The Petting Zoo
- where farm meets park meets zoo

Going to the zoo is fun. But when the experience is interactive - as in a 'petting zoo' - the fun doubles.

A petting zoo, also known as a petting farm or a children's zoo, enhances the animal viewing encounter by letting you touch and feed animals. Since the animals are more accessible, a petting zoo only keeps harmless farm animals or a few wild species. The experience is therefore one of going to a 'countryside farm'. You'll get to see and meet cows, goats, sheep, turkeys, horses, pigs, turtles, maybe even exotic stuff like llamas.

Here are some user notes, while considering going to a petting zoo:

  • Make no mistake - a petting farm is loads of fun for children! It is therefore a great entertainment option if you have kids. While sheep and goats may seem mundane, most city dwellers don't get to see these commonplace animals in daily life. Kids just love petting and fussing over them - ask my four year old!

  • Visiting a petting farm is also a good option if you have kids who are not used to animals. Because this exposes them to nature and helps them get over their fear of petting or touching tame creatures in a controlled setting.

  • You don't have to bring your own food to feed the animals. Most farms sell animal food through kiosks or at an onsite store. In fact, that's the only food allowed, since the animals might get sick if you feed them something that's not healthy for them.

  • Photos are allowed and encouraged.

  • Entry fees may or may not be charged.

  • Some petting farms are stand-alone, while some are part of a larger, conventional zoo. It doesn't matter - they're both lots of fun!

  • Some petting farms are mobile, and can be rented for say a birthday party or a picnic! That's even more fun - you can requisition your own private experience and make the party a memorable affair for the kids.

  • Individual animals are often available for rent too. For example, you could rent a pony and do pony rides for kids at a party. Or you could do a reptile show. Animals come with their handlers and are usually available for one to four hours.

The best way to check out a petting farm near you is to google your town name followed by the words "petting zoo". Another good resource that I found on the web was this one. Since regular zoos often have a petting farm enclosure incorporated within them (and since going to regular zoos is also a lot of fun!), here are some sites that list zoos in America:

And finally, check out this site for searching activities to do with kids (including more petting farm information).

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