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Walk on the Wild Side
by Kathleen Walls - American Roads Travel Magazine
Photos by Martin Walls

Gravity defying roller coasters are only one of the reasons that Valdosta's Wild Adventures is the fastest growing theme park in America. Where else can you find a gorgeously costumed ice skating review, top name entertainers in concert, laser shows, over 500 wild animals, 55 rides, a water park and so much more. Of course, those 9 roller coasters don't hurt. It's this combination of wild life and wild rides that has moved Wild Adventures from one man's back yard petting zoo to the largest privately owned theme park in the nation. It still manages to maintain one of the lowest prices in the nation as well- you can even return for a free second day with one admission- which might help account for its popularity. So come with me on a Walk on the Wild Side.

Wild Adventures sprang from a humble beginning. It all started in 1991 when Kent Buescher, a local businessman, purchased 100 acres in the rolling farmland on the outskirts of Valdosta about ten miles north of the Florida line. What he had in mind was a place for his wife and daughter's horses. His friends decided it would be a hoot to stock it with barnyard animals for his birthday.

So with a chick chick here and a goat goat there and a moo moo everywhere, Kent Buescher soon had a farm. His daughter's friends fell in love with the place. He began offering it to schools for field trips. The visitors soon numbered in the thousands so he added picnic shelters, restrooms and some carnival rides. In May 1996 he had purchased 70 more acres and the petting zoo had metamorphosed into Liberty Farms Animal Park with about 300 animals and several carnival-style rides. His visitors numbered close to 100,000 that year. Kent knew he had a winner here even though all feasibility studies showed that this was not a good area to support an amusement park.

In 1998, he had renamed it Wild Adventures and brought in the first thrill ride, The Boomerang. Perhaps one of the reasons for the park's phenomenal popularity is that they are still bringing in new rides, animals and attractions.

Wild Adventures is actually seven complete areas Five of these mini parks contains rides, animals, shows and shops to fit the theme. All are guaranteed fun for all ages.

The Swamp

The Swamp is a peaceful boardwalk winding through a wetlands habitat that is home to numerous animals. Alligators, bears, fallow deer and numerous others share this part of the park.

You will find two shows here as well; Animals of the World and World of Snakes. Both take you up close and personal with some of the Swamp's inhabitants.

Splash Island

Splash Island is the place to be on a scorching summer day. If you are looking for lots of wet fun as temperatures soar, how about storming the Rain Fortress? It is an unbelievable water playground in the middle of a sparkling aqua lagoon surrounded by beach area for relaxing after your swim.

Want to mix up some excitement in your water fun? You can experience the Tri-Phoon. It will cool you off with a plunge down one of two steep lightning fast slides or through a twisting turning tunnel into the clear waters of the pool below.

If that is too much action for you on a steamy day, how about just floating down Paradise River on a tube? All in all, Splash Island is a heavenly way to spend a hot summer day.


Bugsville has the most rides and is geared for both young and old. It's coasters range from the Ant Farm Express and Tiger Terror, which are suitable for younger children to the Bug Out Roller Coaster, which is still one of the milder coasters in the park.

The pride of this area is the new Spongebob Squarepants. This 4D turbo charged ride takes you on an underwater quest as Spongebob searches Bikini Bottom for a lost pickle. Fans of the cartoon character can't get enough of this one.

Shows here are Bugville Adventure and Honky Tonk Jamboree. Bugville Adventure followers Mollie, a birthday girl who falls asleep only to awaken in Bugville. She meets an enchanted cast of buggy characters before retuning home.

Honky Tonk Jamboree is a down home country style entertainment chock full of music, dance, jokes and fun.

Australian Outback

Australian animals are some of the most unusual in the world and you find a good assortment here. Kangaroos, wallabies and emus give you a peek into the Australian Outback. The animal exhibits in Wild Adventures flow easily form one area to the next so there is some overlapping. This makes it easy for one independent minded emu who has decided he is an antelope. You will find him peacefully mingling with the rest of "his" herd.

The Boomerang is one of the most exciting in the park. It loops, inverts and plunges down hills at a breathtaking 50 miles per hour. Then before you can breath easily again, It does it all over again in reverse. After the dizzying rides, the coolest show in the park is at the Ice Palace. "Legends on Ice" is a spectacle worth seeing. Opening with a scene right out of "Grease" it salutes the legends of Hollywood. "Marilyn Monroe," "Elvis" and "Charlie Chaplin" are truly poetry in motion as they skim across the ice. A juggling mine on a unicycle and a giant dog provide humor. Watch out for the dog if you are near the front of the rink. You could get an unexpected shower.

African Pridelands

The animals are the main attraction here. Tigers, giraffes, monkeys and elephants will enthrall you. Many have interesting stores as well. Shirley, one of two Asian elephants, is a retired circus and show biz performer. She was featured in The Jungle Book. In fact all the animals at Wild Adventures were born in captivity, many right here at the park. The best way to view the park's animal population is via the Safari Train. As it wends its way through the park, your conductor will tell you about the animals you are viewing

Another way to learn more about the park animals is to catch one of the Keeper Talks held at varying time throughout the day. The king of the park's wooden roller coasters is The Cheetah. This 90 foot tall wild beast plunges and twists at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. This one is not for the fainthearted.

Shows here are Shazzam, a amazing display of sleight of hand, escapes and magic. Pridelands African Acrobats, an exhibition of strength, balance and agility, and Amazing Cats, Bengal and Siberian Tigers show off their gentle side..

Wild West

Shenani-guns is my choice for best fun show. The characters, Marshall Hoppalong Casualty, his wily deputy, Leon, bad guys, Dynamite Bill and Dynamite Bob, known as the Dynamite Dudes will keep you in stitches with their witty one liners and zaney shoot-up-up antics.

Dan Dan The Farmer Man is a bumbling farmer-inventor. Join him and his silly sidekick, Scarecrow, as they try to perfect a "rainmaker machine." Blackfoot Falls is one way to beat the heat on a scorching summer day. It is a mild coaster with only a gentle plunge but that plunge is into nice cold water. You will leave the ride drenched but several degrees cooler.

There are two real roller coasters in the Wild West. The Hangman is definitely not for the squeamish. It is the largest roller coaster in the park. It's seven inversions, 65 miles per hour plunge from ten stories in the air to inches above the ground will leave you breathless.

The Gold Rush Roller Coaster is a good choice for younger or first time coaster riders.

Geronimo Sky Coaster while not a roller coaster is a must for the ultimate thrill seeker. It is a hang gliding and skydiving combination reaching speeds to 60-80 mph. You will be launched from a 180 foot tower wearing a full body flight suit

Treasure Cove

One of the biggest attractions here is the Double Shot. It is as close to space travel as you are likely to get today. If you are more interested in solid earth adventures, try the rock climbing wall.

The Plunge lets you jump into a rubber raft and slip and slide your way down one of two very wet chutes.

For those of you who miss the old fashioned arcade you will find it here. In addition to all the rides and shows, you will be seeing stars all year long. Entertainers like Wynonna, Trace Adkins, the Oak Ridge Boys and others grace the big concert stage. Best of all the shows are free with your admission.

On nights the park is open until 9PM you will be treated to an spectacular lazer and fireworks show. The park is open late all weekends and most weekdays in the summer and during special holidas.

If you want to have a frightfully good time visit the park in October for Halloscream. You can take your pick from four special haunted houses, Terror Visions 3-D Haunted House, Crypt, Haunted Mansion and Buzzby's Boo House. The Ghost Train will transport you into a whole new dimension of terror. If you are feeling particularly daring enter the Black Forest, a trail filled with strange sounds and ghastly creatures of the night. If you are seeking company to share your terror, join Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, on Superstition for a very different motion simulator ride.

The ultimate holiday celebration at Wild Adventures is Christmas Wonderland. From mid-November to December 31, the entire park decks itself in festive attire. Five-million brilliant lights and animated displays illuminate the park. Regular shows are replaced by ones with holiday spirit. You can ride in holiday style on the Wonderland Express, a festive train ride through almost a mile of animated lights and displays. Even the food is different: hot spiced cider, wassail, hot chocolate, homemade fudge, roasted nuts and all kinds of holiday fare.

If you think the fun ends after that you are so wrong. Snow Days are just starting. They begin with a New Year's Eve celebration, complete with a count down and special laser and fireworks spectacular. For the next two months the park is turned into a winter wonderland. Ice skating, tobogganing, snowball fights and building you own snow man are all part of the fun.

So take a walk on the wild side, you will enjoy it any time of year.

Contact Wild Adventures 229-219-7080

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.

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