Kids Adventures: Animals
Go on safari at the Wagon Trails Animal Park in Trumbull County, the African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton and more.
Hikes & Night Events | Bugs, Blooms & Water | History & Farm Life | Camps & Classes | Animals
African Safari Wildlife Park
From a drive-through safari to camel rides, this Port Clinton attraction caters to aspiring adventurers of all ages.
President and famed outdoorsman Theodore Roosevelt scoured the African landscape during a 1909 safari, searching for specimens to fill the nation’s then-new Smithsonian Natural History Museum. He probably never envisioned a day when his fellow countrymen would take afternoon safaris from the comfort of their air-conditioned cars. But Port Clinton’s African Safari Wildlife Park provides aspiring explorers of all ages an up-close adventure with exotic creatures.
The drive-through adventure features 30 different species ranging from Scottish highlander cattle and white bison to sika deer and giraffes. “You can’t get this anywhere else ... [experiencing] a giraffe or bison from your vehicle,” says park employee Kendall Stevens.
Those looking for a more traditional zoo experience can enjoy the walk-through safari, featuring animals such as a tortoise and a white alligator. Other activities include kangaroo feeding and camel rides.
During the summer months, educational programming is offered three times a day, during which naturalists introduce children to some of the park’s residents. “Kids can come up and touch the animals and just learn and ask questions about them,” says Stevens.
African Safari Wildlife Park owner Holly Hunt says providing youngsters an opportunity to interact with animals leaves a lasting impression.
“It is easier to learn something when you can see it and touch it rather than in a book or on a computer screen,” she says. “It’s an interactive experience that really resonates with the children.” Visit website for admission and hours; 267 S. Lightner Rd., Port Clinton 43452, 419/732-3606, africansafariwildlifepark.com
Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm
This 200-acre nature preserve near Dayton includes a farm that lets the little ones get a close-up look at heritage turkeys, cows and chickens, while inviting kids to try their hand at milking a full-size replica of a dairy cow. The lessons also happen outside on the property’s trails and in its creeks and pond. “We may start some of our educational programs in the building … [but] there is nothing like taking the kids outside and using the property as a living classroom,” says Alexis Faust, the center’s executive director. Adults $5, children 3–18 $3; visit website for hours; 1000 Aullwood Rd., Dayton 45414, 937/890-7360,aullwood.org
Wagon Trails Animal Park
More than 300 animals roam free on 70 acres at Wagon Trails Animal Park in Trumbull County. Each safari ticket comes with a bucket of food guests can use to feed the animals during stops on the tour. “Once they get on the truck, they are blown away because the animals come up to the truck and you are feeding them,” says co-owner Diane Fleming. During the 45-to-60-minute tour, riders will see a selection of wildlife that includes zebras, ostrich, buffalo and elk. After the tour, guests are welcome to visit the on-site petting zoo featuring a variety of barnyard creatures. There’s also an area where children can spend time grooming small animals. “We bought little animals that kids can go in and interact with,” Fleming says. “We have a little miniature horse and a miniature cow the kids can brush.” Adults $16.95, children $13.95, 907 Youngstown Kingsville Rd. SE, Vienna 44473, 330/539-4494, wagontrails.com
This expansive, 9,000-acre nature preserve provides kids the thrill of an African safari without ever leaving the state. Daily activities here include open-air tours, horseback riding, zip lining and educational experiences at the on-site nature center. “You can see all kinds of endangered animals through the rolling hills and landscape and, most importantly, learn a lot about conservation,” says Rick Dietz, vice president of The Wilds. WildCamp, a weeklong summer camp for kids ages 8 to 18, provides an inside look at the preserve. “They stay in Mongolian-style yurts and they get to do traditional summer camp activities like canoeing, swimming and hiking,” Dietz says. “But they also get the opportunity to work side by side with our animal-management specialist and our veterinary team.” Visit website for admission prices and hours as well as summer camp information; 14000 International Rd., Cumberland 43732, 740/648-5030, thewilds.columbuszoo.org