3rd Jul, 2010

Pleasant surprises at African Safari Wildlife Park

So, I haven’t been to African Safari Wildlife Park (am I the only one who always wants to call it “African Wildlife Safari Park”?!) in, literally, 20+ years. With my boys’ love of wildlife and zoos and anything nature, I’ve been meaning to take them for some time. And knowing my wife’s fastidiousness about the cleanliness of our cars (inside and out), it only made sense to take them on a weekend, when she would not be privy to the dirt and animal tongue marks that would appear on the outside of my Nissan.

We picked a great Saturday in late May to take the 1-hr. ride (from Cleveland’s western suburbs) to the park. It’s a gorgeous ride on a sunny day across the Edison bridge that spans Sandusky Bay. Really, we have to get out to the islands area more often this summer. I forget how scenic and quaint it all is.

My concern was that I’d be depressed once inside the park, worried that the animals would look unhealthy or that the park in general would be of a low quality level. I was pleasantly surprised by the adventure, particularly driving through the park. The animals looked healthy and well-treated. There seemed to be a conservation/educational aspect to things. And the animals were a blast to see and feed.

For admission of about $18/person (there are multiple rates based on age, time of year and what coupons you have—there are plenty out there), you can drive through the park as many times as you wish. The first time through, you get a small plastic cup of food for the animals. Any additional cups you want, or any carrots, you have to buy. Once through was enough for us (well, me).

After a drive through, you can park your car outside the animal gates near the visitor center. To get in to the rest of the attractions, you have to pass through the main building, which was like a gift shop on steroids. Candy, goofy toys, stuffed animals galore, ice cream, etc. There’s also a small restaurant on premises, but we didn’t check that out.

The other attractions feel like a throwback to the 1950′s. They are very quaint and a bit dated, but I guess that’s part of their charm. There are pig races (the names are hysterical), an assortment of wild animals in enclosures, and free pony and camel rides. (Technically, the first ride is free, subsequent rides cost a few bucks.)

Random notes … if you’re a member of the Cleveland Zoo (and it’s hard not to be with little kids!), you’re entitled to a 1/2 price discount on the entrance fees, a pretty good deal. No outside animal food is allowed, but I’m not sure if that means you can’t bring your own carrots. Probably not. And, surprisingly, no giraffes were there on our visit. I don’t know if they’re gone permanently or were just elsewhere that day. But photos of giraffes are all over the park’s website and advertisements, so I’d think this has to be a temporary thing.

Cheesehaven, a great throwback kind of store, is located just a few minutes from the park, at 2920 East Harbor Road. I took the boys there, even though they didn’t sound too thrilled with the prospect. But once inside, they ooh-ed and aah-ed over the extensive supply of candy (bulk and otherwise), including some old-time treats that you’re more likely to find in Amish country. The selection of cheeses—reportedly the largest in Ohio—is impressive, and you’ll find samples being given out, a nice bonus for the parents.


I like the subject matter in your first blog. Of course, the little boys in Hum look impressive. Pictures are great too! Good job! You’re inspiring me.

[...] we stopped at the ever-popular Cheesehaven and African Safari Wildlife Park, which I’ve covered previously. But I’m happy to report that the giraffes are back from their hiatus at the park. Although [...]

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