Santa Rosa With Kids: Safari West

I’ll admit that after going to Safari West, I fail to be impressed by the other safari outings I go on. Well that’s because I haven’t been to Africa yet. I’m sure I’ll find that even more impressive. But until I can get myself and my son to Africa, taking a trip to Safari West in northern California is as close as we’re going to get.

Safari West is a privately-owned wildlife preserve primarily dedicated to the propagation and conservation of endangered species. It is home to over 80 animal species that roam the 400 acres of California foothills near the city of Santa Rosa. I am a mother primarily dedicated to finding every cool place within driving distance from the Bay Area. This little family safari excursion did not disappoint and of course I’m going to tell you why.Here are some things we loved:

We got to ride in a jeep. It was a real Jeep, that  trudged up and down hilly terrain, often making us feel as if we were going to tip over. That’s the good part though.

We got to touch an ostrich egg and we were also given the opportunity to touch dried animal dung. I opted to let that particular opportunity pass me by.

We got very close to some animals. The giraffes strolled past our window, and the herd of zebras ambled a few feet away. We even forgot that in the golden hills of California you’re not supposed to see a herd of zebras.

Look, Ma! I didn't even have to zoom in!


We learned a few things. For example, we learned that ostriches like to peck at shiny things inside Jeeps, and their tiny heads are a lot more intimidating than one might think. We actually did learn a lot about the animals from our guide. Just don’t ask me to teach you any of it, I didn’t take notes.

Some things to consider:

A tour will cost you quite a bit more than a trip to the zoo, but I found the price comparable to many other special tour or animal experiences at a zoo.

You have to be there early. So you can either leave at the crack of dawn to get there on time, or you can stay in Santa Rosa. There is lodging at Safari West, and it looks pretty cool to stay in the tent cabins. But since that was out of our price range at the time, we stayed at another motel in Santa Rosa.

You will be in the jeep for about 2 hours and that is more than many small children can handle, or enjoy. I went when my child was five (going on six) and he did just fine. A year, or even a few months earlier, and it would’ve been a different story altogether. You’re the best judge of how much your young child will be able to sit through.

This is not a zoo, but you will be able to walk up to some of the animals. You will see mostly birds, but also the giraffes and the cheetahs in enclosures near the entrance.

For information on prices and tour times check out their website.

Another Kids Go West approved kid-friendly adventure in Santa Rosa is the Charles M. Schulz Museum.

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7 Responses to Santa Rosa With Kids: Safari West

  1. This place is on our must-see list, too. Glad to hear your thoughts on it. Looks like it’s a great fit for animal-loving & things-that-go-loving boys.

  2. We may be moving back to the bay area soon and this will definitely be a place we’ll check out…never knew about it. Thanks for the post!

  3. I actually wet my pants a little on that jeep tour (not from fear, though there was that too…). We were sitting on top when we rolled into the giraffe enclosure and Rich was wearing what I like to call his “stinky sandals”.

    The giraffe thought they smelled just fine though. He (she?) bent his VW bug-sized head over and licked Rich’s feet for two straight minutes while the kids and I laughed so hard I thought we would all cough up our kidneys (and I wet my pants). What made it extra-fun was that Rich couldn’t get away since we were all seat belted in.

    I will never EVER forgive myself for not bringing my camera.

  4. hahahaha @Jamie where was that Flip camera when you needed it?
    I now have a fear of ostriches, because that particular one pictured above kept pecking at my seat, his little head inches from me. I could cry still thinking about it.

  5. Pingback: Family Travel Links, Winter 2011 | Travels with Children by minnemom

  6. I have been wanting to go there forever! I am kicking myself for not going while we lived in Norcal. Now you have me convinced that in a couple years, I am gonna have to take the kids on one of our treks up north!

  7. Great shots! I can’t believe how big the horns are on that bull!

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