DALLAS — The Dallas Zoo unveiled its long-awaited Giants of the Savanna exhibit on Thursday.
It's an 11-acre safari that puts visitors up close and personal with dozens of wild animals and exotic plants you would normally have to travel half a world away to see.
It's a proud day for the Dallas Zoo, as it hopes to silence its critics.
Right on cue, Jenny and Gypsy the elephants cut the "ribbon" on the exhibit by triumphantly bursting through a sign that read, "Let elephants be elephants."
"Well, I burst into tears as always," said Karen Hamilton, senior vice president of the Dallas Zoological Society. "But it's been such a labor of love; everybody's worked so hard!"
Giants of the Savanna is touted as a game-changing habitat. "I think this definitely sets us apart from the Fort Worth Zoo," said visitor Lisa Pearce.
The exhibit features a roster of wild game. Visitors can see them eye-to-eye and even feed some of the creatures by hand.
"We got to hang out with the cheetahs and eat a little breakfast with the lioness and feed the giraffes," said visitor Doug White. "It's amazing, and it exceeded all my expectations."
Excited to be one of the 200 invited for a sneak peek on Thursday, 13-year-old Alexandra Eagle decided not to tell her friends. "They'd be like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm so jealous! I want to come!'"
It's a journey through a jungle oasis in the heart of Dallas that was only a dream just 17 months ago.
"My favorite part is the most scary part is seeing the crocodile open his mouth and say, 'ROAR!'" said grade school student Nathan Pearce.
The Giants of Savannah exhibit officially opens to the public Friday at 9 a.m., and there will be a grand opening celebration on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Adult admission is $12; children 3-11 and seniors get in for $9; and kids under 3 are free.