The eland is one of the hundreds of animals visitors can meet at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park in Cumberland County.
The eland is one of the hundreds of animals visitors can meet at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park in Cumberland County. (laketobias.com)

No need to head out on an African safari to get a taste of the wild: a short drive north is all it takes.

At the Lake Tobias Wildlife Park in Halifax Township, Cumberland County, exotic animals can be seen up-close and personal on open-air safari tours. Visitors will find mammals, reptiles and birds from around the world, making it an adventure for the whole family.

It's not your average zoo, according to Jan Tobias-Kieffer, the director of public relations for the park.

"We are different because we offer a safari tour that takes you across 150 acres of rolling hills with a variety of animals from around the world," she said. "These animals will come right up to your tour bus for you to possibly touch and feed."

Founded in 1965 by J.R. Tobias, the park features herds of approximately 500 mammals and flightless birds from six continents, according to the website. Tour guides educate passengers on the species and their habitats.

The park does not receive any state or federal funding, Tobias-Kieffer said, relying strictly on revenue.

The park also boasts a number of exhibits in a zoo-like setting. Hundreds of animals reside in 50 acres of exhibits, including African lions and Bengal tigers.

Kids will be entertained by the park's petting zoo, which offers a collection of creatures such as goats and llamas.

What to expect: The park, which is just under 50 miles north of York via Interstate 83, will have special programs during the summer, including a scavenger hunt on Saturday, June 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for children 3 to 12 years old. Visitors follow clues throughout the park and are eligible to win prize drawings. The park will host a Wild Days Weekend on Aug. 5 and 6, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The weekend includes an animal parade, pony rides and giveaways.

Visitors should come prepared, Tobias-Kieffer warns.

"Our park is very 'down home' type, so comfortable shoes and weather protection is encouraged," she said. She also notes that all of the exhibits, tours and restrooms in the park are wheelchair accessible.

Cost and hours: Admission is $6 for all ages 3 years and up. Admission includes zoo exhibits and entrance to the reptiles and exotics building and the petting zoo. The safari tour is $5 per person. The park offers free admission and safari tours to military members with ID on Mondays.

The park's summer hours, which run through Labor Day, are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The last safari tour of the day departs one hour before closing.

Concessions are available at the park, but families can also bring their own food to eat in the picnic area, Tobias-Kieffer said. The animals, however, can only be fed with food provided by the park.

Lake Tobias Wildlife Park is in its 48th season as a family-owned and operated zoo. Tobias-Kieffer said she thinks families are drawn to the park because it's educational and affordable.

"Our prices are so reasonable," she said. "It's a great family day trip."

For more information, visit www.laketobias.com or call the park at (717) 362-9126.

Weekend Travels is a travel series highlighting fun attractions within a two-hour drive of York City. Want to suggest a place for a future travel feature?

Contact York Weekend editor Mel Barber at (717) 854-1575, ext. 458, or mbarber@yorkdispatch.com or travel writer Kristen Putch at (717) 505-5444 or kputch@yorkdispatch.com.