Petting Zoos Near NYC Where Kids Can See Farm Animals
We're so fortunate to live in a city that offers an incredible array of activities for kids, but sometimes I fret over the disconnect from nature. I want my kids to be as comfortable in the country as they are in the urban jungle, so we're always looking for ways to get out of NYC and explore the expansive farmland that borders the city.
While you can meet some furry friends at the city's wonderful zoos and even get hands-on at their mini petting zoos, there's something particularly special about enjoying an authentic farm setting. We've rounded up our top petting zoos and animal havens in and near NYC to get some serious face time with furry friends. Get ready to load up the family for a day of donkey petting, goat bottle-feedings, and sheep shearing.
Here are our favorite spots for an up-close animal encounter, all within two hours of NYC. Find more farm fun for any season on our Pick-Your-Own Guide.
Editor's note: While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and maintaining an appropriate distance. Please check each venue's website or social media to confirm current hours before heading out.
Petting Zoos in New York City
1. Bushwick City Farm – Bushwick, Brooklyn
2021 Update: Bushwick City Farm has yet to open for the season, so check its Facebook page for updates.
If you're looking for an urban farm experience, Bushwick City Farm is the place to visit without leaving the city. Bushwick City Farm is a FREE, volunteer-run establishment serving the neighborhood. The farm's volunteers help build and maintain vegetable gardens for local public schools and various service groups. Although this urban farm doesn't have much of a petting zoo, it has chickens visitors can feed and pet (gently). It's also home to ducks, guinea hens, one turkey, and several cats. The farm is only open to visitors on weekends, so check its Facebook page for hours and updates.
2. Green Meadows Farm – Flatbush, Brooklyn
Green Meadows Farm in Brooklyn considers itself "the coolest educational playground," giving kids a hands-on approach to learning about animals. Located right next to the Aviator Sports and Events Center, the farm hosts numerous events throughout the year—including Easter egg hunts, Passover celebrations, fall hayrides, pumpkin picking, and animal showcases. Hang out with alpacas, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows. But don't forget to check the events page or its Facebook page before heading over.
No pets allowed at your apartment? Cuddle with the guinea pigs at The Art Farm.
3. The Art Farm in the City – Upper East Side
You don't need to jump in a car to reach this city petting zoo. A herd of small animals, including bunnies, guinea pigs, chinchillas, lizards, turtles, birds, tropical fish, and more, make their homes at The Art Farm. On occasion, it hosts bigger barnyard-type animals. Drop-in programs allow you to get an occasional animal fix, though you can sign up for classes, camps, playgroups, or even host your kid's birthday party here. Animal snuggles are always included.
4. Queens County Farm Museum – Floral Park, Queens
The most budget-friendly pick on our list, the Queens County Farm Museum, generally offers FREE admission. However, on its seasonal festival dates, such as the Sheep Shearing Fest in May and the many popular fall festivals, there's an admission fee. On non-festival days, visitors can peruse the 47-acre grounds and purchase food to share with the resident goats. You can also spot pigs, chickens, cows, sheep, and honeybees. Open daily year-round, 10am-5pm. While tours of the historic farmhouse have been suspended until further notice, seasonal hayrides are still offered.
Sheep and goats eagerly gobble up the feed from kids' hands at Alstede Farms. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala.
Petting Zoos in New Jersey
5. Alstede Farms – Chester
About 1 hour by car from Midtown Manhattan, also accessible via NJ Transit.
This New Jersey farm is the perfect spot to celebrate the season. We're always recommending it for pick-your-own strawberries, veggies, peaches, apples, and more, but equally as impressive is the barnyard full of furry animals waiting to greet guests. There's no admission fee to see the animals. Pack a lunch for the farm animals—think carrots, lettuce, and apples—or purchase a handful of pellet feed from machines located around the farm. Tip: bring quarters. Expect to spot rabbits, pigs, chickens, and ducks. Pony rides are usually available for a fee during weekends and on festival days, as well as more year-round farm entertainment like hayrides, mini train rides, and even bounce houses. Alstede gets bonus points for accessibility: Car-free families can hop on New Jersey Transit to the Gladstone station, then take a cab or the FREE Alstede Farms Courtesy Coach to the farm. Open daily, 9am-6pm.
6. Demarest Farms – Hillsdale
About 40 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan.
Demarest is the closest out-of-state farm to Manhattan. Just a short drive from the George Washington Bridge, and you are surrounded by farm fun. Kids can feed the friendly animals in the barnyard while parents appreciate the farm stand with its fresh salad bar, rotating array of homemade soups, and other seasonal goodies.
Feed the bunnies and Brookhollow Barnyard.
7. Brookhollow's Barnyard – Boonton
About 1 hour by car from Midtown Manhattan.
This family-owned petting zoo invites guests to interact with farm animals big and small. It's a local NJ favorite. Kids enjoy rides on the cow train and pedal tractors. The farm is home to goats, rabbits, cows, rams, and more. Kids are invited to feed the animals (for a $5 admission fee) and enjoy the barnyard playhouse and sandbox. The season opens Saturday, May 1, and it's open Tuesdays through Saturdays. Tickets are released online every morning at 10am for the following day’s availability, and everyone ages 2+ must have a ticket to enter.
8. Secor Farms – Mahwah
About 40 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan.
While you might visit this spot for all of your gardening needs, be sure to make time to hang with the animals. Feed is available for purchase in the farm store, and photo-ops abound with the ducks, goats, sheep, alpacas, and cows that call Secor home. Check the farm’s Facebook page for updates and upcoming events. Animals will not be available until the Fall.
Meet a cow at the Long Island Game Farm. Photo courtesy of the farms
Petting Zoos on Long Island
9. Long Island Game Farm – Manorville
About 1 hour and 40 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan.
This game park is open seasonally from mid-April to mid-October. A visit here gets you up close and personal with wild, exotic creatures as well as the usual barnyard friends. Kids can hand-feed Clifford, the resident giraffe, and a pair of friendly camels. There's a forest dubbed "Bambiland," where deer sidle up to you for a treat, as well as opportunities to feed goats, llamas, alpacas, and a donkey by hand. You can bottle-feed the littlest residents in the nursery. Pony rides are offered, as well as a small selection of carnival-style amusement park rides. It opens to the public beginning Saturday, April 17, and is open on weekends from 11am-5pm.
10. Schmitt's Farms – Melville
2021 update: Barnyard attractions are currently closed, but you can visit the farm's greenhouses for all your gardening needs. Check its Facebook page for updates.
About 50 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan.
Schmitt's has been a Long Island staple for more than 50 years. Goats, bunnies, and chickens welcome your kids into the barnyard. Other spring family fun includes pony rides and time on the playground. Schmitt's also hosts educational field trips and camps to teach children about farming life.
11. White Post Farms – Melville
About 50 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan.
Long Island's White Post Farms is almost a mini zoo. It hosts a variety of animals, domestic and exotic, including Patches, the giraffe. Besides feeding barnyard friends, plan to visit the free-flight aviary, where you can hand-feed small birds, including budgies, lorikeets, and cockatiels, as they fly overhead. Feed sticks are available for purchase. The farm hosts seasonal attractions, such as water slides, hayrides, and animal shows on weekends. White Post Farms is cash-only, but ATMs are on-site. Register for its email list to collect money-saving coupons and to stay up-to-date on upcoming events. Tickets must be purchased in advance online.
RELATED: Spring Fun Guide for NYC Kids
Visit rescued animals at The Lewis Oliver Farm and Sanctuary.
12. Lewis Oliver Farm and Animal Sanctuary – Northport
About 1 hour and 20 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan.
Annabelle the cow is a beloved resident at the Lewis Oliver Farm and Animal Sanctuary, which is home to other rescued animals like goats, sheep, alpacas, chickens, ducks, peafowl, and turkeys. Admission is FREE, but consider donating when you visit to help the farm pay for animal care expenses. Open Mondays through Fridays, 10am-1pm. While the farm is open 365 days a year, weekend hours depend on volunteer availability, so check Facebook for updates.
Feed a turtle at the Greenburgh Nature Center.
Petting Zoos in Westchester County
13. Greenburgh Nature Center – Scarsdale
About 45 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan.
The nonprofit nature preserve is set on 33 acres of land in lower Westchester County. Kids enjoy visiting the barnyard full of sheep, goats, chickens, and rabbits. The preserve is also home to birds of prey, including eagles, hawks, and owls. The center's great lawn offers a beautiful spot to relax and enjoy the sunny weather while kids take full advantage of the natural playground surrounded by boulders and trees. Save time for a hike on one of its wooded nature trails, too. Don't miss the seasonal butterfly exhibit, running June through August. Only the Manor House (including the Live Animal Museum) is currently closed.
RELATED: 25 Outdoor Adventures for NYC Kids
Stroll with the farm animals at the Catskills Animal Sanctuary.
Petting Zoos in the Hudson Valley
14. Catskills Animal Sanctuary – Saugerties
2021 update: The Catskills Animal Sanctuary is currently closed to the public. However, the sanctuary is keeping kids entertained twice a week with live broadcasts. Take a virtual tour with snuggly sheep, mischievous goats, gentle turkeys, and other rescued animals. Don’t forget to keep checking Facebook for a reopening date.
About 2 hours by car from Midtown Manhattan.
Mingle with rescued farm animals like Amos and Jessie (the cows) and Amelia (a potbelly pig) at this 110-acre sanctuary in New York's Hudson Valley. Seasonal weekend tours are offered to the public from April to November, while members and groups can attend year-round. Overnight stays, a summer camp, and other event options are available. While the animals are friendly, organizers ask visitors to refrain from feeding them during your hour-long tour. When you're done, head into town to pick up a treat at the Hudson Valley Dessert Company or any number of the great restaurants that fill the walkable river town of Saugerties.
Petting Zoos in Connecticut
15. Silverman's Farm – Easton
About 1 hour, 15 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan.
The entire family will enjoy feeding buffalo, llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats, fallow deer, and exotic birds at Silverman's Farm. Picnic tables are available in the parking area. Guests can pick up fresh pies, local honey, and fresh produce during their visit. Open seven days a week, 9am-5pm.
Unless noted, photos courtesy of the farms/sanctuaries
A version of this article was first published in 2016, but it has since been revised and updated.