This post is in partnership with Virginia Safari Park and Visit Shenandoah Valley who hosted our visit. All opinions are my own. You can read my full Disclosure Policy here.
My family loves animals, and any kind of petting zoo is right up our alley. On our recent trip to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, we had the opportunity to visit Virginia Safari Park, which is unlike any animal experience we’ve ever had. Absolutely incredible is the best way to describe it!
Virginia Safari Park
This Park is located in Natural Bridge, Virginia, and if you’re anywhere near the area, it’s worth the trip. I really want to go back one day soon (I would have gone back the very next day if possible!).
There’s a drive-through portion, which we did first, and then a walk-through portion. Your admission is paid at the gates as you drive in, and it includes both sections. You can opt for a wagon ride through the drive-through part, but we kind of liked being in our own car and setting our own pace. (Note: My car got filthy. I don’t drive anything fancy so that was fine, but if your car is your baby, the wagon ride might be for you.)
I’ve got some of my favorite photos of our visit for you below, and some tips on planning your trip. We did learn a lesson or two from these animals!
The Safari Drive-Through
When you come through the gate, you’ll receive a booklet that identifies all the animals in the park. We weren’t always able to match them up but it was definitely helpful.
As you’ll see in the photos here, these animals are NOT shy!
I love this one of the food flying! You can buy the buckets of food when you get your tickets. Keep a tight hold on them! If you watched the video I have above, you saw how my son lost his to a hungry guy pretty shortly after we entered. My husband lost his, too.
I decided I was going to hold onto mine no matter what, and I flung food all over myself and my car when I pulled it away from a furry friend. Hilarious, and a great memory, but I was basically a mess until I could get out and clean myself and my seat up.
So just be aware – if you can’t stand getting messy, this might not be your cup of tea. However, if you’re like us and want to hug all the animals, you’re going to freak out with joy over the whole experience.
This guy wanted to drive the car! The animals might be a little slobbery but they are all friendly. None of them are aggressive and you don’t have to worry about your kids getting bitten or anything like that.
Mine were happy to sweet talk and pet every pal that stuck their head in the window.
Be ready with the cameras! This is one of my favorite selfies ever.
The llamas are super sweet and more gentle eaters than some of the others.
I mentioned the messy factor above, so I wouldn’t wear your nicest clothing here. You’re likely to get some food on yourself. It’s all part of the experience!
You’ll meet a lot of wet noses, too. This Texas longhorn cattle was very interested in getting his face in the food pail!
And look at that, unicorns are real!
My kids had total blast interacting with all of these animals.
You’re not allowed to get out of the car when you’re driving through, and doors have to stay closed. If you have a minivan that gets tricky, because side windows don’t roll down. You can’t open the slider doors. Just keep in mind that you can drive through as many times as you’d like, so if you want to swap seats and make sure everyone gets the chance to get up close with the animals, you can definitely do that.
Look how friendly this guy is! A lot of the ‘hungrier’ animals greeted us pretty shortly after we drove in. But the drive is a decent length, and by the end we had very little food left.
If we get to go again (I hope so!), I think I’ll put a couple of the food buckets aside until later in the drive, so that we have some to feed the animals at the end. That’s where the bison are and they are fun to feed!
The Virginia Safari Park is a total of 180-acres, and it’s a really beautiful habitat for these animals. They are free to roam anywhere, and have lots of places to find shade and shelter.
Feeding a bison out of your car window is quite an experience! I fed one right out of my hand and their tongues are looong and sandpapery. Thankfully I had some wet wipes in the car. (There’s another tip – that’s a smart thing to bring along!)
But they are so docile and sweet. We absolutely loved interacting with these gentle giants.
The Village Walk-Through
Admission to the Virginia Safari Park includes both the drive-through and the walk-through portion. We did the drive-through first, and that’s probably what I would recommend.
It was good to get out of the car when we finished that, clean ourselves and our seats up a little bit, and then do the walk-through area.
There were a lot of new babies in the Park when we visited! These little piggies were so funny. They broke through one fence to get to this one so they could come see the visitors.
Squirrel monkeys were one of our favorite entertainers. They leap and hop around non-stop.
We got to see the ring-tailed lemurs being fed. Check out the mama on top of the log. Do you see her baby on her back? Adorable!
This monkey is the wisest guy in the Park. Clearly. Just look at that face.
It was pretty hot the day we visited and the kangaroos huddled in the shade. They lay just like people, propped up on an elbow and sprawled out.
We spent a ton of time in the budgie tent. Budgies are colorful little birds, and for $1 you can buy a stick of food to feed them.
They’ll fly to you and land right on your hands. At one point I had 4 of them on my shoulders!
Just hold the stick out and one of the birds will fly to you for a bite to eat. They have small claws, so they don’t hurt to hold at all. My son especially loved this part of the Park. We actually stopped here twice – once before lunch and once after.
Speaking of lunch, there is an eatery in the Park, The Watering Hole Cafe, that has really good food. We grabbed lunch and ate it on a picnic table under a tree.
If you’ve never had the opportunity to feed a giraffe right out of your hand, here’s your shot! For $5, you can purchase a souvenir cup filled with lettuce and feed these cuties on top of the platform that puts you level with their sweet faces.
They are so sweet and so gentle. The baby stayed close to her mama but didn’t want to eat so mama got all the lettuce!
This is definitely worth doing for $5. Such a fun, memorable experience!
A Few Tips
I tried to cover a few tips in the post, but to summarize:
- DO THIS! It’s one of the most fun travel experiences we’ve ever had. If you’re in the Shenandoah Valley area, don’t miss it!
- You’re going to get messy, and so is your car. Dress appropriately (I’d leave the cute sundresses and heels at home, ladies), and bring some wet wipes to clean up your hands and your car. Slobber on the dashboard is gonna happen.
- Spring for the food to feed the animals, including the seed sticks for the budgie birds, and the lettuce for the giraffes. It’s worth every penny.
- Bring your camera! There are a million photo opps you don’t want to miss. And take video! The kids’ faces are priceless.
- Get their when they open. We went on a Saturday on a holiday weekend, so I expected it to be busy. We got there about an hour after opening and waited in the car line for probably 20-30 minutes. Later in the day, the car line was insane. Try a weekday if possible, but definitely get their early if you can.
- Don’t bring your pets, and don’t bring your own food to feed the animals. Neither are permitted.
- Have fun and embrace the experience. We’ve never done anything like this and are so thankful we had the opportunity!
Visit the Virginia Safari Park website for all the info you need to plan your visit. You can follow on Facebook, too. Trust me, if you love animals this is a MUST DO. I really think this is at the top of my list for most incredible travel experiences ever!
Be sure to browse the Visit Shenandoah Valley website for more tips on what to do while you’re in the area.
More Shenandoah Valley Posts:
- Natural Bridge, Virginia: A Photo Tour
- Massanutten Resort Review: Family Adventure in the Shenandoah Valley
- Grand Caverns In Virginia: A Photo Tour
- Amazing Animal Interactions at Virginia Safari Park
- Skyline Drive Through Shenandoah National Park