Editor’s Note: May 15, 2016: Per Aikman Wildlife Adventure’s Facebook page: Grand Opening will not happen on Memorial Day weekend, and instead will begin Friday, July 1st and will also coincide with Arthur’s huge fireworks display on Saturday, July 2nd.
By Rebecca Powers
If you’re from Central Illinois, you’ve most likely been to (or at least heard of) Rockome Gardens in Arcola. My family has visited there for generations, and when we found out last year that it had been purchased and closed, we were pretty bummed. It turns out that a local family acquired the former Rockome Gardens and transformed it into what is now Aikman Wildlife Adventure. So we made the 40-minute drive from Champaign to Arcola to check out this new area attraction — and an ADVENTURE it was!
The park’s official grand opening isn’t until
Memorial Day, but if you’re like us and couldn’t wait, you can still check it out on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. They currently offer a $20 per vehicle drive-thru safari (in your own vehicle) and a behind-the-scenes tour for $25 per person in a six-seater ATV. Though the $25 per person seemed a bit steep, we took the plunge to get the ultimate up close animal experience. We couldn’t be happier that we did!
We jumped into the ATV with our tour guide, Andrew, who knew everything that there was about the park and wildlife. Our adventure started off with Clyde, the confident 2-year-old camel that loves food. We were able to feed and pet Clyde (and countless other animals) as Andrew educated us about all of the different species at the park. Clyde, as all 2-year-olds, seemed to be stalking us throughout the tour, in constant search of food (he was our fave). Our experience was so thorough and interactive that it truly felt like we were on a mini safari right here in Central I-L. Some of our favorite animal encounters were with the two camels (Clyde and Fabio), the zebu, the zebras, the Scottish highlander (Gerard), the emus, llamas and the bison. Note: These animals have no concept of personal space (especially when feed is involved), so no need for your camera’s zoom!
Our fabulous tour also included seeing animals inside their own personal indoor habitats and petting areas where we were permitted to pet a number of little animals, including two mini ponies named Dixie and Peanut. And if you’ve got some extra cash lying around, there is a list of animals in their gift shop that you can sponsor and even name. The park is thriving with new little ones roaming around, like Ceaser the baby llama and the newest addition, a beautiful little colt.
If you’re looking for that extra special family activity to make lasting memories, you’ve got to visit Aikman Wildlife Adventure. It’s an easy drive, only five miles west of I-57 (exit 203) into Amish country, where you’re likely to get a glimpse of some horse and buggies. We will definitely be going back once the park is going full force to see what new wildlife they’ve added and of course, to take a camel ride. It sounds like Aikman Wildlife has even more exciting things to come as they continue to expand their offerings.
Becca is a native of Effingham and an ISU graduate. She and her hubby James have lived in Champaign for eight years. When their spunky little girl, Sydney, arrived almost five years ago, she decided to leave the world of marketing to “stay home” and show her the world. She and her family love Chambana and all that it and the surround areas have to offer.