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6 Best East Coast Safaris for Families (Recommended by Real Parents!)

Two adorable boys feeding the deer from the car in Virginia Safari Park
Photo Courtesy: Tarah J Hackney

Some of the best East Coast safaris and animal parks for families await your next adventure! Who wouldn’t love a trek to Africa to visit tigers, giraffes, and other exotic animals? Yet many who lack the budget or time are always left seeking alternatives. Luckily for those in or near the United States, destinations like the East Coast offer similar experiences for a fraction of the cost! In fact, there so many magical safaris, some may even find it hard to choose which are best to visit. That’s why Families Love Travel has compiled this list of Fun U.S. East Coast Safaris and Animal Parks for Families! From a visit to Six Flags in New Jersey to a Lion Country Safari in Palm Beach, animal-loving children will treasure these memories for years to come!

Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari

Jackson, New Jersey

Hand with a cell phone taking pictures of giraffe at Six Flags Animal Safari, one of the 5 US East Coast Safaris and Animal Parks for Families
Photo Courtesy: Sarah Einhorn

Six Flags Safari is like a giant family wonderland! Located in Jackson, New Jersey, this park boasts 1,200 animals from six continents across a 350-acre preserve. Kids will love every minute of this experience, between spotting elephants, rhinos, tigers, giraffes, and more during an hour-long ride. You’ll also pass through designated habitats, like The Americas, Africa, and Wild Plains to learn how they’re unique! Of course, the best part is you’ll stay comfortable within your car — and the adrenaline rush won’t cost you much. Six Flag’s Safari Adventure is included within your theme park admission! This wonderful attraction also lasts 45 minutes, though we recommend visiting earlier in the day before wait times become lengthy. Definitely make the most of your visit here! Finally, be sure to make a reservation.

Other Experiences in the Park

Looking for more outdoor fun at one of the best safari zoos? Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari also offers more opportunities to see these glorious creatures up-close! In the popular Safari Off-Road Adventure, a skilled driver will take families near wandering wild animals in their natural habitats. Keep an eye out for Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs and other exotic creatures! Afterward, the driver will also stop at Camp Aventura, where kids can zip line, pet reptiles, or feed birds. With so much to offer this is truly one of the best drive-through safari parks near New Jersey!

Find the COVID-19 policies and protocols for Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari here.

Virginia Safari Park

Natural Bridge, Virginia

Virginia Safari Park is the only of its kind in the state! Families who embark on this drive-through safari adventure will be fully immersed in Virginia’s natural environment, as hundreds of animals frolic across this 180-acre property. In fact, this safari animal park is entirely focused on a laid-back philosophy, letting animals roam free to follow their instincts. Drive your vehicle over three miles of gravel road set against the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley. Along the way, appreciate elks gazing, gazelles prancing by your windows, and even the occasional zebra sighting. Take as much time as you want to explore and feed the animals through your windows!

Other Experiences in the Park

Virginia Safari Park, one of the best drive-through safari parks on the East Coast, also showcases additional chances to tour its property! Take a wagon ride around the park to receive a behind-the-scenes tour. Or, enjoy the Safari Village Walk-Thru Area, where kids can spot tigers, kangaroos, penguins, and even feed an 18-foot tall giraffe! There’s also an aviary highlighting various bird species native to the area, as well as a Petting Zoo for little ones to interact with animals up close. Pet pot-bellied pigs, chickens, baby llamas, and all your barnyard favorites!

Find the COVID-19 policies and protocols for Virginia Safari Park here.

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Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Orlando, Florida

Kilimanjaro Safari is Disney World’s premier animal encounter experience! Located within Disney’s Animal Kingdom, this attraction allows families to explore the Harambe Wildlife Reserve through an open-air vehicle. Cruise down picturesque landscapes ranging from sprawling plains to rocky wetlands while learning fun facts about the animals galavanting free before you! Though only lasting around twenty minutes, Kilimanjaro is a fantastic break from the theme-park chaos, particularly for the educational value you’ll receive from the expert tour guide. Spot African lions, giraffes, elephants, cheetahs, and so many more amazing photo opportunities on this unique visit to Disney World!

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Other Experiences in the Park

Luckily, outdoor fun doesn’t have to stop there at this safari animal park! Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, one of the best drive-through safari parks near Orlando, offers families anything from rainforest adventure rides to character-led animal performances, and a Conservation Station featuring real fossils! To see the Harambe Wildlife Reserve from a different vantage point by night, you can also take an After-Dark Safari Tour! Or, test your bravery across trapeze bridges and obstacles courses through a Wild Africa Trek, a VIP expedition perfect for older children or teens.

SeaWorld & Aquatica – Two great parks. One great deal.

Find the COVID-19 policies and protocols for Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom here.

Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari

Pine Mountain, Georgia

A hand feeds a horse out a car window at the Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari, one of the best East Coast Safaris for Families.
Photo Courtesy: Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari

Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari was designed with little ones in mind! This affordable park is especially appealing to children aged three to twelve, helping growing imaginations develop a lifelong love of animals and nature. Arrive early to ensure you have plenty of time to tour the park at your own pace (and a few dollars to buy some regulated treats to feed the cuddly creatures!). Along the 3.5-mile-drive, families will have endless opportunities to encounter hundreds of exotic animals, including many who will approach your car directly to say hello! Feed a giraffe, watch water buffalo roam free, and also come face-to-face with a slobbering camel. Visitors of all ages always leave here with a wide grin to remember the experience!

Other Experiences in the Park

Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari offers various attractions included within its admission ticket. If you don’t want to dirty your own car, for example, take a complimentary bus tour led by an entertaining guide. Or, rent one of the popular Zebra vans to drive through at your leisure! Many contributors recommend the rental van to avoid car scratches, as many animals will be coming right up to your vehicle. As an alternative to the drive-in experience, Pine Mountain also offers a walk-about area, where you can spot Bengal tigers, peacocks, and more while stretching your legs! With so much to offer, this is truly one of the best drive-through safari parks on the East Coast for kids.

Find the COVID-19 policies and protocols for Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari here.

Lion Country Safari

Palm Beach County, Florida

Several lions lounge on the grass at the Lion Country Safari, one of the best East Coast Safaris for Families.
Photo Courtesy: Lion Country Safari

Lion Country Safari is a one-of-a-kind Florida experience! Featuring a drive-through and walk-in safari, a group of entrepreneurs developed it to bring an authentic African experience to the U.S. South Florida was the perfect location because of the warm climate and plentiful land! Luckily, families can still enjoy their fruitful idea today, whether on foot or in a vehicle. In the spirit of Lion Country Safari being the first U.S. drive-through safari, however, definitely tour the preserve via car first! Split into sections like Gir Forest and Las Pampas, the park is home to various wildlife visible from your window. Kids can spot African lions, ostriches, wildebeests, and more as you traverse through 600 acres of almost 1,000 animals.

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Other Experiences in the Park

As one of the best safari zoos, Lion Country Safari also provides alternate ways to meet its furry friends! Get an entirely different view from the Safari Queen, a boat ride where kids will learn more about the past and present animal inhabitants of Lake Shanalee (imagine colorful spider monkeys, siamangs, and more!). Then, top it all off with a visit to the amusement park, a trip down the water slides, and a round of mini-golf. Or, experience the walk-through SafariWorld by feeding some giraffes, petting a goat, or also strolling the aviary!

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Find the COVID-19 policies and protocols for Lion Country Safari here.

Southwick’s Zoo

Mendon, Massachusetts

Several deer eat while standing near a road filled with cars exploring Southwick's Zoo.
Photo Courtesy: Southwick’s Zoo

Southwick’s Zoo is home to more than 850 animals including 150 species from around the world. Known as the largest New England zoological experience, it’s one of the best East Coast safaris for families! When you visit, you’ll encounter animals like lions, tigers, sloths, white rhinos, and many more in naturalistic habitats. Not only is there much to see at this wild animal park, but along the way, your kids will learn interesting facts about the creatures. One such learning opportunity is provided by  EARTH Ltd, a non-profit conservation and education organization located within the park. If you know you’ll be back, or live nearby, consider becoming a member of EARTH for great discounts and learning opportunities like their Wildlife Adventure Programs. Even if you don’t become a member, you’ll want to take advantage of EARTH’s onsite presentations or the Rhino Encounter.

Other Experiences in the Park

Just like animals need to adapt to their surroundings, Southwick’s Zoo has adapted to social distancing considerations with its Zoofari Drive-Thru tours. When you take this tour, you’ll drive in the comfort of your own vehicle like you’re in a wild safari park. Not only will you get to see the animals, but if you download the audio tour, you’ll learn more about them too. When you’re comfortable visiting up close, there are several animal encounters to check out. Alongside Rhino Encounters, there are also Giraffe Encounters and Sloth Encounters. These all give families behind the scenes opportunities to learn (and sometimes feed and/or touch) the animals. In addition to the amazing animal encounters, Southwick’s Zoo also has other activities to entertain your family. Your kids will love the rides, the maze, and even the Soaring Eagle Zipline!

Find the COVID-19 policies and protocols for Southwick’s Zoo here.

Thank You To Our Community!

Beautiful landscape with pond and animals in the background of Six flags NJ one of the 5 US East Coast Safaris and Animal Parks for Families
Photo Courtesy: Tram Dao

As always, this article featuring Fun U.S. East Coast Safaris and Animal Parks for Families would not have been as helpful, informed, or family-friendly without the contributions and input from the amazing members of our Facebook group, Families Who Love To Travel! For more travel recommendations, join us on Facebook at Families Who Love To Travel. It’s a community of dynamic families who love to adventure and explore through travel. Plus, follow us on Instagram (@families.love.travel) to connect with other families who love the unique experiences travel has to offer – and to get sneak peeks of upcoming articles!

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the locations in this article featuring the best East Coast safaris for families may be temporarily closed or may have reduced services. Please ensure availability before making your decision.

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community. 

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Angie Reedy

Angie Reedy loves traveling and writing. When life brings opportunities to combine these loves, she finds much joy. Although she lives next to Normal, Illinois, life there with her family, which includes her husband, three children, an anxious dog, and a hedgehog named Megan, is anything but normal. Angie is a freelance writer and editor who mixes travel writing alongside her work on a true-crime book. She's always looking for the next adventure wherever in the world it might lead!
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