Going on safari might be a bit much for a quick weekend adventure, but 10 miles north of Copperas Cove — just the other side of Fort Hood from Killeen — is a place that offers an up-close and personal look at zebras, buffalo, ostrich,and dozens of other exotic wild animals.
Topsey Exotic Ranch and Drive Thru Safari features more than 50 different species of wildlife in a natural setting explored from the comfort and safety of your own car or truck.
Visitors must remain in their vehicle at all times as they drive pathways through the ranch, and although the animals — which also include deer, antelope, cows, birds, donkeys, rabbits, pigs, emus, horses, reptiles, a tiger, kangaroos, monkeys and more — are considered wild, officials say most are tame enough to be fed by hand; but only from inside the vehicle.
Only approved feed is permitted. Outside food is not allowed.
For safety reasons, all vehicles driving through the facility, such as jeeps, must have secure doors and “high-profile” vehicles are not allowed. Speed limit is 5 mph, and in case of an emergency, the signal for help is flashing lights and honking the horn.
The ranch, located at the intersection of FM 1113 and FM 580, was established in 1981 and opened to the public in July 1988. Daily operating hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through September, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. October through March. As GPS directions to Topsey Ranch can be sketchy, officials recommend calling 254-547-3700 for directions.
Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for children 3-12, kids 2 and under are free and seniors 62+ are $11. Military discounts are available at Fort Hood’s Liesure Travel Services, formerly Information, Tickets and Travel.
For more information, go to www.topseyexoticranch.com.
If that doesn’t quite suit your fancy, here are some other local summertime attractions that might better wet your whistle:
Summer Fun Water Park, 1410 Waco Road in Belton, features multiple water slides, a lazy river, large swimming pool, and pavilions for parties. The park is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Admission prices: adults, $16; children three to 12 years old, $13; non-swimmers, $7; and seniors, free. The park offers discounted rates for admission after 3 p.m., and Sunday admission is $13 for all ages. Summer Fun also features teen and adult nights throughout the summer. Go to summerfunwaterpark.com for more information.
The Killeen Family Aquatics Center, 1800 E. Stan Schlueter Loop, includes a 10,360 square foot multi-use pool, a lap pool, bathhouse, three water slides, kid’s play area, shaded rest areas and more. Day passes range from $5 to $8 based upon age, with kids 3 years and under always free. The center is open Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 6:30 p.m.
Hancock Springs Free Flow Pool is one of the last free-flowing spring-fed pools in Texas with water staying at a cool 72 degrees no matter how hot it gets outside. The spring is at Hancock Park, Highway 281 South in Lampasas. Adult admission fee is $3.50 per day and seniors and children are $2.50. The pool is open Thursday-Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.
Belton Lake Outdoor and Recreation Center, at the intersection of North Nolan Road and Cottage Road, has a number of activities for families to enjoy. Camping sites, picnic pavilions, horseback riding trails, hiking, mountain biking, as well as a man-made beach complete with a downhill water slide and more are available. Military patrons pay $3 per car; all others are $10 per vehicle. Visit hood.armymwr.com for more information.