Editor’s note: We’re making every effort to provide you with the most up-to-date information. However, there may be last minute closures due to Covid-19. We highly recommend that you call ahead or check a zoo’s website before you pack your kids (and all those snacks, and diapers…) and haul them across town. Stay safe!
If your kids are climbing the walls it may be time to release them into the wild. Or at least a petting zoo. Many animal encounters and petting farms are now open and provide a safe activity while social distancing. From snuggling up to a baby goat to riding a pony, these are the best petting zoos near DC where you can meet-and-greet furry and feathered friends.
Visit this zoo where rescued animals get a second chance. Want to meet these special creatures? Take a Discovery Tour (call for pricing) at this rescue zoo with one of the owners. You can explore the zoo after hours for more chances to get up-close and personal with the animals. You’ll get hands-on interactions and feed the animals.
Insider tip: Get ready to escape the jaws of a 'gator; the entrance to this zoo is through the head of an alligator! It's a great place to start (especially if you're practicing your ABCs).
Cost: $6-12; Free/ 2 & under
Open: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
1087 US Hwy. 211 West
Get ready to hitch up the wagon and go for a zoofari ride at this small petting zoo that is just perfect for the mini set. Upon arrival kiddos can grab a bucket of feed and a bottle of milk for a baby goat and start meeting and greeting the animals while giving them a tasty treat. Explore a reptile house and the Budgieary Adventure Aviary, too. Feel safer keeping in your distance in your own vehicle? You can drive through this park, too.
Inside tip: Be sure to reserve your tickets online before you go.
Cost: $20 & up
Open: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
1228 Hunter Mill Rd.
Leesburg Animal Park
This 21-acre facility offers little ones the chance to take part in interactive animal shows, arts and crafts, as well as visit and pet the animals. Ride a pony on a nice day or head inside on colder, rainy ones to enjoy all the activities that this park offers. Visit everything from farm animals to monkeys, llamas and lemurs. The resident sloth is a fan favorite (can't make it to the zoo? Cuddle up with this guy instead!).
Insider tip: There are picnic tables both inside and outside, so don't forget to bring drinks and snacks. Or have a picnic!
Open: Wed.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
19270 Monroe-Madison Memorial Hwy.
Frying Pan Farm
Rabbits, sheep, chickens, cows and draft horses are in the mix at this Frying Pan based petting zoo located in Fairfax County. Add in the pigs and a peacock or two and you have yourself a fun, educational day spent outside. The traditional red barn farm is a working demonstration full of new baby animals joining the Kidwell Farm family.
Insider tip: The carousel is NOW open, but you must purchase your tickets online. Tickets are $2/rider Wed.-Fri.; $3/rider Sat. & Sun.
2709 West Ox Rd.
Catoctin Wildlife Preserve & Zoo
Head into MD for a day of outdoor adventuring at Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo where families can roam for hours and always see something new. Over 100-acres of wildlife fun little ones can touch and feel large herbivores while bouncing around the grounds on a safari ride. Take in an interactive show for more touchy-feely moments. Note: Camel rides and parakeet feedings are currently not available.
Insider tip: Don't forget your masks: face masks are required when viewing indoor exhibits and on the Safari Ride.
Open: Opens daily at 9 am; closing times vary by day.
13019 Catoctin Furnace Rd.
Green Meadows Farm
Get up close and personal at this petting zoo where you can feed sheep and goats for free and even take in a pig race or two. Green Meadows has over 200 animals to visit and touch from alpacas and llamas to pea fowl and draft horses with a kangaroo or two as well. The cow feeding exhibit is currently closed due to COVID, but this MD farm has added a number of new animal interactions to fill the void.
Insider tip: Wed. is "Grandparent's Day" on the farm; bring your Grammy or Pops and they get in free (with one paid entry)!
Cost: $14.50; Free/23 months & under
Open: Wed.-Sun., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
10102 Fingerboard Rd.
—Meghan Yudes Meyers, Ayren Jackson-Cannady and Victoria Mason
featured photo: Meghan Yudes Meyers