One of the most fun activities my family and I have experienced recently is the drive-thru safari at Wilstem Wildlife Park in Paoli, Indiana. This wild animal park, located in the heart of Southern Indiana near French Lick, offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with a variety of exotic animals in a beautiful natural setting. But one of the most fun activities that they offer is the drive-thru safari, which allows you to see and feed animals all in the comfort of your own vehicle.
Animal Encounters in Indiana
From the moment you arrive at Wilstem, you’ll be struck by the beauty of the park. Surrounded by rolling hills and peaceful woods, the park is an oasis of nature. As you make your way through the park, you’ll encounter a variety of animals. During the drive-thru safari, you have the opportunity to spot around 50 different animal species. But just like with a real safari or a visit to a zoo, it’s not guaranteed that you will see all of them due to various factors such as weather, time of day and roaming patterns.
We visited Wilstem during the early summer months when it seemed like lots of animals were out and about. During our safari, we had the chance to interact with several animals, such as Texas longhorns, zebras, emus, goats, donkeys, deer, alpacas, llamas and bison.
How the Drive-Thru Safari Works
You don’t even need to leave your vehicle at all if you want to visit Wilstem for the drive-thru safari. When you enter the park, follow the signs for the safari, and drive toward the booth at the entrance of the safari. Admission is per person in the vehicle, although kids ages 2 and younger are free. You also have the option of purchasing feed for the animals for an additional fee. You should definitely purchase feed if you want an up-close view of the animals!
The drive-thru safari experience at Wilstem Wildlife Park is divided into three main sections:
- The first section is the emu zone. You’re allowed to drive through this section with your windows rolled down, and you can feed the emus if they come up to you. (Note: Feed the animals by holding the feed cup in your hand and letting the animals come up and eat from the cup.)
- In the second section, you will see animals like llamas, alpacas, goats and donkeys. You’re allowed to feed these guys, too!
- The third section is the bison section, where signs instruct you to drive through the area with your windows rolled up.
- The fourth section — Grizzly Ridge — is also a zone where your windows need to stay rolled up. Here is where the bears reside (safely contained in a pen).
As we made our way through the animal safari, we also saw some animals grazing in the fields a little farther away, such as zebras (not available for feeding because they can bite!), camels and deer.
From start to finish, the drive-thru animal safari lasted about 45 minutes. Timing can vary, though, depending on how long you want to linger and feed/observe the animals, or how many other people are doing the drive-thru safari.
Other Activities at Wilstem Wildlife Park
The drive-thru safari at Wilstem is worth the visit itself. But if you want to take advantage of all that this park offers, there are lots of other activities to do at Wilstem.
Your admission for the drive-thru safari grants you access to Grizzly Ridge. This means you have the option to park and visit the grizzly nature center and learn more about the bears that call the park home.
For an additional fee, you can also interact with elephants, including a unique opportunity to give the elephants a bath! You can also meet and greet sloths, giraffes, kangaroos and otters.
Wilstem also offers lodging, so you can spend all day playing with the animals and spend the night, too. They offer a number of houses and cabins, including studio-style houses that sleep two all the way up to lodges that sleep 12.
Wilstem Wildlife Park is located at 4229 US-150 W, in Paoli, Indiana. For more info, visit wilstem.com.