Close Encounters: 7 Petting Farms & Zoos Your Kids Will Love

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Little ones crave hands-on experiences and one of life’s greatest can be found at your local petting zoo.  From snuggling up to a baby goat to riding a pony to hand-feeding exotic animals, petting zoos offer a unique and memorable experience for young animal lovers. We rounded up our favorite places for close encounters; scroll down for the best petting zoos near Washington, DC where you can meet-and-greet with furry and feathered friends.

Luray Zoo

Visit this zoo where rescued animals get a second chance. Want to meet these special creatures? Take a Discovery Tour (call for pricing) at this rescue zoo with one of the owners. You can explore the zoo after hours for more chances to get up-close and personal with the animals.  You’ll get hands-on interactions and feed the animals. 

Insider tip: Get ready to escape the jaws of a 'gator; the entrance to this zoo is through the head of an alligator! It's a great place to start (especially if you're practicing your ABCs). 

Cost: $6-12; Free/ 2 & under
Open: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

1087 US Hwy. 211 West 
Luray, VA

Roer's Zoofari

Roer's currently offers two options to explore their 30 acre zoological park. You can take a walking tour where you can feed farm animals, like goats and sheep, and exotic animals, like camels (note: animal feed is sold separately and not included in admission). Feel safer keeping in your distance in your own vehicle? You can drive through this park, too. 

Inside tip: Be sure to reserve your tickets online before you go. 

Cost: $15-25
Open: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

1228 Hunter Mill Rd.
Vienna, VA

photo: Meghan Yudes Meyers

Leesburg Animal Park

This 21-acre facility offers little ones the chance to take part in interactive animal shows, arts and crafts, as well as visit and pet the animals. Ride a pony on a nice day or head inside on colder, rainy ones to enjoy all the activities that this park offers. Visit everything from farm animals to monkeys, llamas and lemurs. The resident sloth is a fan favorite (can't make it to the zoo? Cuddle up with this guy instead!). 

Insider tip: Weekend tickets must be purchased in advance. Get yours here

Cost: $13-$17
Open: Weekdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (closed Tues.); Weekends, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

19270 Monroe-Madison Memorial Hwy.
Leesburg, VA

Frying Pan Farm

Rabbits, sheep, chickens, cows and draft horses are in the mix at this Frying Pan based petting zoo located in Fairfax County. Add in the pigs and a peacock or two and you have yourself a fun, educational day spent outside. The traditional red barn farm is a working demonstration full of new baby animals joining the Kidwell Farm family.

Insider tip: You must pre-purchase your carousel tickets online. Tickets are $2/rider Wed.-Fri.; $3/rider Sat. & Sun. Wagon rides are also avail for $40/up to 9 people. 

Cost: Free
Open: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 

2709 West Ox Rd.
Herndon, VA

Catoctin Wildlife Preserve & Zoo

Head into MD for a day of outdoor adventuring at Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo where families can roam for hours and always see something new. Over 100-acres of wildlife fun little ones can touch and feel large herbivores while bouncing around the grounds on a safari ride. Take in an interactive show for more touchy-feely moments. Note: Camel rides and parakeet feedings are currently not available. 

Insider tip: The Preserve is temporarily closed until mid-March. 

Cost: $16.50-$22.50
Open: Opens daily at 9 am; closing times vary by day.

13019 Catoctin Furnace Rd.
Thurmont, MD

Green Meadows Farm

Get up close and personal at this petting zoo where you can feed sheep and goats for free and even take in a pig race or two. Green Meadows has over 200 animals to visit and touch from alpacas and llamas to pea fowl and draft horses with a kangaroo or two as well. 

Insider tip: Due to COVID, this farm is credit only. NO cash. 

Cost: $16; Free/23 months & under
Open: Wed.-Sun., 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

10102 Fingerboard Rd.
Ijamsville, MD

photo: iStock

Georges Mill Farm

This goat farm in Loudoun County offers a chance to snuggle with goats.... for FREE! For a limited time each spring, Georges Mill opens their (pen) gates to visitors for free goat snuggles Mon.-Fri. If you'd like to feed goats, you can reserve a bottle feeding ticket online for 1-2 p.m. on weekdays and at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekends. You must have a reservation to visit on weekends. Masks are required while on-property. 

Editor's note: This experience is closed for the season. It will resume spring 2022. 

Cost: Free; $15/bottle feeding ticket 
Open: Daily, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. 

11873 Georges Mill Rd.
Lovettsville, VA

—Meghan Yudes Meyers, Ayren Jackson-Cannady and Victoria Mason


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