Though the idea of a safari in far away African lands may be exciting, the expense and logistics for families with children can be a major determent.
Considering cross-continent fares to remote airports, guided tours and luxury game resorts the average cost a day per person can run into the hundreds or even more.
Factor in malaria shots, long flights and extensive traveling in an unfamiliar landscape and it becomes easy to forgo this experience entirely.
I don’t want to dash the dreams of the little zoological adventurers in your brood however.
Below are 8 more affordable creature-filled alternatives (much) closer to home where your family can get their animal kingdom fix!
1) Fossil Ridge Wildlife Center- Glen Rose, Texas
Blackbuck antelope are just one of many species roaming Fossil Ridge. Image by Res2216firestar.
This nonprofit-run sanctuary for endangered species encompasses more than 1,700 acres in the rolling Texas hills.
Fossil Ridge contains over 50 different species including giraffe, zebra, antelope, rhinos and bison. Visitors can participate in guided family tours to view the animals or drive through the open range on their own.
Family accommodations at the wildlife center range from the rustic luxury of the Lodge to barebones bunkhouses that sleep up to 14 for an affordable $85 a night.
As an added bonus for the budding paleontologists in your group, Glen Rose is also considered the “Dinosaur Capital of Texas”.
Cost: Admission starts at $20.95 for adults, $13.95 for children during the March-October peak season. Off-season and midweek discounts are available.
2) Barbados Wildlife Reserve- Saint Peter, Barbados
A red-footed tortoise relaxes on a shaded path in the Barbados Wildlife Reserve. Image by Postdlf.
On this beautiful Caribbean island, families can stroll through the reserve on shaded walking paths made from bricks recycled from local sugar factories.
A diverse selection of animals including green monkeys, iguanas, tortoises, armadillos and a stunning array of tropical birds roam free under the thick canopy of a mahogany forest.
Cost: $11.75 for adults, $5.87 for children. This entrance fee also covers the adjacent Grenade Hall forest and Signal Station.
3) Parc Safari – Montreal, Canada
Of all the animals visitors can hand feed at Parc Safari, there are warnings that the zebras can get a little nippy! Image by David Dennis.
Described as “Africa in the Heart of Quebec”, a drive through the park’s Adventure Safari offers access to hundreds of species from five continents.
Animals ranging from ostriches to zebras get up close and personal as they nip at food through car windows.
Don’t miss the Lion Tunnel, a clear glass enclosure where visitors can view the beasts from all sides!
Cost: Family packages that offer entrance to the park for two adults and two kids for two days as well as a stay at one of the local campgrounds start at $150 a night.
4) Spring Creek Ranch- Jackson, Wyoming
See majestic beasts in their natural habitat during a bear and wolf safari. Image by Doug Smith.
This ranch and resort located on a 1,000 acre wildlife sanctuary offers exhilarating safari options for every season of the year.
In the fall and spring a four-day bear and wolf safari throughout remote regions of Yellowstone National Park is offered. Autumn is the optimal time for seeing these predators in action as they hunt to prepare for long frozen months ahead.
The ranch also offers sleigh rides through a national elk reserve in the winter and customizable dawn or dusk safaris are available year round.
Cost: The Dawn and Dusk Wildlife Safari starts at $115 for adult, $85 for children. Wolf and Bear Safaris cost $1,350 per a person which includes three nights lodging and food costs.
5) Disney’s Animal Kingdom- Lake Buena Vista, Florida
With live shows, raft rides, roller coasters and over 1,700 animals, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has it all! Image by Clavet.
Why not add a little safari to the classic Disney World family trip? The park’s main attraction is a bumpy ride in an open vehicle through a 100-acre savannah among giraffes, elephants, rhinos, cheetahs and many other beasts.
Families looking to spend a little bit more for a once in a lifetime experience can sign up for the park’s exclusive Wild Africa Trek.
This privately guided hike takes visitors through the heart of the animals’ habitat, involving harnesses and a trek across a dangling rope bridge over hungry crocodiles!
Costs: Admission to the park is $85 for adults, $79 for children. Pricing for the Wild Africa Trek starts at $189 per person.
6) Alaska Saltwater Lodge Wildlife and Glacier Tour-Seward, Alaska
Get up close and personal with exhilarating marine life on a boat tour through Alaska’s Resurrection Bay. Image by Whit Welles.
For dramatic and authentic wildlife viewing it’s hard to find any place that compares to Alaska.
At about a 2 ½ hour drive from Anchorage, the quiet seaport town of Seward serves as a great hub for wilderness exploration.
Alaska Saltwater Lodge offers small group boat tours where your family can see sea otters, sea lions, bald eagles, porpoises, puffins, humpback whales.
Costs: A full day small group tour starts at $159 for adults, $79.50 for children.
7) Safari West Wildlife Preserve- Santa Rosa, CA
Safari West also offers some interesting excursions for grown-ups such as the Wine, Wheels and Warthogs Bike ‘N Safari Tour. Image by Eric Dane.
Safari in the beautiful Sonoma wine country! Safari West’s 400 acres can be best explored through the three hour Safari Tour.
The first part of the adventure is spent rambling through wild terrain in an open air vehicle followed by a 45 minute walking tour to get even more up and close with animals such as buffalos, wildebeest, cheetahs and giraffes.
Costs: Tour is $68 for adults, $30 for children.
8) Everglades Safari Park- Miami, Florida
Mangrove swamps are just one of the many ecosystems brimming with diverse life in Everglades National Park. Image by Rodney Cammauf.
The family will love an air boat ride through Everglades National Park which encompasses over 1.4 million acres of diverse habitat brimming with flora and fauna from all ends of the spectrum.
Species such as alligators, multiple varieties of both turtles and frogs, manatees and even the elusive Florida panther call this wilderness home.
Costs: Group air-boat tour is $23 for adults, $10 for children.
Have you been on a family safari? What were your experiences? Let me know in the comments.
If you liked this, you might also like: 19 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Family Vacation.
Main image: by Robek