12 Animal Encounters and Petting Zoos near Chicago

Photo courtesy of Pioneer Farm, Facebook
Photo courtesy of Pioneer Farm, Facebook
4/8/22 - By Lauren LaRoche

Whether you’re looking for adorable baby farm animals or even fully grown exotic animals, we’ve got you covered. From the city to the suburbs and southern Wisconsin, we’ve rounded up some of the best animal encounters, local farms, and petting zoos near Chicago. A few petting zoos near Chicago are also open for year-round fun.

For more animal and farm fun check out our list of the Best Zoos and Aquariums in Chicago for Kids and our picks for the Best Farms with Family Entertainment.


Farms with Petting Zoos near Chicago

1. Royal Oak Farm & Orchard - Harvard, IL

Royal Oak Farm and Orchard is home to acres of amazing apples in the late summer and fall months. In addition to the tasty apples, you’ll find a working farm and children’s petting zoo. You’ll find pigs, goats, sheep, cows, and more. There is also an impressive children’s play area with wooden structures for kids to climb and play on for free during your visit. The petting zoo is also free for everyone to enjoy. 

2. Angelic Organics Farm and Learning Center—Caledonia, IL

Your aspiring farmer or animal lovers will love the immersive experience at Angelic Organics Farm and Learning Center. Not only can kids visit with animals, but they can also take part in day classes, camps, and interactive events that teach animal care and life on the farm. This farm experience is so much more than a petting zoo. 

Pioneer Farm is a farm with petting zoo near Chicago. Photo courtesy of Pioneer Farm, Facebook

3. Enjoy Pioneer Farm—Hampshire, IL

Enjoy Pioneer Farm lets you snuggle up and hold baby lambs and baby goats. You can even rent a baby chick or duck to take home. You can also bottle feed a baby calf or goat, and watch as professionals shear a sheep. Guests are encouraged to relax on the farm and take in the adorable animals. 

4. Goebbert’s Farm—South Barrington, IL 

During the fall months, the petting zoo at Goebbert’s Farm is one of the biggest. With baby goats, piglets, cows, and sheep, there is a wide variety of animals to see and feed. You may even find a giraffe or other exotic animal around during their fall festival. 

5. Blackberry Farm—Aurora, IL

Blackberry Farm is a magical place for kids and adults of all ages. With playgrounds, a train, and fun play structures, there’s something for everyone to do and play with. You’ll find pioneer life recreated including how animals are cared for, fed, and given a home on the farm. Their Discovery Barn is open May-Winter, and it features smaller farm animals to visit and feed.

Zoos with Petting Zoos near Chicago

The Farm in the Zoo, part of Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. Photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo

6. Lincoln Park Zoo- Chicago, IL

The Farm in the Zoo is one of the coolest features for children at the Lincoln Park Zoo. You’ll find the main barn open for playing as well as an outdoor yard with cows, pigs, goats, and ponies. Kids are welcome to see, hear, and touch real farm animals at the zoo learning about how the farm works, as well as what goes into keeping a farm running. One of the best things about Lincoln Park Zoo is that it’s completely free.

Feed an animal at Cosley Zoo near Chicago. Photo courtesy of the Cosley Zoo in Wheaton

7. Cosley Zoo- Wheaton, IL

Cosley Zoo is a great alternative to the larger zoos in Chicago when you’re just looking for a fun morning or afternoon of animal play. You’ll find up-close and interactive experiences with goats, cows, horses, alpacas, and more. Visit their barn to feed an animal and see them close up. 

8. Miller Park Zoo - Bloomington, IL

Miller Park Zoo features a children’s zoo where kids can have up-close experiences with farm animals. See a wide variety of adorable animals and enjoy an immersive animal experience right in the middle of a zoo. You can play, interact, and learn with animals on the farm and at the zoo. 

Animal Encounters near Chicago

9. Racine Zoological Gardens - Racine, WI

The Barnyard Safari at the Racine Zoo has unique animal encounters near Chicago unlike any other. From late April through September, you can take an immersive barnyard safari with domestic animals from around the world. You’ll find sheep, pigs, llamas, dwarf goats, and alpacas, just to name a few. 

10. Safari Lake Geneva - Lake Geneva, WI

Safari Lake Geneva offers a real animal safari experience right over the Wisconsin border. Open April through October you and your family can see exotic animals right from your car. You may find a giraffe coming to visit your car window or a zebra popping in to say hello, You can also feed certain animals for even more up-close animal fun. 

Cuddle an alpaca at Magic Meadows. Photo courtesy of Magic Meadows Alpacas

11. Magic Meadows Alpacas - Wonder Lake, IL

If you’ve ever dreamed of cuddling up to a soft and fuzzy alpaca, Magic Meadows Alpacas in Wonder Lake, Illinois is the place. Located a short drive from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and about two hours from Chicago, you’ll find a family-owned alpaca farm that gives you a private alpaca experience just for your group or family. Private tours are booked from May through the fall. 

12. 9 Acres Equestrian Center - Palos Park, IL

If you’re looking for an animal encounter near Chicago, 9 Acres Equestrian Center is an amazing place for horse lovers. You can take trail rides, riding lessons, and even attend summer camp. Group riding lessons are available for kids over the age of 7 and lessons for the little ones ages 4-6 are also available with individual instructors. 

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