The Tulsa Zoo Offers Wildlife Camping for Families


Our family loves the great outdoors. Well, with the exception of our middle child, who cringes when he gets dirt on his hands and claims he is allergic to sunlight. The rest of the Fernandez family loves dirt, the sun and all things associated with the outside such as camping.

Camping is a fun inexpensive way to vacation with your family, albeit a little bit of work. Actually a lot of work, especially when you lack manual dexterity skills such as myself.

If you are a newbie to the camping scene and want a way to ease into the adventure – you need to check out the Tulsa Zoo’s Starry Safari. It is one of the best inventions ever for family fun.

What is Starry Safari? It is a pretty cool concept. You actually spend the night at the zoo right by the lions, rhinos and all the other creatures. It’s a safari adventure and you don’t even have to leave the city limits.

The Tulsa Zoo hosts these safaris several times in the spring and the fall. We are huge fans and try to go every time they host one. Even our middle son loves it.
Families bring tents, sleeping bags, flashlights and stake their claim on the zoo grounds. While the adults pitch the tents, kids can run around on the zoo’s playground, check out the animals and basically have free reign of the zoo.

There is no fire building or cooking. The zoo provides a delicious dinner of hot dogs and or hamburgers with all the sides.

But you ask, what is a campout without a fire? Again, the zoo is a turn-key camping experience. They build the fire complete with marshmallow roasting, campfire songs and stories.

And if that wasn’t enough, you and your family can take a trip on the train at night, see special animal presentations or just walk around on your own. Exploring the zoo at night is definitely a unique experience. While some of the animals are sleeping, there are some night owls that like to hang out with the campers. You never know exactly what you will find.

Then alas, it is time to retire to your tent, sleeping under the stars at the zoo. It just doesn’t get any better.

Morning arrives and you are awakened by the sounds of the lions roaring and gibbons howling. For a moment you forget where you are. Africa? Oh wait, it’s the Tulsa Zoo. It’s time for breakfast.

And again, no cooking involved. The zoo’s grille provides a hearty breakfast of eggs, pancakes and fruit.

After a few more special presentations, it is time to pack up and head home before the zoo opens to the public.

If this sounds like your kind of camping adventure, you can sign up at the Tulsa Zoo’s website: Starry Safari’s are held in May, September and October weather permitting. Starry Safaris are for members only. But for the small price of a membership, the family memories created are well worth it.

Updated 05-18-2011

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