With spring just around the corner, it’s a perfect time to rediscover all the wonders of nature and its creatures. Whether its a visit to a local farm or petting zoo, or from the safety of your own home, we’ve got ideas on where to go to get your critter fix.
Fisher Family Children’s Zoo, San Francisco
Inside the San Francisco Zoo, you will find the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo full of farm animals just waiting to be fed and petted. The area also includes nature trails, insect zoos and a barnyard. Advance reservations required.
Sloat Blvd. at the Great Highway
San Francisco, CA
Insect Discovery Lab, San Francisco
Save Nature, a San Francisco-based organization that protects endangered species, will teach your kids about awe-inspiring insects through its Insect Discovery Lab. With both in-person and Zoom classes led by an “insect educator,” kids learn how to identify and classify certain bugs—and even hold them!
San Francisco, CA
Penguin Cam at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
Delight in the antics of the Academy’s South African penguin colony as they swim, flirt and nest on three live webcams 24/7. For even more action, tune in for daily penguin feeding at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. PT. Each Valentine’s Day, things get sweeter as the penguins “exchange” paper cutout hearts, which they use to line their nests—this year you can watch the action live.
San Francisco, CA
Tilden Little Farm, Berkeley
This sweet little farm is home to a variety of farm animals including cows, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and pigs. Several heritage breeds are preserved here, including Milking Shorthorn Cattle. The farm has been closed to the public during the pandemic, but is scheduled to reopen in late February 2021, just in time to see the newest and littlest members of the farm arrive. Advance reservations are required for all visitors.
Ardenwood Historic Farm, Fremont
Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont houses sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens, rabbits, goats and cows. While the farm is reopening with limited hours on February 18, 2021, it is currently putting petting and feeding activities on hold. Pre-visit online registration required, although reservations can usually be made on the same day as your visit.
34600 Ardenwood Blvd.
Broken Road Farm, Brentwood
This small farm in Brentwood just started offering private and holiday events on their farm where kids can meet pigs, chickens and other animals. Follow them on IG for their current offerings.
Harley Farms Goat Dairy, Pescadero
This working goat farm is a great place to visit when you head to the coast. They offer tours that you can book in advance (Fri.-Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.) or visit the farm on our own during working hours. Stop by the farm shop before you leave to purchase products to take home.
205 North St.
Hidden Villa, Los Altos Hills
This farm offers year-round programs to provide individuals and families with opportunities to learn about the environment and enjoy all that Hidden Villa has to offer. You can milk a cow or join a bird hike or bake breads from around the world. Spring is a great time to take the barnyard babies tour. Parking is $10 unless you are there for a paid activity. They are closed on Mondays and during the summer for camps. You currently need to make a reservation before your visit.
26870 Moody Rd.
Los Altos Hills, CA
Lemos Farm, Half Moon Bay
Just over the hill into Half Moon Bay will get you to Lemos Farm. In addition to being one of the hot spots for pumpkins in the Fall, Lemos offers farm animals that you can see up close. Ride a pony in the ring or meet goats, pigs, sheep and more in the petting zoo. You can even milk Maggie, a life-sized milking cow machine! Note that Lemos is requiring all adults and kids 15 months and older to have a pass, which can be purchased on its site. The farm is open weekends only in Spring.
12320 San Mateo Rd.
Half Moon Bay, CA
McClellan Ranch, Cupertino
The Rolling Hills 4-H group houses many of its animals at this ranch in Cupertino. Ranch tours are offered on the second Saturday of the month (currently on hold due to COVID). Meet the 4-H members and learn how they take care of their animals. Here you can meet chickens, goats and sometimes pigs and steer.
22221 McClellan Road
Emma Prusch Farm Park, San Jose
Emma Prusch Farm Park is a 43.5 acre park in East San Jose and home to what many say is the largest wooden barn in California. Local 4-H youth use the barn to raise their market and breeding animals. The barn serves as a residence to steers, goats, sheep and pigs, and is open to the public during certain park hours. However the park prohibits touching and feeding of the animals by visitors.
647 S King Rd.
San Jose, CA
Gilroy Ostrich Farm, Gilroy
Ostriches are the largest birds on Earth, and you can see their quirky behavior firsthand at this farm. Other animals inhabit the place, such as goats, chickens, pot-bellied pigs and Alpacas. You can even take a piece of the farm home with you by adopting one of the cute little bunnies through the farm’s adopt-a-pet program.
5560 Pacheco Pass Highway
Alma Bonita Animal Rescue, Morgan Hill
Nestled in the rugged foothills of Morgan Hill California, Alma Bonita Animal Rescue (ABAR) was founded out of love and respect for animals who have been put in neglected and vulnerable situations. Today there are 50+ animals living at Alma Bonita Animal Rescue in Morgan Hill. Volunteers help with the tasks of building shelters as new animals arrive and other support tasks like running the website, keeping up on social media, and keeping track of the finances. The farm offers private school group and family visits by appointment only.
5070 Fallen Oak Drive
Morgan Hill, CA
Slide Ranch, Muir Beach
For 50 years, the mission of Slide Ranch has been to connect children to nature. Even though some of the programs at this Muir Beach ranch are temporarily shuttered, there are still plenty of coastal hiking trails to explore, places to picnic and pastures available for farm animal interaction. They have recently introduced an outdoor classroom program for school and community groups that includes a goat milking demonstration and animal feeding sessions.
2025 Shoreline Hwy,
Muir Beach, CA
Ramini Mozzarella, Tomales
For a visit with a totally different animal, head to Tomales to meet the buffalo of Ramini Mozzarella. Tours and tastings are offered on Saturdays.
175 Gericke Rd.
American Made Miniatures Farm Sanctuary, Petaluma
This small, family owned farm sanctuary offers farm tours by appointment only. Come and meet, pet and feed the farm's beloved miniature horses, plus its other array of horse breeds including Clydesdales and Appaloosas. Many of the farm’s animals have been rescued or adopted. Not open on Sundays.
1 Sonoma Mountain Rd,
Menagerie Hill Ranch, Vacaville
This small family run ranch is known primarily for breeding and raising alpacas. They offer both visits with the alpacas as well as farm tours, all by appointment. The farm also raises free range chickens, and sells farm fresh eggs in its ranch store, along with alpaca fiber, yarn and other alpaca items.
4071 Norman Court
Tara Firma Farms, Petaluma
This farm raises animals and grows veggies to support their CSA business. They typically host farm tours on the weekends (currently cancelled due to COVID) where you can learn about the farm and CSA, what "pasture raised" means and how farms like Tara Firma Farms are on the front lines to fight climate change, reduce water usage and build better soil through the latest methods in carbon farming
3796 I St.
—Donna Glass & Kate Loweth