August 21, 2008
Most people enjoy an amusement park. And many people also enjoy a zoo. But what if you could get both a zoo and an amusement park in one place, and you could get there on less than one tank of gas?
In the latest installment of his series, Jay Polk visits Valdosta to find just such a place on One Tank Trips.
Where can you go to see exotic animals, ride thrilling rides for both adults and children and cool off on a hot Summer day? You could hop on a plane and fly away to some far away destination or you can just hop in the car and drive to a place where all of those things are available in one location; Wild Adventures.
Let's begin our adventure in the Alapaha Preserve. Chris Hart, a Wildlife Specialist at Wild Adventures said, "The Alapaha area is designed as a nature walk for the family to go through but along the walk you come past a menagerie of birds, we also have a few reptiles that are out there right now."
Like some large gators. There are several in this area that you'll be lucky to NOT see in the wild. How big is the largest gator here?
"The biggest one we have, I believe he's a little over 13 feet long," said Hart.
Not surprisingly, there are few volunteers willing to go out and confirm whether Chris got his measurements right. But there are more animals than just gators and birds here.
"We have a very new primate exhibit for our Colobus monkeys. Wonderful, wonderful exhibit with a waterfall inside of it," said Hart.
And there's a wildlife show to entertain audiences young and old. Chris does two shows a day on Fridays and Sundays and three shows a day on Saturdays or when there's a concert in the amphitheater. There are other similar shows throughout the park as well, and you can see feedings of some of the animals - like the giraffes over in the African pride lands area.
Next door to the giraffes are two Indian elephants who have found a home here in South Georgia. All in all there are plenty of animals from all over the world to see at Wild Adventures. You can even pet some of them at the petting zoo, an attraction that harkens back to the park's earliest days. But that's not all that's here.
From what was just once a small petting zoo with just a few animals, Wild Adventures has become a major theme park with not only the animals but also some thrilling rides too.
Like the four big coasters on the property, ranging from steel coasters like the Boomerang to wooden ones like Cheetah. The adventurous will also find plenty of other rides to satisfy their need for speed. And if you have children, no need to worry. There are plenty of rides and games for them as well. In fact, near the entrance to the park is an area loaded with stuff for the little ones.
And if all of that walking around has made you hot, there's a place where you can go to cool off as long as you don't mind getting wet. That place is Splash Island. You don't even have to pay extra to get in, admission is included when you buy a ticket for the main park. And just like in the main park, there are attractions here for both young and old. In fact, having attractions for both the young and the young at heart has always been one of Wild Adventure's strong suits.
Steve Honeycutt, the Vice President of Operations at Wild Adventures said, "It's a nice safe place to come with your family. We have a little bit of something for everybody. We have the rides, of course, but we have the animals, we have the water park, we have some shows. We have a lot of things that families can enjoy together."
The new management of the park has plenty of experience and has big plans for Splash Island in 2009.
"We're adding a couple of rides there, we're going to re-theme the entire ride, add a little more shade," said Honeycutt.
And don't think that the main park is being neglected. There are other changes in the works as well.
"Our plan is, to try to every other year at least. Try to do something to improve the park," said Honeycutt.
One visitor that we spoke with noticed the changes over the past few years. Brittany Hearon of Americus said, "A lot of the rides that were here when they originally opened are not here anymore."
And is she looking forward to seeing what Wild Adventures has to offer in the future?
"Oh yeah, uh-huh," said Hearon.
Certainly Wild Adventures will do all that it can to convince potential first time visitors that you don't have to cross the border to see exotic locations. And to keep people like Brittany and her friends coming back time and time again.
Wild Adventures is easily accessible from anywhere in our area because of its proximity to Interstate 75. The park is south of Valdosta off of Exit 13. If you're heading southbound, once you exit the interstate turn to the right and go about 4 miles where the park entrance will be on your right. Wild Adventures is now in its Fall schedule where it will only be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The park itself along with the rest of Valdosta can easily be reached on only one tank of gas. Check back here next week to see where the road takes Jay.