NOTE: My family and I stayed overnight at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Preserve Lodge and toured the park free of charge for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own.
For our family, a major trip this summer was not in the cards. We’ve taken a few small trips to visit relatives, but hadn’t had the chance to do something fun, just us, as a family. So when I heard about Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas just 2 hours outside of Dallas, we were excited to try it out! Located in the same general area as the famous dinosaur fossils, the 1,700+ acre park began in 1970 as a private endeavor , opened to the public in 1984, and became a non-profit in 1987. The Center is part of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and as such you’ll also get a $5 discount on admission if you are a member of the Dallas Zoo.
The focus of the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is the 9.5 mile Scenic Drive, a drive-through safari experience offering close encounters with dozens of animal species. Almost all of them will come directly up to your car as you wind your way slowly in a meandering circle. In addition to the drive, there is also the Children’s Animal Center which includes a petting zoo, galapagos turtles, a few other farm animals and some exotic birds.
We took the Scenic Drive twice during our visit — once by ourselves when we first arrived in the late afternoon, and once the next morning via the Guided Tour. I have to say that the Guided Tour was my favorite, mostly because our tour guide, Jan, was so knowledgable! There are just a lot of things that a guide can tell you that we didn’t discover on our own from the pamphlet we were given at the admissions office. And her personality was so fun, she obviously loves her job! She also told us that we’d made a wise choice to take the tour in the morning, because that is when the most animals are out and active.
Here are a few Q&A’s that go into more detail about our experience and what you can expect when you visit Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.
For what age is the tour appropriate and how much time should we allocate to be able to see everything?
These two questions are related because, as we know, attention span can vary greatly by age. And potty training. My kids are 2 and 3 years old. Both times we went on the tour, it lasted approximately 2.5-3 hours total. If you are taking the tour on your own, you will hit The Overlook at the halfway point. The stop will offer snacks or even a full lunch if you arrive before 3pm, a gift shop, room to run around, and BATHROOMS! Tip: if you have a potty training or almost-potty-trained child with you, make sure they are wearing Pull-ups, because you cannot leave your car for any reason while on the Scenic Drive.
Without that mid-point stop, the attention span of children 3 years old and under might start to flag a bit. However, when we were on the guided tour, there was an 18-month-old in our group and she actually seemed to enjoy the entire 3 hours. So my answer to the age question would be: pretty much any age child can enjoy the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center tour!
Where do you stay when visiting?
We had the opportunity to stay at The Lodge, which is a bed and breakfast type facility located about 8 miles from the entrance of the park. It was nestled right in the middle of nature — deer can be seen from the porches — but has all the comforts of a hotel and your own home combined. There are various sizes of rooms to rent. We were in The Parrot Room, which had a huge sunken tub and a king sized bed. Everyone staying in The Lodge has access to the wraparound porches, the living areas, and the kitchen (although you cannot use the stove to cook). We just loved the accommodations, and our kids had a ton of fun in the sunken tub late at night (sorry, other patrons!). The layout of The Lodge was perfect for mom and dad to hang out together after the kids have gone to sleep.
Where do you eat if you stay overnight?
If you let the staff know ahead of time, you can have your dinner at the camphouse in the evening, but we opted to drive into Glen Rose where we had a down-home meal at a local bar and grill. Very yummy and fun! Breakfast was included with our stay at The Lodge, and was served there at Fossil Rim a little farther down the road from The Lodge at a comfy little camphouse nestled next to the camping huts. Looking out onto the camping huts from our breakfast table, I once again contemplated taking our kids camping “for real”. Maybe next time!
If your kids love animals and you are looking for somewhere nearby that you can spend a day — and even a night — in peaceful, beautiful surroundings enjoying nature and learning, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is a wonderful retreat. My husband and I also discussed what a nice relaxing date weekend we could make at The Lodge. We were all sad to leave, but it’s great to know that this treasure is located so nearby. I am sure we will be back again soon.