5 Best Drive-Thru Zoos and Safari Parks in Texas

Lone Star State, known for its rich history, delectable BBQ, stunning landscapes, and…drive-thru zoos? That’s right! The vast expanse of Texas is home to several drive-thru zoos, offering a unique and thrilling way to experience wildlife in a safe and convenient manner.

These aren’t your typical zoo experiences. In Texas, you can traverse sprawling landscapes, observe a wide array of animals in semi-natural habitats, all from the comfort of your vehicle.

From spotting giraffes at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center to feeding zebras at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, or getting a close-up view of monkeys at Franklin Drive Thru Safari, there’s no shortage of interactive wildlife encounters in Texas’ drive-thru zoos. But what makes these experiences so special? Let’s delve deeper.

The unique experience of drive-thru zoos

Traditional zoos are a treat, no doubt. Strolling around enclosures, seeing animals from different continents – it’s all pretty exciting. But have you ever fancied a more immersive wildlife experience?

Where the barriers are minimized, and you become a part of the animals’ world, rather than them being a part of yours? Well, that’s where drive-thru zoos come into play!

  • First off, the freedom and flexibility a drive-thru zoo offers are simply unmatched. Forget about jostling with crowds for a peek at the lions or following set routes and schedules. Here, you’re in control of your journey. Want to linger a little longer watching the herd of bison? Go ahead! Would you like to revisit the deer because they were just too cute? No one’s stopping you!
  • Secondly, drive-thru zoos provide a more authentic wildlife experience. Animals are often roaming in expansive, natural-like habitats rather than being confined to small enclosures. This not only ensures a more enriching environment for the animals but also makes for a more exciting, unpredictable, and educational experience for visitors.
  • Finally, there’s an element of adventure. Driving through vast terrains, not knowing what creature might pop out next, creates an exhilarating atmosphere akin to a real safari. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t enjoy that thrill of spotting a rare animal right next to their car window?

Top drive-thru zoos in Texas

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center

Nestled in the heart of Texas Hill Country, the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center provides an unparalleled drive-thru zoo experience. With over 1,800 acres of natural habitat, it’s a haven for around 1,100 animals spanning about 50 species. The center offers a 7.2-mile drive where you can observe and interact with exotic and endangered species right from your vehicle.

Drive Thru Zoos Fossil Rim Wildlife Center Area
Russell Rogers

The journey begins with herds of sable antelope and American bison grazing along the road, setting the tone for an authentic wildlife adventure. As you delve deeper into the center, you’ll encounter rare species like the cheetah and the rhinoceros.

The sight of giraffes gracefully moving around and ostriches curiously peeking into your car will certainly be a highlight of your visit.

Drive Thru Zoos Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Inna Hudson
Drive Thru Zoos Fossil Rim Wildlife Center In Car
Matthew Boettcher

But it’s not just about the driving experience. Fossil Rim Wildlife Center also boasts an interactive children’s animal center, a cafe with panoramic views of the park, guided behind-the-scenes tours, and even overnight accommodation options.

All these offerings ensure that your visit here becomes a memorable blend of entertainment and education.

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

Situated just outside San Antonio, the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is a Texas-sized safari that offers an intriguing blend of adventure and education. The ranch is an expansive 450 acres, home to over 500 animals from 40 different species.

Its name derives from a natural limestone bridge located within the park, adding a touch of unique charm to this exotic wildlife sanctuary.

The driving trail here stretches over six miles and is designed to resemble a real African Safari. From the comfort of your car, you can encounter zebras, llamas, ostriches, kangaroos, and several species of deer and antelope, among others.

It’s not uncommon for the animals to stroll right up to your vehicle, making for unforgettable up-close-and-personal experiences.

Franklin Drive Thru Safari

Tucked away in the peaceful town of Franklin, Texas, the Franklin Drive Thru Safari is a wildlife enthusiast’s dream. This operated sanctuary spans over 100 acres and houses a diverse range of exotic animals, delivering a fun-filled adventure for visitors of all ages.

The safari experience here is an exciting one as you drive through winding paths encountering animals such as kangaroos, lemurs, zebras, camels, and much more.

Drive Thru Zoos Fossil Franklin Drive Thru Safari
Kim de Jong

What makes Franklin Drive Thru Safari especially endearing is the level of interaction allowed with the animals. Many animals will happily walk up to your vehicle, offering perfect opportunities for unforgettable photos and gentle feeding under staff supervision.

But the fun doesn’t stop with the driving tour. The Franklin Drive Thru Safari also includes a walk-through petting zoo where you can interact more closely with friendly farm animals and some exotic creatures.

The aviary, filled with vibrant tropical birds, and the reptile house are additional attractions that ensure your visit is packed with unique experiences and newfound knowledge about these fascinating animals.

Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari

Immersed in the lush piney woods of East Texas, Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari is an expansive wildlife park that homes over two dozen exotic and endangered species from around the globe. Spanning approximately 300 acres, the park’s landscape is dotted with lakes, trees, and open savannahs, creating a natural habitat where the animals can thrive.

Visitors embark on a self-guided tour along a well-maintained 5-mile drive. Here, you might spot zebras and camels peacefully grazing, see majestic elk and bison ambling by, or catch sight of a variety of bird species.

Drive Thru Zoos Cherokee Trace Drive Safari
Anthony Lopez

The safari’s inhabitants are used to vehicles and often approach them out of curiosity, providing delightful interactive experiences. To enhance these interactions, visitors are encouraged to bring along feed available for purchase at the entrance.

What sets Cherokee Trace apart is its focus on conservation education. Through their journey, visitors not only enjoy unique wildlife encounters but also gain insights into the importance of protecting these magnificent creatures. It’s a truly enriching experience that marries adventure with learning, leaving a lasting impact on its visitors.

Exotic Resort Zoo

Exotic Resort Zoo in Johnson City is a one-of-a-kind attraction that offers not only a drive-thru zoo experience, but also an exotic vacation right in the heart of Texas Hill Country. Sprawling over 137 acres, this private resort is home to over 500 animals from more than 80 species, living in a spacious, natural environment.

The key feature of the Exotic Resort Zoo is its guided safari tours. You board an open-air vehicle, and a knowledgeable guide takes you through the property, allowing you to see, learn about, and even feed a wide variety of exotic animals.

Drive Thru Zoos Exotic Resort Zoo
Jessie Moore

Expect to encounter the likes of zebras, camels, kangaroos, emus, and more. The resort takes pride in its hands-on, interactive approach to animal interaction, offering an immersive experience like no other.

But the real cherry on top at the Exotic Resort Zoo is its unique lodging experience. You can stay in one of their comfortable cabins that overlook animal habitats, providing a remarkable opportunity to observe wildlife from your doorstep.

Whether it’s the excited chatter of lemurs or the soothing sight of deer grazing at sunrise, this resort ensures a wildlife experience that extends beyond the typical confines of a zoo visit.

Safety guidelines for drive-thru zoos

Safety is paramount at drive-thru zoos. First, remember to always stay in your vehicle, unless told otherwise in designated areas. This is to ensure both your safety and the animals’. Second, feeding animals is usually allowed, but only with the food provided by the zoo – human food can be harmful to them.

Lastly, respect the animals’ space. If they approach your car, enjoy the moment but don’t touch or try to pet them. It’s important to remember that these are wild animals, and respecting their boundaries helps ensure a safe, enjoyable experience for everyone.

The best times to visit drive-thru zoos

The best times to visit drive-thru zoos often depend on the animals’ activity cycles. Early morning and late afternoon are typically when animals are most active, making these times ideal for a visit.

Season-wise, spring and fall often bring milder temperatures that are comfortable for both animals and visitors. However, each zoo will have its unique pattern of animal activity, so it’s always a good idea to check with the zoo’s recommendations before planning your trip.

Why kids love drive-thru zoos

Kids adore drive-thru zoos for several reasons. First, the interactive element is exciting – kids can feed and observe animals up close, right from the car. It’s a hands-on learning experience that beats reading from a textbook!

Second, the adventure of driving through expansive landscapes with animals roaming freely sparks their imagination and sense of exploration. Lastly, the diversity of animals they encounter – from furry friends to feathered companions, from familiar faces to exotic species – nurtures their curiosity and fosters an early appreciation for wildlife and nature.


Drive-thru zoos in Texas offer a unique blend of adventure, education, and fun. These zoos offer a chance to connect with wildlife in a more personal and immersive way, right from the comfort of your vehicle.