Looking for an exciting day trip full of adventure? Spend an afternoon with friendly zebras, curious donkeys, and other endangered and exotic animals. Cherokee Trace Safari is a family-friendly East Texas day trip that all ages can enjoy. From the comfort of your vehicle you can explore the 300-acre reserve in Jacksonville, TX. Feed the animals with your very own hands and see why this drive-thru safari will become a favorite destination for you and your family.
Wildlife Adventure at Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari
My family of five enjoys finding ways to experience a new adventure together. One way we do this is by searching for an East Texas day trip that we haven’t explored yet. For years I have been hearing about a drive-thru safari located in Jacksonville, TX called Cherokee Trace. My oldest is especially fond of animals and we try to include them into our excursions as often as possible.
Open 361 days a year, this drive-thru safari is self-guided. This East Texas day trip sounded like the perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon. A 300-acre reserve with endangered and exotic animals was something that intrigued us all. Our family of five traveled to Jacksonville and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon feeding and marveling over the animals. We were able to do this all from the comfort of our vehicle.
East Texas Day Trip – Know Before You Go
The owners and staff were very friendly and helpful in explaining their story and answering any questions we had. They explained to our children the rules on how to handle feeding and interacting with the animals. It was nice to hear how much they love and care for the safety of each animal on the safari. My kids learned not only how to follow the safari rules but also why it’s so important for us to do so.
Each ticket we purchased included a bag of food for the animals. The staff kindly instructed us to only feed the animals with food provided by them – never anything else. We had enough food for the whole drive, but there are additional food bags available for purchase. We had a talk with our eager and generous kids before we entered the safari on the importance of sharing with all of the animals.
Hands-on Experience at Cherokee Trace
We have visited many zoos at different locations and I always leave feeling slightly disappointed. There are times when we have gone to a zoo and for various reasons we were unable to see our favorite animals due to feeding and sleeping schedules. We would leave feeling a little discouraged by the experience since we’d committed a significant amount of money on admission.
On our safari adventure, we watched the animals freely roam this reserve. Reaching out and feeding a zebra and brushing our fingers against its nose was more gratifying than seeing that same animal behind a glass wall at a zoo. I feel like the hands-on experience really enhanced my children’s appreciation for endangered wildlife.
Friendly Animals at Cherokee Trace
My husband pointed out that he had never seen these types of animals appear so happy and healthy anywhere else. It’s obvious they that they enjoy their home and the never-ending buffet of cars that travel through each day. The animals were not shy about sticking their heads through our car windows and looking for food. This was exciting for us all. I haven’t heard my girls giggle that much during an adventure in a long time! They won’t soon forget the staring contest I had with an emu who was looking for a treat.
Our car windows remained rolled down the entire drive. We had a constant flow of animals approaching us and never once did we feel frightened or threatened. The only animals who were not receptive to our visit were the ones napping under a tree! My kids loved hearing the laughter coming from the cars before and after us. It was clear everyone enjoyed this experience. We completed the safari in 2 hours, and we treasured every moment of it!
What You Will See
On our East Texas day trip, we observed various types of deer: Barasingha, Axis Deer, Were David Deer, and many more. Some of our favorites were the larger animals like the Water Buffalo and the Watusi (African longhorn cow). You won’t believe the size of its horns which can reach up to 8 feet, tip to tip!
We also spotted alligators, llamas, red kangaroos, wildebeest, and other exotic and endangered animals. Our favorites were most definitely the zebras. We saw them twice during our drive through safari. Other animals we enjoyed were the curious donkeys. Donkeys are not uncommon in East Texas but the ones on the safari were much nicer than the ones we are used to meeting. They were so affectionate; we couldn’t help but love their attention!
When we arrived at the safari, we were given a list of all the animals we might see and some information about them. This was very helpful! My family is planning our next East Texas day trip visit to Cherokee Trace. This time we are bringing along the grandparents. There are very few adventures that can be enjoyed from your vehicle and that include this much excitement and fun. We cherished this experience together, laughing and bonding over our close-up encounter with wildlife. My daughters remind me often that this was one of the “coolest places” we have ever been.
Do you enjoy including animals adventures into your travel plans?
Check our some other suggestions: Central Florida Safari Wilderness and Fascinating Adventures At The Global Wildlife Center.