Whether you are looking for a low-key petting zoo or an exotic experience with wild animals, there's no shortage of places on Long Island where children can interact with nature's noble creatures. If they want to, Long Island kids can do everything from feed a giraffe to visit with an alpaca, and even ride a safari train.
Be sure to check out our directory of zoos and gardens on Long Island, and peruse our Pick Your Own Guide to more local farm fun. Kids of every age will be delighted by these opportunities.
Many outdoor petting zoos operate on a seasonal schedule, opening in the spring or summer, and closing in fall before the snow arrives. Call ahead to check the daily opening hours.
Center for Science Teaching and Learning — Rockville Centre
1450 Tanglewood Road
Many of the animals here were illegally smuggled and seized by U.S. officials. These include a variety of reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds, and mammals. More traditional animals on display include goats, parrots, owls, and even a working honeybee hive.
Norman J. Levy Park — Merrick
At this Town of Hempstead preserve and wildlife sanctuary, visitors can interact with a herd of Nigerian dwarf goats and a flock of Guinea fowl. Both species were brought to the facility as ecologically responsible alternatives to insecticides. Kayaking, a popular activity here, is available from June through August.
Animal Farm Petting Zoo and Park — Manorville
296 Wading River Road
Most of the animals here can fed by hand, including Clyde the camel. In addition, you have the chance to get up close and personal with monkeys, wallabies, and large-shell tortoises. Make sure to stop by the baby barn, take a ride on the safari train, and enjoy the pony ride that is included with every admission. Open April through November.
Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard and Horse Rescue — Baiting Hollow
At this working farm with a family orientation, budding equestrians can interact with horses rescued from all across North America. Pony rides are available weekends from Memorial Day to mid-November and the center hosts children's birthday parties.
Garden of Eve — Riverhead
4558 Sound Avenue
An organic farm on the East End, at Garden of Eve kids can interact with chickens, sheep, and other animals. Friendly farmhands often take animals out for kids to pet and help feed. Also, there is a large children's play area with a wooden castle and a giant spider web. Many special events are hosted here, including Baby Animal Weekend and the Chick-a-palooza Backyard Homesteading Festival. Be sure to stop by the organic market for delicious groceries. Open weekends only until April, then open daily May to October.
Hallockville Museum Farm — Riverhead
6038 Sound Avenue
Explore this original farmstead to learn what farming life was like 250 years ago. The 19 buildings tell the story of farming families and agriculture on Long Island. Visitors can experience cooking in the historic kitchen or even grinding corn to feed the resident animals. In addition, kids can interact with cows and chickens to learn about their importance to the farm. Buildings entry is by guided tour only. Check the website for tour availability.
Feed the goats at Mattituck's popular Harbes Farm.
Harbes Family Farm and Vineyard — Mattituck
715 Sound Avenue
Known for its array of animals and family-friendly activities, Harbes plans some exciting changes this year. Expect to see familiar favorites such as sheep, pot-bellied pigs, and goats, and look out for the new Jumbo Jumpers exhibit, with inflatable bouncing pillows, and the "Lil Farmers Playland." Don't miss the popular pig-race competitions, trike track, and the gnome hedge maze. Consider a season (May-October) pass offered for the first time in 2017.
Holtsville Park Ecology and Wildlife Center — Holtsville
This Town of Brookhaven facility houses more than 100 injured or non-releasable animals, including buffalo, bobcats, eagles, horses, and goats, Celebrity groundhog "Holtsville Hal" makes an appearance each Groundhog Day. There is a small to feed the goats.
Long Island Game Farm — Manorville
489 Chapman Boulevard
This farm takes petting zoo to another level. From lemur to bison and kangaroo, you can travel the world through its animals. Kids can feed the giraffe, enter Bambiland—the majestic forest—to feed the deer, and even see an alligator show. This farm offers an excursion to see and learn about the animal kingdom; it's an international experience that doesn't require you to even leave Long Island. Stop by the nursery and bottle-feed new additions to the farm, and don't miss the carousel, teacups, and train. Check the website before your visit as some exhibits depend on outdoor temperatures.
Suffolk County Farm and Education Center — Yaphank
350 Yaphank Avenue
Get up close and personal with your favorite farm animals at this friendly spot. The butterfly house is a unique way to learn about insects and see their beauty firsthand. This is a real working farm, where you can see sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, turkeys, and cows among other animals. Don't miss the colorful peacocks, and make sure to visit the children's garden, where kids grow their own food. A variety of educational programs are offered throughout the year. Open year round.
RELATED: Outdoor Museums for Long Island Kids
Pony rides at White Post Farms in Melville are sure to delight.
White Post Animal Farm — Melville
250 Old Country Road
This farm offers everything an animal lover could imagine. Begin at the giant, free-flight aviary, where a cascading waterfall flows and birds eat out of your hand. Then, head over to the recently updated primates section to see lemurs and squirrel monkeys climbing on their new playground. Goats, sheep, llamas and alpacas are available to feed. Don't miss favorites such as the Singing Chicken Show, Animal Jamboree Band, and the old-fashioned train ride. The wet and dry bouncers are also a popular attraction. Open fall, spring, and summer.
Top photo: Get up close and personal with the animals at the Garden of Eve Organic Farm. All photos courtesy the farms.
This article was first published in 2012 but has since been updated.