I'm a published wedding and portrait photographer located in a small town outside of Charlottesville. In addition to capturing beautiful images, I love spending time with my family, am freakishly good at word games (Hey Wheelmobile!), love an ice cold can of Coke or Dr. Pepper, know every line to Hocus Pocus and can never pass up a Chick-fil-A waffle fry or a trip to HomeGoods.
One of my favorite places opened for the season last Saturday–the Virginia Safari Park. The park, which has been voted one of the top 10 animal attractions in the nation, is a 180-acre drive-through zoo located in Natural Bridge. Visitors purchase buckets of food at the entrance and then drive through, feeding the more than 1,000 animals out of the car windows along the way.
There are tons of different animals including deer, pigs, llamas, camels, cows, hippos, giraffes and more. As a side note, the camels are notorious bucket stealers. I actually had to wrestle my bucket away from one, so I’d avoid feeding them. Also, don’t feed the zebras because apparently it makes them aggressive. Otherwise, you’re good to feed anything that will come to your car. There’s also a wagon option which takes you on a different route, but I’ve always opted for the self-driven option.
After the drive-through portion of the park, there’s a walk-through village in which visitors can feed buggies and get up close and personal with kangaroos. They literally hop around you as you’re walking through their area. It’s one of my favorite parts.
The whole place is pretty amazing and definitely worth a visit. Be mindful that it can get very busy on the weekends, so if you can swing it, go during the week. Also, try to avoid hotter days when the animals are less likely to want to play and go earlier so they haven’t had their daily fill. Be sure to bring your camera as you’ll want to get lots of photos of the animals and leave any pets at home as Fido isn’t going to like the camel shoving his head in your car.
The Virginia Safari Park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but gates close at 4 p.m. There are also extended hours beginning in April. Admission is about $18 for adults and $12 for children 2-12. Children under 2 are free.