When I travel, I try to balance seeing some well known attractions with a few things off the beaten path. On my list of things to do while I was in Fredericksburg was visiting wineries, walking around the historic downtown, experiencing the bat emergence at Old Tunnel State Park and seeing the Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch. When I woke up on the morning I planned to visit the LBJ Ranch, I just wasn’t feeling like being a tourist and was wishing for something a little different to do. I was in the office of my RV park picking up a package when I saw a flyer for The Exotic Resort Zoo in Johnson City, Texas, and thought that could be just what I was needing.
Zoos — Good or bad?
I love animals and have always been a sucker for petting zoos. The Exotic Resort Zoo, for me, was just one big petting zoo and I absolutely loved it. Now, before you go getting all up in arms and telling me how bad petting zoos are, let me make a couple of things very clear.
I believe, and it’s OK if you don’t agree with me, that all types of zoos are important. You can read about the Sacramento Zoo and Gladys Porter Zoo to see my thoughts on accredited zoos. I know there are bad petting zoos but when you find a good one, it can be an uplifting, educational and very fun experience. It can be the beginning of children learning to be gentle with animals (many don’t have pets at home) and to care about the environment.
There’s a huge difference between petting domesticated wild animals in a petting zoo and trying to pet a wild animal in, for example, a national park. Wild animals need to be respected and rules followed always. That is something some people don’t seem to realize and a very important point for petting zoos to stress. Wild animals that haven’t been hand raised can be very dangerous – especially bison.
The Exotic Resort Zoo, Johnson City, Texas
The Safari Experience
The 137-acre family owned and operated resort is home to more than 600 animals from all over the world. The Exotic Resort Zoo does not have a bunch of animals in cages. They have a few but that is not the focus of the zoo. You can walk on your own through the goat and deer pastures, spending as much time as you like, hand feeding as you go, but the real fun is riding the safari tram.
About 15 of us loaded up on our safari tram, which they say holds up to 40, and headed out on our 45-minute tour through the huge pastures where the animals roam free. I didn’t really know what to expect but was delighted when the animals came running towards us. I love when an adventure makes me feel like a kid again and Exotic Resort Zoo definitely worked its magic there. It was obvious that the animals enjoy interacting with visitors for snacks and pets, mostly for the snack.They are free-fed all day so don’t worry that they depend on visitors for food.
It was fun and exciting to hand feed and pet deer, exotic cattle, camels, my heart animal zebras, and yes, even bison. All the animals were very gentle. You could put feed between your lips for the camels and they would take it gently. They have t-shirts in the gift shop that say, “I Kissed a Camel.” I was so busy feeding and photographing that I didn’t try it but others did.
The Resort has seven safari style cabins with views of the lake and countryside. The smaller cabins can accommodate up to four people and the largest eight people. The tram and petting zoo are included with a stay in the cabins and there are many more amenities.
Exotic Resort Zoo Details
- Adults – $16.95
- Children (2-12) – $13.95
- Seniors (60+) – $15.95
- Small bucket of feed – $6
- Large bucket of feed – $10
Fees include the 45-minute guided tram ride and unlimited time in the petting zoo area. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it under the oak trees near the petting zoo.
- Petting Zoo only – $8
The Exotic Resort Zoo is open daily from 9am to 6pm and tram rides operate rain or shine until 5pm. Both the tram ride and petting zoo are handicap accessible. The facility is dog-friendly, even in the cabins.
Until next time…