AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texans can take a wild ride this summer at one of the many zoos and drive-thru safaris in our area.
These local zoos contain a variety of exotic animals such as giraffes, big cats, emus and lemurs. Some offer up close encounters with specific species and sell food for the animals.
Here are several places that offer game drives and animal encounters and what you need to know before you go.
1. Austin Zoo
10808 Rawhide Trail, Austin.
Austin Zoo’s animals include big cats, zebras, ostriches, monkeys, bears, reptiles, and more. Visitors can take self-guided tours of the Southwest Austin Zoo.
More animals such as donkeys, longhorn, warthogs, and ostriches can be viewed on the zoo’s train ride, which starts every hour.
Free conversations with zookeepers let guests learn about each species. Close encounters with animals such as capybaras can be booked in advance.
Guests can bring picnic food to eat on site.
The zoo’s regular hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with extended hours until 6:00 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online and range from $13.95 to $16.95.
2. Capital of the Texas Zoo
376 Jenkins Road, Cedar Creek.
The Texas Zoo’s capital, Cedar Creek, is home to a variety of animals, including white tigers, black leopards, and lions. Zoo tours are self-guided.
This zoo has a variety of close encounters with animals, including feeding big cats, encounters with lemurs, and swimming with otters. Meetings can be booked at the front office. The costs differ per encounter with an animal.
General tickets can be purchased in person. Prices range from $10 to $15 with free entry for children under 2 years old.
The Texas Capital Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Guests can bring coolers and picnic items to eat at the zoo.
3. Exotic Resort Zoo
235 Zoo Trail, Johnson City.
The zoo in Johnson City has drive-thru tours and guided tractor tours for visitors to see the zoo’s animals. The zoo has over 45 species of animals, including gazelles, emus, camels, elk, zebra, buffalo, kangaroos, and more animals.
Tickets range from $14.95 to $17.95 and include the petting zoo and tour. Visitors can also purchase feed buckets to feed the animals.
Drive-thru tickets must be purchased online in advance to secure a time. Tickets for guided tours can be purchased online or at the zoo.
Exotic Resort Zoo is open every day from 9am to 6pm, last tour starts at 5pm
The zoo also offers eight safari cabins for four, six or eight guests.
4. Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
26515 Natural Bridge Caverns Road, San Antonio.
Visitors can take drive-thru tours of the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in northern San Antonio and see animals such as antelope, giraffes, lemurs, kudus, bison, wallabies, wildebeest, and more.
Tickets range from $16.99 to $28.99 discounted most weekdays.
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is open during the summer from 9am to 5pm or 6pm. Specific hours are listed online.
5. Sanctuary Serengeti
250 Plum Church Road, West Point.
Visitors can drive their car through the Serengeti Sanctuary at La Grange. The drive-thru safari park has multiple routes to see the animals.
Tickets are $13.50 to $15 with free entry for visitors under 2 years of age. Reservations are not necessary and tickets can be purchased on arrival. Feed buckets can also be purchased.
Sanctuary Serengeti drive-thru hours are 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and the last tour starts at 5:00 PM
6. Topsey Exotic Ranch
The Topsey Exotic Ranch offers a drive-in safari near Copperas Cove.
Safari guide handouts give visitors more information about each species at Topsey Exotic Ranch. There are more than 50 species on site, including camels, zebras, bobcats and gazelles, and the ranch is adding a number of new species such as baby squirrel monkeys.
In addition to drive-in tours, guests can hike to see more animals and visit the petting zoo where they can purchase food.
Tickets range from $11.50 to $13.50 with free entry for visitors under 2 years old.
Topsey Exotic Ranch is open daily. Admission times are from March to September from 9am to 5pm.
945 CR 118, Copperas Cove. www.topseyexoticranch.com
This story is part of a KXAN series highlighting activities in Central Texas – you can see our full list on our ‘Things to Do in Central Texas’ page. Do you have an idea of something we should profile? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.