A major renovation of Lion Country Safari’s primary restaurant and gift shop building is bringing new life to what serves as an entry and focal point for the famed drive-thru wildlife park’s Safari World.
And that work is taking place as construction recently began to build a new gift shop and restaurant near the park’s Safari Falls water attraction.
“We can’t wait to unveil these new spaces and share them with everyone,” said Haley McCann, public relations and social media manager for Lion Country Safari, which has hundreds of animals from about 85 species across its 320 acres in central Palm Beach County.
Cafe Roar and the Curio Gift Shop closed earlier this year for the remodel, which is expected to be completed in October, she said.
“We love the original architecture,” McCann said of the building that houses both the cafe and gift shop. It was built in 1968, shortly after the park opened in 1967. Walking into the cafe with my son in December, it felt a little like a time capsule – appearing very much the same since my childhood, when I would go to Lion Country Safari with my sister and grandparents.
While the exterior will maintain the unique, natural look that has made it iconic, McCann said the plans include “redesigning how everything flows.”
The work includes new light fixtures and paint, along with a refinished floor, she said.
In the gift shop, the cash registers will move toward one of the back walls, giving more space to the large windows that let natural light enter through the north side of the building, McCann said. The team is rethinking the way the gift shop is organized, so visitors will see newly defined sections including plush animals and children’s clothing, she said.
“It’s going to be really an impactful change as far as not only the aesthetics, but also how people browse through the space and the checkout procedure as well,” McCann said.
A rendering of the restaurant shows a new name, Table 67, a nod to the year the park opened. There will be counters where guests can order and pick up food, along with a dedicated space to pick up mobile orders. Diners will be able to choose from low- or high-top tables.
I asked McCann how much of a role the COVID-19 pandemic played in the plans. Many restaurants, including Cafe Roar, placed an increased emphasis on mobile ordering during and immediately after the pandemic to encourage guests who otherwise would not go out to eat. The increase in mobile ordering during the pandemic led helped many restaurants survive COVID-19 lockdowns issued to help prevent the virus’ spread.
“We’ve definitely seen a lot of responsiveness and guest use of mobile ordering, and that’s something that not only us but through the food and beverage industry across the nation, has seen an uptick as well,” McCann said. “We also think that there’s definitely a convenience factor with that, as far as families who are out on their adventure.”
The team at Lion Country Safari is working with its food and beverage service provider, SSA Group, to update the menu at food and beverage locations throughout Safari World, and the cafe’s offerings will be evaluated closer to its reopening, she said.
Oasis and Reef
Work is also underway now on a new restaurant and gift shop near the popular Safari Falls water play area, McCann said.
The Oasis cafe and Reef Gift Shop will offer shaded seating and more food options for those spending a few hours splashing at Safari Falls or the more toddler-friendly Safari Splash.
Safari Falls opened in 2019, marking a major new attraction for the park, with its tunnel slides, dump buckets and sprayers.
“It’s definitely a huge hit and such a great addition to our park that we’ve been able to add,” McCann said. “We definitely want to build on that.”
Having a restaurant and gift shop there will be more convenient for visitors who may need to buy an extra towel or get a quick bite to eat, she said.
“It will be a huge bonus as far as increasing our offerings in that area,” McCann said.
Yes, there are new babies
I had to ask McCann if there are any adorable new baby animals along the park’s four-mile drive-thru safari.
“We definitely have quite a few baby antelope everywhere,” she said. “And I think we have seven or eight wildebeest calves.”
There are also impala and oryx babies, with more on the way, she added.
Two ostrich chicks hatched last month, and they are being seen more and more by visitors, McCann said. “They’re still in what I call daddy day care,” she said. “They’re kind of learning how to be ostriches.”
Lion Country Safari
Address: 2003 Lion Country Safari Road, Loxahatchee
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday with the last car admitted at 4 p.m., 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday and holidays, with the last car admitted at 4:30 p.m.
Information: www.lioncountrysafari.com, 561-793-1084
SIGN UP FOR MY NEWSLETTER!
Get on the list now for my free Weekly Wellington Mom newsletter, delivered to your inbox every Wednesday with the latest news and things to do in Wellington and the surrounding area.