Virginia Safari Park
An unexpected delight, the Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge, Virginia, was the star activity of our camping getaway to nearby Cave Mountain Lake Campground. The highlight of the Virginia Safari Park experience is the three-mile safari drive where a variety of exotic animals may (or may not) approach the vehicle begging for food.
Purchase your Virginia Safari Park tickets online - weekday tickets are $3 off each admission. The added advantage of a weekday visit is the lack of crowds. Plan an early arrival to ensure hungry animals (which are more likely to come up to you). Check the website for seasonal hours.
Definitely purchase food buckets! The experience of wildlife approaching was at first overwhelming and slightly frightening, but if you want the interaction then you'll want the feed. Feed only from the buckets to avoid nips. Watch the ostrich in the video - he pecks fast and furious. Just a reminder: For the health of these animals, the Virginia Safari Park does not allow outside feed.
Here is where Tip #2 leads to Tip #3. Hold on tightly to those buckets! The animals are clever and will snatch the bucket from your hands. How do we know? A tug-of-war between my daughter and a deer, as well as the number of buckets seen along the gravel drive. We found that leaving the windows open halfway kept them from reaching all the way into the van. Just a reminder: If you lose the bucket battle, do not leave your vehicle to retrieve it - anyone outside of their vehicle will be immediately expelled from the park.
Be prepared to be stopped by the llamas. The beginning of the safari starts in an open meadow where llamas are one of the first to greet the visitors. Watch out for the head llama who plants himself in the front of the vehicle to stop it while his friends jostle into position to get to the buckets.
Pace the food carefully over the three miles or the above llamas will gladly eat all of it. The gravel road passes through the open plains and then winds itself through a forested area before ending back at the start. Save some food to feed all those other wildlife beggars on your drive. Just a reminder: Paid admission gives you access to the Virginia Safari Park Drive-Thru and Safari Village for the entire day - show your receipt for re-entry.
This is not a trip for pristine vehicles and mess-adverse folks. If you aren't interested in feed pellets flung throughout your car, snot smears on the paint, wet nose prints on the windows, or horn-induced scratches, then do yourself a favor and sign up for the wagon ride. Just a reminder: Virginia Safari Park is not liable for any damage to vehicles.
Savor the encounters between the wildlife and yourselves. Listen to the bugle call of a bull elk, feed a shaggy bison, or pet a spiral-horned blackbuck antelope. A trip that everyone will remember!
Explore the Virginia Safari Park Village Walk-Thru. If the interactive safari ride wasn't enough, purchase budgie sticks at the gift shop and head over the Budgie Adventure Aviary or purchase romaine lettuce and hand feed giraffes at the Giraffe Feeding Station. Afterwards, spend some time exploring the other exhibits such as the penguin pool, kangaroo walk-about, and farmyard petting area.
Have you been to the Virginia Safari Park? Please tell us about it in the comments below or about another animal activity that we should try. We'd love to hear from you!