When you’re motoring 5,000+ miles across the country in a MINI, you see a lot of stuff: pretty scenery, oddball roadside attractions, and more, but perhaps the most interesting two stops we made were at two very different animal parks… The first, Franklin Drive-Thru Safari is a fully-functioning drive-thru animal park and petting zoo. The second, Jungle Habitat, is a completely abandoned animal theme park turned somewhat terrifying “recreational area.” Both were well worth visiting, but for entirely different reasons…

Franklin Drive-Thru Safari sits outside of Austin, a short detour on your route to or from Dallas, and boasts all sorts of animals from camels to peacocks, and when you parade a string of a few hundred MINI Coopers through its paths you get some pretty adorable photos…

1,600 miles away sits the entirely different drive-thru safari once called Jungle Habitat. Roadtrippers writer Greg Newkirk tells the story of how this once active animal theme park became one of the spookiest locations in all of New Jersey:

When the decision was made to shutter the New Jersey safari-themed amusement park known as Jungle Habitat, the powers-that-be thought that simply abandoning the grounds would be enough to take the wildlife out of the park. However, they neglected to remember one key fact about the abandoned jungle’s untamed beasts– they're hard-wired for survival.

First reports of the abandoned space being not-so barren came a few years after the initial closure of the park in 1976. When West Milford residents voted against the expansion of Jungle Habitat, the current owners, Warner Brothers, cut their losses and stepped away from the unlucky theme park. Leading up to this decision there were troubling incidents of visitor attacks and diseased animals on the loose. From the first days of the park’s opening, it became apparent that no one involved had the slightest notion of how to run an entertainment spot filled with wild beasts- closure seemed like a much simpler option.


But ever since the closure, locals claim to still see wild animals in the area…

And now, decades later, the strange rumors still persist. Locals have reported seeing kangaroos, monkeys, and other non-dangerous untamed beasts roaming around the outskirts of the reserve.


While the rest of the MINI motorcade barreled toward the next city, I knew I had to make a stop at the abandoned Jungle Habitat. Today, the abandoned park is open to the public for hiking and mountain biking, if you’re ok with the warning signs mentioning the area is full of freakin’ bears…

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Like an idiot, I tramped off into the woods by myself in search of the remnants of what was Jungle Habitat…


After a solid hour of wandering through the woods looking for abandoned structures I found a few little cage areas, some leftover railroad tracks, the main roads from the drive-thru portion, and a few other signs of the theme park that once stood here, but most importantly, I scared the living crap out of myself…


I’m sure mountain biking through here with friends or going on a hike with your family takes the edge off, but as I quietly trekked through the theme park once teeming with monkeys and other friendly wildlife I couldn’t help but remember the multiple bear warnings posted both online and in person for the area. After said hour of exploring I was convinced a bear was lurking nearby, keenly aware of my aloneness… Tracking my every move as he smelled the scent of my cologne.

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It was time to get the heck out of Jungle Habitat.

It’s hard to imagine two more different places could find their way onto one travel itinerary… Franklin Drive-Thru Safari made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like all animals just want you to pet, feed, and cuddle with them. The abandoned Jungle Habitat gave me the distinct impression at least one animal in that woods secretly wanted to eat me.

If you’re in Texas or New Jersey, a stop by both places is highly recommended, just maybe not by yourself.

Roadtrippers visited these hidden gems on the 2014 MINI Takes the States. MTTS is a rad 2-week, 5,000+ mile road adventure for MINI owners where you barrel from city to city each day meeting the nicest (seriously, the nicest) people, occasionally getting scared out of sketchy roadside restaurants, getting asked a thousand questions at every gas station, and meeting up with 1,000+ MINI lovers for a big party each night. 

More posts from our adventure on 2014 MINI Takes the States:

The Million Dollar Highway: Colorado’s most beautiful driveThese two crazy Germans just drove a MINI Cooper AROUND THE WORLDWhat a road trip down US 50, the “Loneliest Road,” is really likeTake a tour of Cisco, UT: the creepy ghost town from Thelma & Louise and Vanishing PointVisit the real-life "Lerner Field" from Con-Air

Not weird enough for ya? Then check out these insanely weird American towns!

Is Maharishi Vedic City America's most unusual town?

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In the strange town of Lily Dale, the living reside happily among the dead


Visiting Centralia, the bizarre ghost town with an eternal, underground fire

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