Nova Wild — formerly known as Roer’s Zoofari and, before that, Reston Zoo — will partially reopen this weekend with a new self-drive safari.
Customers will get the chance to experience different animals like bison, llamas, and emus from their vehicles. Tours begin Saturday, Feb. 11 and will continue every Friday through Sunday thereafter at the zoo, which is located at 1228 Hunter Mill Road. Each tour is 30 minutes.
The rebranded zoo isn’t expected to fully open until early March, Josh Reid, a spokesperson for the zoo told FFXnow. Reid said an official opening date is not yet available.
Tickets are $10 per person. Kids 3 and under are free. A cup of animal feed is available for purchase for $5.
The nonprofit is also working with Lumagica, a company that specializes in light shows, to bring a light show with more than 50,000 LED lights representing migration patterns to the zoo from Feb. 17 through April 19 to celebrate the zoo’s grand opening.
Tickets for the “Great Migration” light show are available online.
The zoo changed ownership late last year, FFXnow previously reported. Founder Tara Campbell Lussier — a real estate agent and a mom of four — says she looks forward to reinventing the zoo that she used to visit as she grew up in Reston.
“I’m excited to give local families the chance to experience wildlife firsthand, and we’re modernizing the property to create an optimal experience, both for our visitors and the animals that live here,” Campbell Lussier said.
The owners of the zoo stress the prioritization of animal welfare, education and conservation. It’s formed as a nonprofit organization with accreditation by the Zoological Association of America and American Humane.
Before the ownership changed, patrons of the zoo were offered a tram-assisted tour that brought its animals near the vehicle.
Roer’s Zoofari, a popular zoo and safari in Reston, is under new ownership and will reopen as Nova Wild in early March.
Nova Wild says it plans to revitalize the local treasure and create a non-profit, community-focused zoo for children of all ages.
“Our intent is to revitalize a beloved Reston Gem,” Joshua Reid, the spokesperson for the company, said. “Nova Wild is proudly under new ownership, and everything is changing.”
A drive-through safari is expected to open in early February before the full zoo opens in early March.
The change in ownership took place on Dec. 30. Vanessa and Jacob Roer were the previous owners. Reid describes the new owner — Tara Campbell Lussier — as a former Reston resident and longtime friend. Lussier is a real estate agent and serial entrepreneur.
Next month, the new owners will launch a light show called “The Great Migration,” which will allow participants to explore 10 animal habitats and learn about wildlife from around the world, along with the trails that run through the property. It’ll feature more than 800,000 LED lights.
The show is slated to take place on Feb. 17 through April 9 from 4:30-8:30 p.m.
Nova Wild plans a three-pronged approach to the zoo: animal welfare, education and conservation. It described itself as an accredited facility on its website.
“We have secured the highest levels of accreditation, above and beyond federal, state, and local requirements. We are proudly accredited by the Zoological Association of America and certified by American Humane,” the website says.
Reid says the company plans to “expand on animals, offerings, ethics, and family-friendly adventure,” but declined to comment further.
“The architectural renderings planned improvements are still under production. A family-friendly atmosphere will always remain,” he said.
This isn’t the first time the zoo has changed hands. Vanessa and Jacob Roer took ownership of the facility in 2016, when it was called Reston Zoo.
The zoo was shaken by tragedy in 2021 when a fire killed two giraffes: Waffles — a giraffe described as the heart of the zoo — and his new companion, Belgian.
The fire originated from a heater that was being used in the area. A petition called for the zoo to be shut down for “inhumane treatment of animals,” though other than the fire, all of the incidents cited occurred under previous owners.