the Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio
Jurassic Park. I was eleven years old and I saw it in the theater twice. When the ticket lady asked if my friend and were 13 (it was rated PG13), the lady behind us kindly lied and said, “They’re with me.” I wanted to live the Jurassic Park experience. Not the nightmare that the movie presented, but the concept. I dreamed about riding in the jeeps and being thisclose to creatures people only saw in books.
This summer, our family got as close to the Jurassic Park experience as humanly possible, we visited the Wilds, an adventure that brought us face to face with some of the most beautiful animals in the world, rare animals, animals from places we’ve never been and probably never will visit. the Wilds is a 10,000 acre conservation center that allows these animals to live free range in a natural habitat and then provides humans the opportunity to see them from a variety of adventurous views — open air safari, a closed safari bus, a wildside tour on the back of a pickup truck, zip line safari tours, horseback safari tours and overnight stays in the park.
On a Sunday morning, Lulu (age 3), Scout (age 12 months) and Shaundi (3 weeks), put on sunscreen and bug spray and then boarded the open air safari vehicle with my husband and me for a two and half hour tour to see the animals of the Wilds. We didn’t really know what to expect at all, I struggle with the pull to read all about places before we visit and then nothing is a surprise, but then when I don’t read about places, I am often unprepared for what we get ourselves into.
My Jurassic Park moment happened several times during the safari as our bus drove through gates and then was trapped behind them as they closed shut. Lulu and Scout LOVED the open air vehicle, the enjoyed spotting animals and Lulu was just thrilled to snap photos of them. All of the kids on the safari seemed to enjoy the thrill of the bumpy ride as the vehicle jumped along the road, hang on tight! There are over 30 species of rare and endangered animals that call the Wilds home, but you never know which animals you’ll meet along the road. You won’t encounter all 30+ species but you’ll see quite a few!
Some of the animals came right up to the vehicle and rubbed up against it, checked out the passengers and were on their way. It was exciting and interesting and really got the kids attention. The day before we visited the zoo and saw some animals that were similar but this time we were in their home and in some cases, they were in our faces! When you purchase tickets, you have an opportunity to rent binoculars, I wish we had done this (or brought our own).
It is alright to pack snacks and beverages but you cannot eat them aboard the tour vehicles. There are two stops on most tours, one has enough time for you to eat a snack and the second one is designed for a lunch break but there really wasn’t enough time to finish a lunch with children. While there is a cafe that sells hamburgers and hotdogs and pizza at the second stop, you’ll save some time by bringing your own lunch. At the second stop there are animals to be seen and if you spend the whole time eating, you won’t get a chance to see the cheetah! With three children and bathroom breaks, there was not enough time for us to eat a complete lunch OR see the animals on this stop.
Our entire family had such a great time – baby Shaundi slept the whole time, one year old Scoutie was probably a bit too young for a trip that long and this is why the Wilds created a shorter tour designed with these little ones in mind. Three year old Lulu was engaged, alert and enjoyed the experience the most. Jacob and I enjoyed taking photos and learning about the animals and the conservation efforts of the Wilds.
You should pack up the family and take the 4-5 hour drive (from Indy) and experience the Wilds for yourself. Tickets for the open air safari tour are $30 per person. Other tour prices start at $15 for children 4-12 years old and $20 per person age 13 and up. My recommendation is to spring for the open air tour — it’s a beautiful experience! Visit daily (rain or shine) May-September and on the weekends through October. Zipline daily May-October and take the wildside pickup tour daily year round! Visit the birding station year round for free. See the beautiful butterfly habitat for free during regular hours, there is a $5 parking fee. If you enjoy mountain biking or hiking, the Wilds has 15 miles of trails for this purpose.
All opinions, stories and thoughts are my own and they are the truth as I know it. I was not paid to write this story but our family was a guest of the Wilds for the purpose of writing this review. Food and travel were paid for out of pocket.