More than once I overheard comparisons to Jurassic Park as we toured the Ohio animal park in early September. The Wilds certainly has the feel of the hit 1993 Steven Spielberg film that featured dinosaurs freely roaming wide open spaces.
We didn’t spot a T-Rex while touring in one of the re-conditioned school buses available for visitors – but that was probably for the best.
What we did see were animals roaming at will and plenty of space for them to move and do as they please. Rhinos, zebras, giraffes and camels were among the species we caught up close views of while on one of the VIP tours.
The guide was engaging and shared some background scoop on each of the animals we encountered without being long winded or boring. Some of the animals were eager to participate and play along while others had zero interest in being near us. The staff never required any of the animals to do anything they didn’t want to do on their own.
Security was high tech and included multiple layers of fencing, some of it electric to keep intruders out and certain animals away from where they shouldn’t be. As I mentioned, all of the animals had ample space to live and roam.
Certainly more than you’ll find at a zoo – probably 100 times more space than a typical zoo exhibit. In total, The Wilds has 10,000 acres of land dedicated to over 300 animals.
While each tour is different in terms of animals being up close – there are some opportunities for a hands on experience depending on which tour package you select. One tour included a visit with a young rhino that loved our group petting him and posing for photos. In case you’re wondering – its skin felt much like sand paper.
One funny moment during our trip occurred as camels blocked our road and decided to attack our bus. One chomped on the rear view mirror while two others decided the bus was a good way to scratch their backs and ears. You can see a quick video of “Camels Gone Wild” below:
The Wilds is a partner with the Columbus Zoo in Columbus, Ohio which has gained national fame from Jack Hannah who regularly appears on television, including fun stints on the Late Show with David Letterman.
You can also stay overnight on the grounds in what they call a “yurt”. There are nine different yurts available that allow an adults only group to experience the park after dark.
“A yurt is a nomadic-style structure made of canvas stretched over a wooden frame.”
The Wilds also has a beautiful lodge available for guests to rent that can accommodate large groups with a lake view and more.
It’s definitely a hidden gem of Ohio and a wonderful way to spend a day while touring south east Ohio. If you’d like to learn more about The Wilds you can visit their website at: https://thewilds.columbuszoo.org/home