Wild Safari at Six Flags: Drive-Through Animal Fun for Families Near NYC
My six-year-old son's been big on animals practically since birth, so I've been meaning to take him to Six Flags Wild Safari in New Jersey for a while now. The only reason I hesitated was because he can't stand amusement parks, so combining it with a trip to Great Adventure or Hurricane Harbor was out of the question. (He claims the rides at Victorian Gardens are too intense!)
Was Wild Safari worth the 90-minute drive and $22 admission price on its own? Short answer: Absolutely. I took my son and his equally animal-obsessed classmate on the drive-through adventure to celebrate the end of the school year, and it really kicked off their summer with a mighty roar. Here's why Wild Safari is the King of the Jungle.
The main difference between Wild Safari and a zoo is that the residents come right up to your car. Most of the 1,200 or so animals that call the 350-acre wildlife preserve home are free to roam around the park. But don't worry: The poop-throwing baboons and the animals that could kill you are kept behind fences.
Driving safely in your car along the 4 1/2-mile, one-way road offers an up close look at deer, bears, emus and giraffes—you often come face to face with these creatures. Although we weren’t lucky enough to have a giraffe nuzzle our car, we saw them wander over to other vehicles. And we did have close encounters with deer, a zebra and an ostrich.
Even though the tigers and lions are penned, you can still get much closer to them than you will anywhere else outside of Africa. The free-range bears were really exciting, and caused a traffic jam during our visit. Of course when they did approach us, that prompted screams of "we're going to be eaten alive" from the backseat.
Interacting with the animals was really exciting (and at times, a bit frightening) for the kids. Overall they loved it and felt like they were on a real adventure.
Wild Safari Tips
Get a Map
When you enter, you're offered an illustrated map. Make sure you grab one for each child in your group. This added so much to our experience. The kids were able to "help" navigate the preserve and enjoyed figuring out which animals we would encounter next. Plus, since there's no gift shop (yay!), it makes a nice souvenir.
Take a Break Before You Begin
Since it's about a 90-minute drive from Manhattan, when we arrived I made the kids get out of the car, use the bathroom and walk around before we embarked on our journey.
Unless you want fast food, there's nowhere to eat near the Safari. However, there's a little rest area with tables and toilets where you can stop to snack before or after.
Take Your Time
The speed limit is 12 miles per hour. That's for your safety (you're going to be distracted) as well as the animals'. Make sure you slow down and take it all in because you can only go through once—unless you want to pay again!
Make a Day of It
If, unlike my son, your kids love rides, visit Six Flags' other attractions: Hurricane Harbor or Great Adventure. Wild Safari opens one hour before those parks so it's a nice way to start off an exciting day.
Keep Your Windows Closed
Did I really need to tell you that?
Upgrade Your Adventure
Wild Safari also offers special tours. V.I.P. Off-Road Adventure allows you to go behind the scenes with a guide for $149.99. With Close Encounters, you ride in a bus and occasionally exit to meet the animals. It's $24.99 in addition to park admission. There are also various kids programs, including a summer camp.
1 Six Flags Boulevard near Country Road 537
Jackson, NJ 08527
Open daily Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, weekends through October. Hours vary. Here's the complete schedule.
$21.99, free for children under age 2. If you're thinking of visiting Six Flags' other attractions, there are multi-park passes.