12 Petting Zoos That Offer Barnyard Fun for City Kids


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With fall right around the corner, what better time for some farm fun (not to mention cute photo ops)? No need to venture far from city comforts to get your barnyard fix. If you have some little animal lovers in your herd, check out these 12 Bay Area petting zoos and wildlife education centers, open year-round to explore. 

photo: David Goehring via flickr

San Francisco

San Francisco Zoo
Don’t ex out the big attractions as too obvious a choice. Tucked among this urban wildlife preserve, is a quaint Family Farm, complete with a red barn, free-roaming goats, chickens, and alpacas that you and your little farmers can feed, brush and enjoy.

Location: 1 Zoo Road, San Francisco
Online: sfzoo.org

Aquarium of the Bay
Get ready to Touch the Bay at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, where kids can visit some of the interactive touch tank exhibits and get up close and personal with Bat rays, Leopard sharks, sea stars and anemones. Your little naturalists will go overboard as they explore and discover, through hands-on encounters with native SF Bay creatures.

Location: Pier 39 Embarcadero and Beach St., San Francisco
Online: aquariumofthebay.org

Randall Museum
Visit the Randall Museum every Saturday at 2:00 p.m. for Meet The Animals. At this free event, your mini scientists will learn about a variety of non-releasable wildlife and get a chance to meet some of the museums animal ambassadors up-close.

Location: 199 Museum Way, San Francisco
Online: randallmuseum.orgEast Bay

Kennedy Park
This Hayward park is good for birthday parties or a full day of exploration. Circle the grounds on a train ride before heading to the Triple Pines Ranch where you can visit with ducks and chickens and pet the goats, for a small $2.00 entry fee. Check out the carousel and bouncy while there.

Location: 19501 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward
Online: haywardrec.org

Tilden Regional Park Little Farm
Bring some celery and lettuce and meet some friendly cows, sheep, rabbits, goats, and more at this cute and educational working farm. After the animals have had their fill, visit the Environmental Education Center, go for a ride on the steam train, merry-go-round, or just walk any of the nature trails throughout the park. Jewel Lake is only a short walk away from the farm, and definitely worth a visit.

Location: 600 Canon Drive, Berkeley
Online: ebparks.org

Oakland Zoo
Located at the lower entrance of the zoo, within the Wayne and Glady’s Valley Children’s Zoo, is the goat and sheep barn where you can pet, brush, feed or just hang-out with the friendly, resident ungulates.

Location: 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland
Online: oaklandzoo.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo
In addition to the rides, puppet theater, play structure, and animal exhibits, this family-friendly San Jose attraction has an Animal Barn, found in the Double H Ranch Exhibit. This mini zoo within the zoo has domestic animals that the kiddos can pet.

Location: 1300 Senter Road, San Jose

Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo
This fun and free zoo is home to over 50 species including bobcats, jungle bats, fish and giant tortoise! All part of the science outreach program with local schools. Your little zoologists will love to discover and play in Racoon Creek, where they can explore a giant magical “redwood tree” and come nose-to-nose with racoons or dive into imaginitive play at The Kitten’s Den exhibit where they can become bobcats by climbing and pouncing over logs and boulders in this sculpture garden.

Temp. Location: The Junior Museum has temporarily relocated to Cubberley Community Center: 4050 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto, to make way for the construction of their new facility at Rinconada Park opening in Summer 2020.
Online: cityofpaloalto.org

Lemos Farm
Located in Half Moon Bay, this former dairy farm features a petting zoo, train, hay and pony rides, jumpers, snack bar and seasonal attractions like a harvest pumpkin patch and cut-your-own Christmas trees. Check their website for seasonal hours of operation.

Location: 12320 San Mateo Road (Hwy 92), Half Moon Bay
online: lemosfarm.com

Gilroy Gardens
The Gilroy Gardens petting zoo is back weekends, in August and September. Meet goats, ducks, chickens, rabbits and pigs. $5 per person, not included in park admission. All proceeds go toward the care of the animals.

Location:  3050 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy
Online: gilroygardens.org


Slide Ranch
Head out to Marin this Fall for one of Slide Ranch’s exciting family programs. Family Farm Days and Toddler Days include, milking and feeding goats, collecting eggs from the chicken flock, meeting the ranch’s feathered, furry and wooly friends and lots more family-friendly activities.

Location: 2025 Shoreline Hwy., Muir Beach
Online: slideranch.org

Marin Treks
Friday night Science nights at Marin Treks, is the perfect way for your aspiring herpetologist to kick off their weekend. In addition to learning about natural history, they’ll enjoy games, contests, snacks and handling the amazing reptiles, amphibians and insects, of course! Check their website for new dates and schedule.

Location:  1559 H So. Novato Blvd., Novato
Online: marintreks.com

— Nella DuBon-Koch and Renee Macalino Rutledge

Photos by Nella DuBon-Koch, except where noted. 

Featured image by Niall David Photography

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