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Go Wild on Safari in Santa Rosa

Looking for a way to spend your weekend now that the sun has hopefully peeked its head back out to stay? Well, look no further than California's own safari park.

Yes, you read that correctly: Safari park. In California. You no longer have to travel 30 hours on a plane to Africa to experience its wildlife firsthand. Because located in the outskirts of Santa Rosa is the 400-acre Safari West, one of Northern California's best kept secrets.

You'll start your journey by riding atop a vintage 1950 Dodge Power Wagon; as you cruise through a park of more than 80 species, don't be surprised if a giraffe named Boomer approaches your vehicle to say hi or a lopsided African watusi named Ilene (get it? I-lene) wanders up to give Terry, the guide, a nuzzle. You'll pass through open fields of zebras and cape buffalo, wildebeest and rhinos. Bigger game of the 500 resident animals are scattered throughout the park, but after your two-hour vehicle tour, don't forget to stop by the aviary, as well, which houses the smaller breeds, an interesting array of exotic birds (like the flamboyant blue crowned pigeon that likes to be seen and heard) and, oddly enough, blue duikers (the world's smallest breed of antelope). Additionally, you'll find a host of animals like cheetahs and warthogs in spacious pens around the main lodge area.

While a great way to keep kids entertained for an afternoon, adults will dig this outdoors adventure, too. This is no petting zoo experience; it's the real deal. Tours run daily: $68 for adults, $30 for children; reservations are required. If you really want the full experience, consider booking a cabin or canvas tent for the night and have the gentle caws and snorts of the animals just feet away from your accommodation lull you to sleep at night and be the first thing to greet you in the morning.

Disclaimer: Guests are not allowed to touch the animals; only trained guides are authorized to do so.