Getaway in PA: Lake Tobias Wildlife Park is Family Affair
What began as one man's passion, turned into a family affair that's continued for decades. And families from all over are still enjoying the legacy left by J.R. Tobias. Tobias combined his love for animals and his family when he created the Lake Tobias Wildlife Park in Halifax.
“He had a love and an interest in exotic animals all his life,” says J.R.’s daughter, Jan Tobias-Kieffer.
Her father founded the park, located about an hour and 30 minutes from State College on the way to Harrisburg, on the same property where he was born and raised. J.R.’s seven children grew up there as well, and when the park opened in 1965, they began to work at the zoo.
“It had its ups and downs,” Jan says laughing.
After their father’s death in 1996, the Tobias children continued to run the wildlife park, which is now home to hundreds of animals from six continents. The park features safari rides, animal exhibits, a petting zoo and catch-and-release fishing.
“It really has more of an outdoorsy, family farm feel to it,” Jan says.
The most popular attraction at the park is the safari tour through 150 acres of wildlife habitat. Visitors will see a variety of mammals and flightless birds while riding in an open-air cruiser. Zoos around the country that offer safari rides have used J.R.’s original idea of turning school buses into cruisers, Jan says.
There is also more than 50 acres of zoo exhibits that feature monkeys, African lions, Bengal tigers and alligators. And Jan says the park differs from other notable zoos, in that people can get much closer to the creatures.
“Many people tell us that even at Disney World, which is a fantastic facility, you have to look at the animals from a distance,” she says. “But here at Lake Tobias, the animals are right with you. On your safari tour bus, animals are coming right to your seat.” Visitors can feed animals like yaks, buffalo and elk from the cruiser. Children can even touch alligators and snakes feels following presentations in the park’s Reptile Building.
Jan says the park is a great destination for families looking for affordable fun. Admission to exhibits, the petting zoo and the cost of a safari tour totals $12. More and more grandparents are bringing their grandchildren to the park to see how much it has changed over the years.
Currently, some of J.R. Tobias' grandchildren work at the park to share the animal-loving patriarch’s legacy with new generations.
“I think he would be very pleased with what we have here,” Jan says about her father. “We are continuing dad’s legacy of sharing his love of exotic animals with the public.”
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