AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texans can take a drive on the wild side this summer at one of several zoos and drive-thru safaris in our area.

These local zoos include a variety of exotic animals like giraffes, large cats, emus and lemurs. Some offer up-close encounters with specific species and sell feed to hand to the animals.

Here are several places that offer safari trips and animal encounters and what you need to know before you go.

1. Austin Zoo

10808 Rawhide Trail, Austin.

Austin Zoo’s animals include big cats, zebras, ostriches, monkeys, bears, reptiles and more. Visitors can take self-guided tours through the southwest Austin zoo.

More animals such as donkeys, longhorn, warty pigs and ostriches can be viewed on the zoo’s train ride, which begins hourly.

Free zoo keeper talks let guests learn more about each species. Close encounters with animals like capybaras can be booked in advance.

Guests can bring picnic foods to eat on-site.

The zoo’s regular hours are 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday with extended hours until 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets can be purchased online and range from $13.95 to $16.95.

  • Capuchin monkey at the Austin Zoo (Courtesy Austin Zoo)
  • Alligator at the Austin Zoo (Courtesy Austin Zoo)
  • Nigerian goats at the Austin Zoo (Courtesy Austin Zoo)
  • Lions Jelani and Sango at the Austin Zoo (Courtesy Austin Zoo)

2. Capital of Texas Zoo

376 Jenkins Road, Cedar Creek.

In Cedar Creek, the Capital of Texas Zoo is home to a variety of animals including white tigers, black leopards and lions. Zoo tours are self-guided.

This zoo has a variety of close animal encounters including big cat feedings, lemur encounters and swimming with otters. Encounters can be booked at the front office. The costs vary for each animal encounter.

General tickets can be purchased in person. Prices range from $10 to $15 with free admission for children under 2.

Capital of Texas Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Guests can bring coolers and picnic items to eat at the zoo.

3. Exotic Resort Zoo

235 Zoo Trail, Johnson City.

The zoo in Johnson City has drive-thru tour and guided tractor ride tour options for visitors to see the zoo’s animals. The zoo has over 45 species of animals including gazelle, emus, camels, elk, zebra, buffalo, kangaroos and more animals.

Tickets range from $14.95 to $17.95 and include the petting zoo and guided tour. Visitors can also buy feed buckets to feed the animals.

Drive-thru tickets should be purchased online in advance to secure a time. Guided tour tickets can be purchased online or at the zoo.

Exotic Resort Zoo is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day with the last tour beginning at 5 p.m.

The zoo also offers eight safari cabins for four, six or eight guests.

4. Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

26515 Natural Bridge Caverns Road, San Antonio.

Visitors can take drive-thru tours of the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in north San Antonio and see animals including antelope, giraffe, lemurs, kudu, bison, wallaby, wildebeest and more.

Tickets range from $16.99 to $28.99 with discounted admission most weekdays.

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. during the summer. Specific hours are listed online.

5. Sanctuary Serengeti

250 Plum Church Road, West Point.

Visitors can take their cars through the Sanctuary Serengeti near La Grange. The drive-thru safari park has multiple trails to see the animals.

Tickets are $13.50 to $15 with free admission for visitors under age 2. No reservations are needed, and tickets can be bought upon arrival. Feed buckets can also be purchased.

Sanctuary Serengeti’s drive-thru hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the last tour beginning at 5 p.m.

6. Topsey Exotic Ranch

The Topsey Exotic Ranch offers a drive-thru safari near Copperas Cove.

Safari guide handouts give visitors more information about each species at Topsey Exotic Ranch. There are more than 50 species on-site including camels, zebras, bobcats and gazelles, and the ranch is adding some new species like baby squirrel monkeys.

In addition to drive-thru tours, guests can walk to see more animals and visit the petting zoo where they can buy feed.

Tickets range from $11.50 to $13.50 with free admission for visitors under age 2.

Topsey Exotic Ranch is open daily. Admission hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from March to September.

945 CR 118, Copperas Cove.

This story is part of a KXAN series highlighting Central Texas activities — you can see our full list on our “Central Texas Things to Do” page. Do you have an idea of something we should profile? Email us at