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Boca Raton’s Africa USA

by | Jan 27, 2023 | Living the Boca Raton Lifestyle

Boca Raton’s Africa USA

Do you know what tourist attraction Boca Raton used to have that attracted over 300,000 visitors each year? Find out right after this,

It was called Africa USA, a true American success story. It was one family’s dream to have an African wildlife park and botanical gardens right here in south Florida. John and Lillian Petterson were one day driving through Boca Raton and came across a large grassland dotted with palm trees and pine trees and thought it looked like an African Savannah. They looked at the land in the small town of Boca Raton and they thought this is the Deadest town they had ever seen. They decided at that time that they were going to wake this town up. They purchased 300 acres from the city of Boca Raton in 1950, and their dream began. The transformation to an African jungle started miles of canals and lakes had to be Doug in artificial waterfall and geyser were engineered, and over 55,000 plants were added to give that jungle feel. Now the only thing missing are the animals.

He flew to British East Africa to begin the process of animal collection. He spent seven months in Africa collecting rare zebras will the beast, ostriches, Gazelle’s, and so many others. Some he had to have special permission to collect and ship back to the state. The animals were then loaded on a steam ship as a modern day. Noah’s Ark. The ship then arrived nine weeks later at Port Everglades, Florida. It was the largest shipment of animals ever to have left Africa. The unloading of the animals was quite a media event. They were transported to their new home in Boca Raton. On March 10th, 1953, Africa USA opened their doors to the public. Admission to the gardens was free. The Jungle Train tour cost 95 cents. Many major newspapers did full page articles on the uniqueness of the park. Imagine a zoo with no cages, a place where visitors could safely interact with the animals. Africa U S A became more and more popular as a tourist attraction, bringing over 300,000 visitors each year. John Patterson had succeeded. He put Boca Raton, Florida on the map. I hope you enjoyed this little bit of history about Boca Raton, Florida, and until next time, make it a great day.

Lynn Johnsen
(561) 239-1900