RECOMMENDED: Full guide to outdoor activities for kids in NYC
Young animal lovers have plenty of run-ins with squirrels and pigeons in NYC parks and public gardens, but these petting zoos near NYC are the place to go for real encounters with cool critters. Families can find kid-friendly animal farms at the Bronx Zoo and Central Park Zoo, as well as a few spots outside the city which double as amusement parks. Kids will love meeting farm animals like goats, sheep and potbellied pigs, learning more about them and feeding them snacks.
Petting zoos near NYC
This petting zoo and learning center recently got a makeover and re-opened to the public, complete with new animals like baby Nubian goats, squirrel monkeys, a giant anteater and the world’s smallest deer species. Junior explorers are invite to learn about animal habitats and behaviors through sensory experiences. They'll burrow through a prairie dog town, leap like a lemu, zoon down a tree slide and feed friendly goats, sheep and llamas. On Wednesdays and weekends, hit up Adventure Club tours (on the half hour 11am–3pm, through Nov 1) when kids can use magnifying glasses and binoculars to further explore nature. $5, plus zoo admission. Open daily May 30 through October, Mon–Fri 10am–5pm, Sat, Sun 10am–5:30pm.
Queens County Farm Museum
The oldest continually farmed land in NYC, this 47-acre farm offers a petting zoo where kids can meet steers named Dexter and Jethro, alpacas, sheep, pigs, hens, goats and honeybees. In addition to visiting animals, youngsters can enjoy other seasonal events: In the summer, attend an old-school county fair and when fall rolls around, pick your own pumpkins, test your navigation skills in the corn maze and get the chills at the farm's Halloween haunted house. Free; open year-round, daily 10am–5pm.
Instead of jungle gyms and storytimes, this indoor family space’s defining feature is its live animals. During open play your tot can mingle with birds, bunnies, turtles and hamsters, and participate in seasonally focused cooking classes, art activities and music workshops. The space also offers longterm classes and camps. Visiting the Hamptons this summer? Sign up for camps with Art Farm On Wheels! Drop-in play $15–$45 per visit. Open Septemeber through June, Mon–Thurs 12:30–3:30pm.
One of five exhibits, the Barn & Garden invites animal-lovers to visit with alpacas, goats, sheep and other friendly beasts—they can even grab a handful of grain and feed them! Make sure to pop into the Discovery Center (open weekends 11am–3pm) for more creature encounters and a chance to conduct a pretend vet check-up. $8, children ages 3–12 $5, ages 2 and under free. Open year-round; Mon–Fri 10am–5pm, Sat, Sun 10am–5:30pm.
Nestled within Manhattan’s most magnificent park, this zoo houses more than 30 species, including a few that enjoy being petted. Little ones will love getting acquainted with potbellied pigs, sheep, goats and the city’s only cow. The space gives them room to crawl, jump and climb around, just like the creatures that call the zoo home. Sea lion and penguin feedings in other areas of the zoo are sure to draw shrieks of joy from the tots as well. Total experience tickets $16.20, at the gate $18, children $11.70, at the gate $13, two and under free (includes admission to main zoo, children’s zoo and 1 entry to 4D Theater). Open year-round, daily 10am–5pm.
White Post Farms
This fifth-generation family farm has been in operation since 1886, drawing families to Long Island to meet all sorts of amazing creatures. Kids get the chance to hand feed the animals and even give them milk from a bottle. The most unique aspect of this farm is Ronnie's Bird Landing, a free-flight aviary where colorful parakeets flit by, waiting to be fed birdseed sticks ($2 each). Included with admission are animatronics shows like The Animal Band Jamboree, plus wet and dry bouncers in the summertime. Families can also romp around on playgrounds and in a massive sandbox, ride ponies ($5 per ride) and hop on the Farmland Express and Mining Adventure activities. 250 Old Country Rd, Melville, NY (631-351-9373, whitepostfarms.com). Price varies by date; open daily in summer 10am–5pm, in fall 10am–4pm.
Meet wildlife found right in the Americas, including amazingly soft Flemish giant rabbits, belted Galloway cows, four-horned sheep and Texas longhorns—both sporting impressive sets of horns on their heads. Beofre you leave, make sure to check out the zoo's aviary—a geodesic dome originally designed for the 1964 World's Fair that visitors can duck in to see some feathered friends. $8, children ages 3–12 $5, under 3 free. Open Mon–Fri 10am–5pm, weekends 10am–5:30pm.