Update: As of March 25, 2020, the park is temporarily closed. It expects to re-open on April 23, 2020.
By Patricia Lee Hall, Fairfax Family Fun
We get it. With this coronavirus crisis, it’s a time to hunker down, change our way of living (for now), and put a priority on health. The most important thing is to “flatten the curve” and try to stem the spread of the virus and we all must do our part. But although there are many ways to beat boredom, spend quality time together, and use this time constructively, parents may still run out of ideas on how to keep kids occupied. And all of us are bound to experience “cabin fever” sometime soon. So what can you do? Take a trip to Virginia Safari Park!
Yes, it’s open (at least as of this posting on March 18, 2020), yes, it’s fun, and yes, it’s something you can do while maintaining “social distance.” Heck, you don’t even have to get out of your car! Best of all, it’s great fun and educational, too.
About Virginia Safari Park
Located in Natural Bridge, Virginia (Rockbridge County), in the scenic Shenandoah Valley, Virginia Safari Park is the only drive-through animal attraction of its kind in the state. The 180-acre park is home to more than 1,000 exotic animals from six continents, who roam the grounds. Visitors can drive through the attraction, going along three miles that curve here and there so it seems like an even longer stretch.
As you drive along, you can feed the animals from a bucket (which you buy at the park), take pictures, or just keep your windows closed and enjoy the view. No matter what, you will have the opportunity to learn about many different types of animals and see them up close. And from start to finish, you do NOT have to get out of your car: You pay your admission at a drive-up window and drive along in your own vehicle (and buy food at the entrance, if you wish), so you never have to exit your car. Interacting with the animals on the safari is limited to feeding them, and even that is totally up to you. From beginning to end, you can keep your windows closed if you want to be “socially distant” from the animals, too.
Virginia Safari Park is about three hours away or less from most points in Fairfax County, so it’s not a quick in-an-out drive, but certainly doable as a day trip. The park is open seven days a week, rain or shine. Current operating hours are from 9 am to 5 pm, with the last entrance at 4 pm (later in the season the closing hours are extended a bit).
The animals at the park are tame and you can interact with them as little or as much as you wish. We had a great time during our visit to the park in 2016! While you have to drive at a slow speed, generally most animals will not come up to you unless you slow down, which they take as a cue that you will feed them. You could make your visit as short or as long as you want, and you can keep your windows rolled up the whole time. Exiting your vehicle or opening your doors is prohibited at all times.
Current official Virginia guidelines (as of March 18, 2020) for addressing the coronavirus issue do not prohibit travel. The restrictions are for “non-essential gatherings of 10 or more people.” Since guests drive through the park in their own vehicles (presumably in groups of far less than 10 people!), don’t have to interact with any other people (other than when paying admission), and tour the place from start to finish while staying “indoors” (inside your car), you can adhere to safety guidelines while still enjoying one of the very few attractions that remain open.
On that note, things can change very quickly. While the staff at Virginia Safari Park said they have no reason at this time to close the attraction, please always call ahead to confirm hours of operation and the current situation. Enjoy, and stay safe!
Other tips to maintain safety and minimize contact with others:
- Travel with a full tank of gas so you don’t have to stop to refuel
- Pack a lunch and/or dinner so you can have a “picnic” in your car
- Have two adults share the driving so you don’t get tired
- Buy your ticket online so you just have to present your receipt at the gate; if paying cash, calculate what the admission will be for your group (plus any extras or fees) and have that exact money ready when you arrive