Wilds Adventure with Mom and Dad

We recently had a Wilds adventure with Mom and Dad.  When we got back to Ohio in April, we talked to Mom and Dad about some adventure days we could do together this summer.  Dad’s mobility is limiting some of our activities, so we are especially mindful of things where he doesn’t have to walk too much.  We decided to go to the Wilds as one of our adventures.

Tom and I visited the Wilds in 2014 when Karen Graham was living in New Concord.  She had a membership and treated us to a fun visit.  Mom and Dad had never been there, although they had heard about it.  Although it was a bit of a drive, we thought it would be fun to take one of the open-air bus safaris with Mom and Dad.  We bought tickets for the middle of June, and then had to change them when Dad had outpatient heart surgery in June.  I wasn’t sure how long he would be rehabilitating, so I rescheduled our visit for the end of August.  We were supposed to go near Mom’s birthday in June, but ended up going the day before Dad’s birthday in September.

The Wilds is a private, non-profit safari park and conservation center that combines conservation science and education programs. The park is an extension of the Columbus Zoo.  The park also offers leisure activities such as ziplining, horseback riding, and fishing, for a fee. Located in southeastern Muskingum County, the Wilds is home to rare and endangered species from around the globe living in natural, open-range habitats.

The property encompasses almost 10,000 acres of reclaimed coal mine land with 2,000 acres of pastures and a 27-acre Carnivore Conservation Center. The Wilds is designated an Audubon Important Bird Area so the property includes a birding station with covered lookout as well as a butterfly habitat with hiking trails, more than 15 miles of mountain bike and hiking trails and approximately 150 lakes.  It is the largest wildlife conservation center in North America and is open for tours between the months of May and October.

We arrived at the Wilds at lunch time.  Our tour was reserved for 1 p.m. and we wanted to eat before our tour.  We ate in the Café, which had fast food but not delicious food.  Everyone got a cheeseburger except for me and I got a grilled chicken sandwich.  The french fry servings were large and two servings easily fed all four of us.  The best thing about lunch was the view.  We could see the entire pasture valley and watched the tour buses going back and forth.

The view at lunch

We signed up for an Open-Air Safari, which cost $40 per person.  We were there on a Wednesday, which wasn’t a busy day, but our tour was full with 24 people.  The tour immediately following us only had six people, but we saw several other tours that looked full.  Our guide was George and he was great.  He had lots of jokes and clever banter about all the animals.  He also told us plenty of information about the animals and conservation work at the Wilds.  The tour was 2.5 hours, so there was more than enough time to enjoy the animals.

Tour guide George

We got off the bus twice.  The first time we could either choose to see the budgie house or walk down a hill to see cranes.  Tom, Mom and I walked down the hill and saw the cranes as well as some close-ups of the Pere David deer.  We also had a bonus animal sighting.  Two racoons walked across the path, climbed through the fence, and proceeded to hunt for crane eggs until one of the cranes chased them away.  The racoons knew where to find the good stuff!

The second time we got off the bus was as the Carnivore Conservation Center.  The Wilds has three kinds of carnivores:  cheetahs, dholes, and African painted dogs.  There was a long boardwalk through the carnivore area and we were glad to see a wheelchair at the bus stop.  Dad was able to enjoy the area with Tom pushing him around.  All the carnivores were lying in the sun taking their afternoon siesta.  They all looked very relaxed and made us think it was time for a nap.

Enjoying the view at lunch
Mom and Dad on the bus
Back on the bus
Rhinos and Onager
Bactrian deer

In addition to the carnivores, we enjoyed seeing Pere David deer, zebras, cranes, bantengs, elands, oryxes, giraffes, onagers, rhinos, ostriches and takins.  Some of them were far away, but many of them were close to the road as if they were posing for closeups.  One curious ostrich came over the bus and checked everyone out.  The driver kept warning us to keep our fingers inside the bus so the ostrich wouldn’t think they were food.

Ostrich says hello to George

We very much enjoyed our ride on the Wilds side.  After we got off the bus, we got on a shuttle which took us to our car so we could head home.  We had met Mom and Dad at the Velvet Ice Cream Ye Olde Mill in Utica and we went back there for a scoop before driving the final distance home.  Velvet ice cream, as always, is delicious and we enjoyed the refreshment and restrooms before separating for home.

Velvet Ice Cream time
Enjoying our ice cream

Any day with Mom and Dad is a fun adventure, but the Wilds was one of our best adventure days all summer.  If you have never been there, I encourage you to have a Wilds adventure of your own.