By R. Aaron Schauer
Any weekend in Northwest Arkansas can become an outright adventure if you know where to look.
For years now, at least a couple of times a year, I make the drive from Fayetteville to Gentry to visit what locals simply call The Gentry Safari. To start the trip, I like to park the car and visit some of the animals the zoo has near the entrance. These often change and can range from bear cubs to cute, little monkeys. Be prepared because visiting this often overlooked section of the park can be very hands-on…far beyond what you might experience in a petting zoo (though they have that, too).
After stopping by the refreshment stand to get a soda for the road, it’s on to the drive through the safari that the park is known for. I almost have it memorized. You see zebras, rhinos, camels, tigers, lions, monkeys, and many more exotic animals … most roaming free (but don’t feed the animals). Always be on the lookout for the friendly emus that seem to accompany you while you make the trip. Various animals often block the road as they go about their business, providing a little rush to those who might be squeamish. But don’t worry, since they always make way.
You drive across fields, down into hollows, along gullies, and through wooded areas. Before long, you feel as if you’re somewhere else.
I always enjoy visiting zoos when I’m out of town, but if I had to pick just one, the surreal experiences I’ve had at this safari near a little town in Arkansas would leave me an easy decision. It’s certainly a hidden treasure.
R. Aaron Schauer is a Toot’n Towns USA correspondent and a blogger who runs www.aaronschauer.blogspot.com.
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