Here are some relatively wallet-friendly destinations to experience Africa without leaving North American that, while not being reasonable substitutions for visiting the Africa, might satisfy your Dark Continent craving.
In another article, I listed places in North America to experience Europe, European culture, and European food.
What if you want to experience Africa? Are you yearning to see wild animals or experience the culture and cuisine of Africa?
8 Great Places to Experience Africa in North America
Zoos and Theme Parks
Glimpse African wildlife without flying 18 hours and spending thousands per person, by visiting many US zoos. The Edge of Africa attraction at Busch Gardens Tampa will make your youngsters shriek in terror, or at least ooh and awww.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
There are over 1,700 animals in Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, so you are guaranteed to see many African animals during your safari. If you stay in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, choose a savannah view room and a giraffe may peek into your balcony. For African cuisine, pop over to the Morocco pavilion at EPCOT for a shawarma.
Drive Through Safari
At Lion Country Safari in South Florida, and other drive through safaris, it is highly recommended that you rent one of their cars because the animals might cause severe damage to your vehicle. Try explaining THAT to your insurance agent.
New York City
Persons born in Africa make up 4% of New York City’s population, so there is plenty of African culture (especially NYC African restaurants) to find in the Big Apple. In addition to the United Nations and various consulates, other African organizations and events in New York City include: Africa Center, African Film Festival, Africa House at NYU, African Restaurant Week, International African Arts Festival, African Day Parade, and several African art museums.
>>> See the McCool Travel article 8 Great Ways to Get Free Lodging in New York City
In addition to housing many African embassies, Washington, D.C. has the second largest population of Ethiopians of any city in the world (including Ethiopia!) and, of course, has amazing Ethiopian cuisine. There are other Africa restaurants and the National Museum of African Art. DC also hosts African Fashion Week.
>>> See the McCool Travel article 8 Great Washington, DC Food Trucks
Kalahari appears on many top 10 USA water parks lists and is mentioned here because their properties are 100% African themed. The third Kalahari Resort—in Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania—officially opens on Wednesday, July 1, but I was fortunate to get an insider preview tour from Travis Nelson, the founder’s son. Travis enthusiastically described his family’s trip to Africa to purchase authentic African art to adorn the new property and source Rwandan coffee for their cafe. Another member of the tour group told me, “I would never want to leave this place.” Yes, Kalahari is THAT nice.
National Parks and Wildlife Areas
A grizzly bear or mountain lion can do as much damage to you as any member of the Big Five. Take an airboat ride in the Everglades and see several wild alligators and other animals. Children (and most adults) will be thrilled by the nightly spectacle of the bat parade in Austin, Texas. Check here for National Park free days.
At Safari Wilderness Ranch in Central Florida, visitors can view a wide range of African animals, including Defassa Waterbuck, Common Waterbuck, Red Lechwe, Ostrich, Livingstone Eland, Red Forest Buffalo, Wildebeest, Zebra, Camel, Warthog, Watusi, and Aoudad. McCool Travel tip: take advantage of opportunities during your visit to feed llamas, Asian cattle, and lemurs.
>>> See the McCool Travel article Fun Things to do in Central Florida
By no means are these the only places to experience Africa in North America.
Another resource is this curated list of African restaurants and markets around the USA.