educational programming.
American Prairie Reserve in Bozeman, Montana
Known colloquially as the “American Serengeti,” the American Prairie Reserve
supports efforts to protect and revitalize the Great Plains region; the ongoing project has been collecting land in northeastern Montana (near Bozeman) since 2004 and operates both as an animal conservatory and public space. The rugged, undeveloped land welcomes guests looking to check out the wildlife, hike or bike one of the trails, stargaze, horseback ride or take a self-guided driving tour. Guests can set up tents and RVs at Buffalo Camp or opt for a package at Kestrel Camp, a safari-style program including full-service accommodations, naturalist tours and ground transportation.
Safari Wilderness Ranch in Lakeland, Florida
Located between Orlando and Tampa on 260 acres of preserved land surrounded by the Green Swamp, Safari Wilderness Ranch
is a gem hidden amid the marshes. Guests can explore the area by vehicle, kayak or camel -- yes, camel. All tours are guided and include a variety of wildlife viewing opportunities (and interactions) as you move across the expansive preserve.
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in San Antonio
The Alamo isn’t the only thing you’ll remember when visiting San Antonio -- at least not after a visit to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
, a more than 400-acre park located about a 35-minute drive northwest of the city center. Though the park includes a petting barnyard and walk-a-bout, the best way to see the animals is by car; guests can drive alongside the pastures to view -- and feed -- the animals, which are free to roam and approach the car. The Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is also deeply dedicated to conservation efforts, specifically those that work with giraffes (including the ranch’s rare set of twins).
African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio
You don’t even have to leave your car to get close to the wildlife -- including deer, bison, camels, alpacas and zebras -- at the African Safari Wildlife Park
. In fact, the popular drive-thru safari option lets guests visit and feed the animals right from the comfort of a self-guided excursion. Alternatively, those looking for a more traditional experience can opt for the walk-thru safari and shows. The park, located near the coast of Lake Erie, also offers giraffe adventures, seasonal camel rides, kangaroo feedings and educational programs ideal for little ones, group visits or families!
Everglades Safari Park in Miami
As a distinctly Florida “safari,” you’re more likely to spot alligators than giraffes on the airboat excursions offered by Everglades Safari Park
. The popular Eco-Adventure Tour -- led by an experienced guide and departing regularly every 30 minutes -- includes an airboat ride into Everglades National Park, an alligator wildlife nature show and access to the jungle trail, observation platforms and exhibits.
Wildlife Safari Park in Ashland, Nebraska
As part of the larger Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari
, the seasonal park’s drive-thru experience positions guests to view elk, white-tailed deer, bison and waterfowl. But this isn’t the only way to view the animals and exhibits at the Wildlife Safari Park; the grounds also feature viewing stops, hiking trails and walk-thru areas including wolf and black bear habitats, a hands-on corral and an eagle aviary. The full-service conservatory also offers a series of step-on bus tours, educational classes, family events and campouts, where guests can immerse themselves in an overnight experience under the stars (and a provided canvas tent).
San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido
One of the larger parks of its kind in the U.S., the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
includes 1800 acres, 3500 animals and 260 species -- and a diverse range of safaris by zip line, caravan, cart or jungle ropes. There are also the cheetah safari, which includes trackside viewing of the cheetah run; the overnight “roar and snore” safari, which can be booked for adults only or with all ages; and the ultimate VIP safari, an all-day personalized private tour including access to restricted areas and a meal. Between the various shows, restaurants, animal encounters, gardens and attractions, the only problem here is not knowing where to start.
Malibu Wine Safari in California
For the 21+ crowd, there’s no better way to get your wine and
wildlife on than with a Malibu Wine Safari
through the 1000-acre Saddlerock Ranch. Tour stops include both wine tastings and animal viewing opportunities; guests can meet (and feed) animals including alpacas, zebras, bison and llamas, as well as visit with Stanley the Giraffe (when booking the Giraffe Tour). Malibu Wine offers six pre-designed tours, including a family tour open to those aged 7+, a mimosa tour and a vineyard and lunch tour. Best of all, your experience doesn’t end when the tour does -- guests can pop over to the Malibu Wine tasting room and lawn to keep the wine flowing and the good vibes going.