Wild Thing: How to Really Do It Up at The Wilds this Summer
If you think the Hocking Hills region feels a world away from Columbus, wait 'til you get to The Wilds, a worthwhile 75-mile drive east of the city. An experience at this vast safari park can be low-key or positively luxurious. Choose your own adventure this summer. thewilds.columbuszoo.org
Up Close and Personal
Forgo the standard Safari Transport Pass (though economical at $20 for an adult, two hours or more is a long time to be on a bus, and kids onboard tend to get vocal and restless) and spring for a more intimate, up-close experience. For enthusiasts, the Wildside Tour ($125) offers behind-the-scenes access and interaction with people who feed and care for the animals at the park. You'll travel in a much smaller vehicle than other tours, and that means better encounters with animals. For an extra $25, take the Sunset Wildside Tour, which includes a buffet dinner.
One of the first things visitors see on arrival at The Wilds is zipline apparatus: high-perched platforms that are way stations for outdoor adventurers flying high above the park. Try the Zipline Safari Tour ($84), which makes 10 stops, or the abbreviated Zipline Overlook Tour ($49), which hops across five platforms. And, like the Wildside Tour, zippers can add dinner to a Zipline Sunset Tour for just $25 more.
Closer to Critters
The Wilds also has adventures just for equestrians and anglers; both offer an alternative perspective on the park. Guided horseback tours (riders must be 9 or older) last about an hour and cost $30; a twilight option is also available. Aspiring bass pros can rent a boat from The Wilds or simply cast a line from the shore ($100, $75) of one of the park's beautiful lakes.
If pitching a tent in the woods is more nightmare than fantasy for you, head to the Grand Yurt at Nomad Ridge, The Wilds' primo overnight experience ($425 plus tax per night). This deluxe yurt is equipped with a king bed, two-person shower, private deck and a 24-hour concierge to meet your every need. The night includes a tour, dinner and breakfast for two. Premium and Woodland yurts, with fewer amenities and a smaller price tag but still plenty of comfort, are also available.
Put last year's barbecue in a park to shame by asking 11 of your closest friends or relatives to join you for a week at The Wilds' Lodge. This six-bedroom, six-bathroom lodge backs up to a picturesque lake on the park's vast property. Set up games in the backyard, lounge on the deck or serve dinner al fresco at an outdoor picnic table. At the end of the day, retreat to air-conditioned comfort. Weeknight rates start at $714 in winter and spring, and weekend rates climb as high as $2,740 for summer holidays.