Whether you are a kid, or a kid at heart, it is hard not to spend the day smiling as you wind your way around the Wild Animal Safari in Strafford.

Whether you are a kid, or a kid at heart, it is hard not to spend the day smiling as you wind your way around the Wild Animal Safari in Strafford.

Located just to the east of Springfield, the safari features over 650 animals from over 65 species scattered over the 250 acre park.

The first stop is the walk-about park where some of the smaller, friendly animals are held. Gumball-type machines are located on the outside of each area with the food that particular animal likes to eat, so don’t forget your quarters. Lemurs, apparently, are big fans of fruit loops.

A leisurely stroll around the rest of the walkabout gives visitors a chance to see monkeys, peacocks, goats, and many other animals scattered throughout the area.

One of the safari’s most popular animals is Sheldon, the giraffe. With just a small fence between the giraffe enclosure and the walking path, visitors have a chance to get to know Sheldon up close and personal. If you stand still, he may even use the top of your head as a head rest.

On your way out of the walk-about park, on a hot day you might have a chance to see tigers swimming and splashing around in their pool. Swing by late in the afternoon to watch the feeding and listen to the tigers defending their meals.

Stop at the gift shop to get animal feed for the next part of your day — the drive through park. If you plan on feeding the animals, bring a towel, many of the animals are known to slobber on you.

You have the choice between driving your own vehicle through the park or taking the zebra-striped bus provided. The complimentary bus tour includes a guide that talks about the various animals throughout the park. Those driving their own vehicles need to be warned the park is not responsible for damage animals may cause.

The five-mile drive through area of the park is filled with all sorts of animals, from camel to bison, and zedonk to deer. (A zedonk is a cross between a zebra and a donkey).

Saying the inhabitants of the park are friendly is a bit of an understatement. Animals give you ample time to pet them as they stick their heads in the vehicles, anxious for treats. Often the only way to get their heads out of the car is to slowly creep forward. Taking your own vehicle through allows you to go through at you own pace, admiring the beauty of the animals.

The Safari Grill offers classic food including hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, chicken wings, refreshments and more.

If you go: Hours vary by season. The last ticket is sold one hour before close each day. visit goanimalparadise.com for hours.

Admission: Adults $17.95, seniors 65+ and children 3-12 $12.95, children 2 and under are free. Don’t forget a towel for animal slobber, they are also available in the gift shop

Phone: 417-859-5300

Address: 124 Jungle Dr. Strafford, MO 65757

Website: goanimalparadise.com