Having grown up in the greater Omaha area, my kids and I have experienced all of the awesome attractions the city has to offer. Over and over again we've gone to the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo, the Omaha Children's Museum, and Fontenelle Forest and spent blissful days soaking up the edu-tainment. However, occasionally, it's nice to break out of your routine and see something new, so last weekend we headed to the Wildlife Safari Park in Ashland to check it out!
The WSP as I'll be referring to it, is a bit of a hike from our suburb, but it ended up being well worth it! I remember visiting the place a decade or so ago, and it wasn't much more than a few fields full of elk, deer and bison. The herd animals remain today, but there was also so much more for us to discover!
If you haven't been, you might liken this experience to a "drive-thru zoo." Much like Jurassic Park, you wind your way through several open air exhibits featuring native Nebraskan wildlife. The elk in the top photo came right up to our car, I could have reached my hand out and touched her! The animals seem very nonchalant about gawking strangers pointing cameras in their faces.
After you make your way through the grasslands exhibits, you come to the wetlands where pelicans, frogs, turtles and ducks frolic in the algae. It's quite exciting to see these large birds up close, the kids marveled at the loose skin under their beak when I told them they could scoop up and hold three gallons of water in their bill!
In the center of the wildlife park is a rest stop to park and stretch a bit. There are several walking trails you can take through the woods, an eagle sanctuary, and a petting zoo! My favorite part of the whole outing was meeting this sassy bald eagle who definitely looks like he's questioning me and my camera!
After making friends with an eagle, we hiked up to see the Grey Wolves and Black Bears. The walking trails are partially paved like a boardwalk, so that made it a really easy trek with two kids! We were able to spot two of the wolves, but none of the bears on the day we went. It always seems to be a gamble as to which animals are out each day.
Before piling back in the car to finish the driving tour, we stopped to pet a few pygmy goats. These cuties were so social and adored the kids brushing their fur. Once back in the car, we carried on pointing out swans, sandhill cranes, and bison to one another all the way back up to the exit.
It would be easy to wrap up your visit to the WSP and head out from there, but if you did want to linger, there's a park, picnic area and gift shop all located next to the main entrance. Small insect and lizard exhibits adorn the gift shop which is a lot of fun to look through. Animal themed and "old-timey" souvenirs abound, such as flavored honey sticks and those weird lollipops with the real bugs in them. Those are always fun to tease your kids with!
Depending on where you live in Omaha, the WSP can be a bit of a drive, but since I've been back in the area I've noticed more and more being built to the Gretna area. The Nebraska Crossing Outlet mall isn't too far from here for example, so on this particular day when we went it was nice to string the two together and do a little back to school shopping followed by an afternoon of animal encounters. In my house we call that a win-win as both the kids and I can agree that it was a well spent day.