Have you dreamed of going on safari, but can’t travel to the African savanna? Now you can make this bucket list item a reality – Illuminarium has brought the next best thing to the BeltLine. “WILD: A Safari Experience,” features breathtaking views of exotic wildlife and sweeping landscapes of South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. I recently visited with my kids, Gracie and Andrew, and it felt like we were up close to life-size animals.

We were wowed by life-size projections of an elephant and her baby tramping through the forest, the African skyline, trees and mountains in the background. Suddenly, a playful lion raced halfway around the room. The high-tech resolution showed details like the scaly lines on the skin of a green chameleon and flies perching on a lion in the grass. Our footprints made dark projections on the floor, and we could splash water virtually at the shoreline.

Time shifted from sunrise to sunset, and in the middle of the day, dark storm clouds billowed overhead. A lion rolled on a large rock, jumping off as lightning split the sky and the sound of crackling thunder surrounded us.

The chorus of frogs and crickets, the flapping wings of African Swift, the stomping of herds, and the sound of pattering raindrops had us totally immersed in our African Safari. Our favorite part was the night sky blanketed with what seemed like a million stars.

The experience featured almost 50 different animals. Our favorites were the Masai giraffes munching on Acacia trees, a lion pride, cheetahs and leopards, hippopotami, Plains zebras, black rhinoceroses, blue wildebeest, great white pelicans, Thomson’s gazelle and lesser flamingo.

Be sure to check out the Illuminarium Shop that sells artisanal products including woven baskets, beaded items, and socks for a cause. Shoppers can purchase these socks to help protect wildlife and trees. I loved the miniature giraffes constructed from recycled flip flops that washed up on African beaches.

At the end of our visit, we enjoyed lunch from the café on the patio. The white cheddar mac and cheese was some of the best we’d ever tasted. Gracie enjoyed the barbeque panini while Andrew and I liked the beef tenderloin. The portions were filling and moderately priced.

Know Before You Go: The experience takes place in two large rooms, approximately 10,000 square feet. No live animals are part of the experience and nothing is intentionally frightening, but there are some loud sounds that may startle younger kids. Seating is limited. Strollers are allowed and the venue is wheelchair-accessible; rentals are not available. Personal photographs and videos are allowed (no flash photography). The experience lasts about 45-60 minutes. The family restroom in the café has a diaper changing station. Valet parking is available for $3. Allow extra time for parking Friday-Sunday. If visiting in the evening or on a weekend, Marta or Lyft is recommended.

– Janeen Lewis

The Details
“WILD: A Safari Experience” at Illuminarium
550 Somerset Terrace NE, Atlanta
404-341-1000, illuminarium.com
Hours: Sun.-Wed., 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Dates: Through the end of 2021.
Tickets: $35-$50; ages 3-12, $30-$45; ages 2 and younger, free.

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