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.
For more fun things to do this summer, be sure to see our Ultimate Summer 2020 Staycation Planner for NYC Kids and our jam-packed Summer Fun Guide.
Please note while we've tried to highlight these local petting zoos at their best, there are many changes and limitations due to the coronavirus. Because the situation is fluid, remember to check each venue's website or social media for updates before heading out.
Petting Zoos in New York City
The Bushwick City Farm offers kids a chance to roam among birds and gardens.
1. Bushwick City Farm – Bushwick, Brooklyn
2020 update: Bushwick City Farm is open for the summer with a newly planted garden. Don’t forget to wear your mask if venturing out to this urban farm. It’s only open to visitors on weekends, so check the Facebook page for hours and latest updates, including livestreams of chicks hatching.
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
2020 update: Green Meadows Farm is temporarily closed and will be posting updates about a reopening and upcoming events on its Facebook page.
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 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
2020 update: The Art Farm in the City is temporarily closed to the public. However, the petting zoo is offering virtual classes and birthday parties to keep kids busy this summer.
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
2020 update: The Queens County Farm Museum has temporarily closed but expects to reopen during Phase 4. The farm is operating its seasonal farm stand. For more farmyard fun, tune into its #Barncam daily at 4pm.
The most budget-friendly pick on our list, the Queens County Farm Museum, generally offers FREE admission. On its seasonal festival dates, such as the Sheep Shearing Fest in May, and the many popular fall festivals, require 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. Weekend visitors can take a tour of the historic farmhouse, and seasonal hayrides are offered.
Petting Zoos in New Jersey
Sheep and goats eagerly gobble up feed from kids' hands at Alstede Farms. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala.
5. Alstede Farms – Chester
2020 update: Alstede Farms is open for business with some changes. It features a revamped outdoor farm store, outdoor dining, and wine tasting options, live entertainment on weekends, and of course, farm animals! For pick-your-own, tickets must be purchased online in advance to receive a time slot, and face coverings must be worn on the fields.
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.
6. Brookhollow's Barnyard – Boonton
2020 update: Brookhollow's Barnyard now offers a drive-through farm option on Sundays. Visitors can also walk-through the farm Tuesday-Saturday. The farm is closed on Mondays. Tickets are released online every morning at 10am for the following day’s availability, and everyone ages 2+ must have a ticket to enter. No bathrooms are available, so plan accordingly.
About one 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 to enjoy the barnyard playhouse and sandbox.
7. Demarest Farms – Hillsdale
2020 update: While the barnyard is currently closed, Demarest Farms is offering peach picking with online reservations, and using its parking lot for regular drive-in movie nights.
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.
8. Secor Farms – Mahwah
2020 update: It's business as usual at Secor Farms, but masks are required. Check the farm’s Facebook page for updates and upcoming events.
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.
Petting Zoos on Long Island
Fall in love with the alpacas at the Long Island Game Farm.
9. Long Island Game Farm – Manorville
2020 update: The Long Island Game Farm reopened on July 8, enacting stricter guidelines and protocols for visitors and staff. Food stations remain closed, but drinks and snacks can be purchased onsite. Outside food is not permitted. To enter the zoo, everyone must wear a mask.
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.
10. Schmitt's Farms – Melville
2020 update: Barnyard attractions are currently closed, but you can visit the farm's greenhouses for all your gardening needs. Check back in the fall for updates on its annual fall festival.
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
2020 update: White Post Farms reopened July 10 with new safety protocols. Tickets must be purchased in advance online. There will be hand washing and sanitizing stations throughout the zoo. Restrooms and food stations are open but without self-service options. Face masks are required.
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. In addition to 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.
Visit rescued animals at The Lewis Oliver Farm and Sanctuary.
12. Lewis Oliver Farm and Animal Sanctuary – Northport
2020 update: The farm is open during its regular hours. Check out the frequently updated Facebook page for live music events on the farm’s front porch. The back gates and children’s meadow are also open, where you can visit the animals. Or come shop at the farm’s country store on Saturdays.
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. While the farm is open 365 days a year, weekend hours depend on volunteer availability, so check Facebook for updates.
Petting Zoos in Westchester County
Feed a turtle at the Greenburgh Nature Center.
13. Greenburgh Nature Center – Scarsdale
2020 update: Outdoor animal exhibits at the Greenburgh Nature Center are open to visitors. However, the Manor House (including restroom facilities) and playground are closed to the public until further notice. The nature center is also offering summer programs for the whole family.
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.
Petting Zoos in the Hudson Valley
Stroll with the farm animals at the Catskills Animal Sanctuary.
14. Catskills Animal Sanctuary – Saugerties
2020 update: 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
2020 update: The animal farm and farm market are open daily, with new guidelines in place. Silverman's Farm has created a one-way walking experience for proper social distancing. The playground is currently closed. There are port-a-potty facilities on-premises, as well as hand washing and sanitizing stations. Face masks are required for everyone over the age of 2.
About 1 hour and 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 park area. Guests can pick up fresh pies, local honey, and fresh produce during their visit.
Are you looking for more fun on the farm? You'll find it in our Pick-Your-Own Guide, which offers plenty of farm destinations within the tri-state area.
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.