13187 State Hwy M
Wright City, MO 63390
Amenities: picnic area, animals, restrooms
Big Joel's Safari is a petting zoo that opened in the summer of 2012. It's out in Wright City so it was a bit of a drive for me since I live in the city, but if you live in West County it isn't as bad of a hike. It's a very picturesque drive down two lane curvy roads and I had no problem finding it. There is a similar place to visit called Critter Lane if you live further south. They're both very similar and you can read about them here.
Once you park you enter through a building that houses a little gift shop with light snacks and some smaller animals in cages (birds, turtles, reptiles, bunnies, etc). You pay your admission here and decide what all you want to do. Kids under 2 are free and everyone else is $6 each. You can also pay $3 for unlimited time in the bounce house, which was a big hit, and you can buy animal food. They sell large plastic feed cups ($4) or little feed cups ($2) and you can get refills too (1/2 price). This was my son's favorite thing ever, feeding the animals, so I highly recommend this for sure. Don't forget your hand sanitizer! I really felt like I needed it after leaving here and touching all those animals. Once you leave this building you can just wander around as you like. The grounds are not huge and there are animals all along the way. My son just held the cup out and the animals came right to it and ate out of it. He thought this was just the coolest thing ever and he was smiling the entire time (he's 3 and a half). Plus it was nice that he didn't get his hands dirty and I think it would have freaked him out if they tried to nibble or lick his fingers. Tell them to hold on to the cup though because some of the animals were skilled at getting hold of it and pulling it out of your hand. They say they have over 60 different kinds of animals including bison, watusi cattle, zebu, aoudads, camels, zebras, llamas, African porcupines, ostriches, emus, parrots, reptiles, and a variety of deer, elk, and antelope as well as many farm animals. We alternated between walking around feeding the animals and bouncing in the bounce house. I am a big fan of the St. Louis zoo, but this was nice because you could get a lot closer to most of these animals than you can at the zoo.
The paths are made of rock and it was hard to push my daughter in her umbrella stroller. Luckily there was a grass part too and it was easier to push on that. Outside the main building they have a covered pavilion with lots of seating if you want to have lunch. They don't allow outside food but do have light snacks for sale. They say plans for a snack shack are in the works...
They have some extra activities now too:
-Camel Rides- $5 per person
-Keet Shack- $1 a stick
-Crafts with Mary- $3 a person for paint and take ceramics (she's there most weekends and during summer break)
-Education Station- Free to touch animal artifacts and even some animals
They offer tours, field trips, birthday parties, and seasonal events like movie night, hayrides, and Halloween fun. I think a birthday party would be a blast here!