Insider’s Guide to Taking Kids to the Drive-Thru Safari in Lake Geneva

When our family dreams of where we’ll go after social distancing has ended, we all agree our first stop will be the zoo. The Chicago area is filled with incredible zoos, nature centers, aquariums, and farms. I recently came across information about Safari Lake Geneva in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and it seemed too good to be true: a drive-thru safari within driving distance from our home!

After careful planning to ensure we felt comfortable and prepared to travel with three little kids, we headed north. Our family loved our time at Safari Lake Geneva. Read all about it below, get an inside look from our video, and find out how to make it a safe day trip for your family.

Safari Lake Geneva

Safari Lake Geneva is a conservation park located in Genoa City, Wisconsin, a short 15-minute drive to Lake Geneva. While they usually offer guided tours, social distancing mandates require they suspend the use of their own vehicles. The owners have modified their guest experiences by offering a drive-thru safari adventure, where guests can drive their own cars through the conservation area. Along the way, you’ll spot yak, camels, llamas, zebra, and various other animals. Families can purchase animal feed bowls for an additional fee. As vehicles move through the conservation area, these animals will slowly approach your vehicle for food.

A few extra notes to consider about driving through:

  • The gravel road through the conservation area is very uneven and bumpy. Lower sedans could bottom out if you’re driving fast or not watching the road carefully.
  • If you or your children get nervous about approaching animals, the staff encouraged us to simply roll up the windows. We did this once, and the animal just moved right along.
  • Safari Lake Geneva is not responsible for any damage to your automobile. They will also encourage you to drive past if you are worried about any scratches, especially with their longhorns.
  • DO NOT bring food for the animals, as they can only eat what is provided in order to monitor their diets.
  • During your time slot, you’re welcome to drive around for as many loops as you’d like.
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Video: Inside Look at Safari Lake Geneva

Additional Tips to Put Your Mind at Ease about Social Distancing

  • Tickets must be purchased online ahead of time. This was a great way to provide a contactless payment. We simply gave our name at the gate and were let right into the property.
  • If you have one, bring a toddler-sized potty for bathroom emergencies.
  • Bring sanitizing wipes to clean the outside of the feed bucket, as it was the only thing we touched that others have as well.
  • We chose to pack our own food from home and eat it in our car. There is empty grass near the front of parking area that you could ask to use if you’d prefer to picnic.
  • To extend your time after a long drive, stop and enjoy a hike. McHenry County is full of beautiful trails and forest preserves. We got out and stretched our legs at Glacial Park before the long drive home. Lake County is further south, and home to Grant Woods, as well as other forest preserves. Here’s a map of state parks in the northeast region of Illinois if you’d like even more options.

Restaurants Nearby

There are a lot of options for curbside pickup at restaurants nearby. Safari Lake Geneva is a 15-minute drive to Lake Geneva, which boasts delicious restaurants. You could grab a to-go meal or ice cream and bring it down by the lake to enjoy. Here’s a guide of restaurants in Lake Geneva offering takeout or curbside pickup. Next time we go, we’ll be stopping at one of our favorite restaurants, Popeye’s on Lake Geneva . . . or maybe for a sweet treat from Kilwins.

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If you’d prefer to head back south towards Illinois, there are many restaurants along US Route 12. Upper Crust Pizzeria and Brathaus are closer options.

Bathrooms

Safari Lake Geneva has portable bathrooms on the premise. It’s a trailer with flushable toilets and sinks. They were very clean, with both soap and paper products!

Hours

Hours of operation are 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, every day from May 1st until November 1st. Last admission is at 4:00 pm. Check their website for holiday hours and schedule changes.

Prices

Adult tickets are $18.95, children ages 3-15 are $11.95, while those 2 and under are free. Feed buckets can be purchased for $5 each. Pricing is current as of May 2020 and is subject to change.

Recommended Ages

Due to the interactive nature of this experience, children of all ages can enjoy themselves. Knowing your children’s personalities will help you maximize the fun. Our 6-year-old was the most enthusiastic, but our 1-year-old was excitedly mooing at the animals whenever they came close. Our 4-year-old was excited but nervous, so we encouraged her to roll her window up whenever she felt uncomfortable.

Best Days/Times to Go

On a beautiful weekend day, things can get crowded. As you wait in line to enter the animal exhibit, you can get stuck behind other cars or an animal in the path. It’s better to go whenever you’d anticipate fewer cars to compete with for the animals’ attention.

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Special Needs Accommodations

One of the bathrooms is wheelchair accessible.

Discounts for Safari Lake Geneva

Earlier this spring, there was a Groupon available. Check their profile on Groupon to see if it has reactivated before you purchase tickets.

Looking for more outdoor fun? Check out our guide now that nice weather is finally on the way.

About the Author

Katie Mayle
Katie is a mother of three children, ages 7, 5, and 2. A Joliet native, she and her husband moved back to his hometown of Naperville after the birth of their second daughter. Her three kids keep her family very active, and she is grateful for the countless indoor and outdoor opportunities available to families in the western suburbs. She looks forward to sharing family-friendly fun with the parents of young children.

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