Your kiddo has never met a dog she didn’t like…or a cat, pig, cow, monkey, sloth, wolf, seal, alpaca or parrot, for that matter. Encourage the Dr. Dolittle in your budding veterinarian, and take them to one of these spots in the greater Los Angeles area for an up close and personal encounter with animals of every kind.

The Gentle Barn

The Gentle Barn is an animal rescue shelter with a mission: to rescue, rehabilitate and give sanctuary to abused animals. A visit to The Gentle Barn is a relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon (they’re only open to the public on Sundays from 10 a.m.–2 p.m.) to teach kids how to love and respect all animals. While here they can groom the horses, brush the cows, give the pigs tummy rubs, hug the goats and sheep, sit under the shade trees, munch on popcorn, and make new friends. A $20 donation per adult and $10 per child is requested. You must purchase tickets in advance to visit.

Note: When you visit, they ask that no one brings in meat, poultry, fish or dairy foods onto the property out of respect for the animals. Feel free to bring snacks that respect that request, or purchase vegan food from the snack shop.

15825 Sierra Highway, Santa Clarita
Online: gentlebarn.org

photo: Meghan Rose

  • The Gentle Barn
  • Shadowland Foundation
  • Wildlife Learning Center
  • STAR Eco Station
  • Marine Mammal Care Center
  • Danny’s Farm
  • Underwood Farms
  • Gibbon Conservation Center
  • Alpacas at Windy Hill
  • Los Angeles Zoo
  • Moorpark Teaching Zoo
  • Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres

More in the mood for creatures that swim? Check out places you can meet fishes and other wet critters.

Did we miss your family’s favorite petting zoo or animal encounter experience in Los Angeles? Please let us know in the comment section below.