LAKE GENEVA -- This is opening weekend for a new zoo that makes you feel like you've left the country. Safari Lake Geneva offers a close-up look at animals you might otherwise only see from a fence.
The experience is meant to be like none other in Wisconsin.
“I got excited and I usually don’t do animals like that," said Blanche Wade of Milwaukee.
Animals like ostriches, long-horned cattle, bison, antelope and a miniature horse are all roaming free on 75 acres of Walworth County wilderness.
The park is the brainchild of Jay Christie.
“I think in some respects, it hasn’t even fully sunk in," Christie said.
Christie has a Class C exhibitor's license from the Department of Agriculture.
“Wisconsin is fairly open-minded when it relates to the ownership of exotic animals," Christie said. "We're one of only five states that requires no license or permit. Local governments can place restrictions but the Lake Geneva area doesn't."
Visitors get an hour ride on a custom-built wagon pulled by a tractor to interact with the animals. Guests can pet the animals, feed them and just admire them.
“At a zoo they’d be caged in, but here they get to roam free and you’re caged in, so you get to see the animals in kind of a different perspective," visitor Zach Blumenfeld said. “You just see all different kinds of animals from all over the world."
And if you didn’t get enough of the animals aboard the wagon, visitors can still interact with the animals once they jump off. Safari Lake Geneva will be open until October 31.
“It’s a photographer’s dream of course because you’re viewing animals in totally pristine natural circumstances," Christie said.