Grab some sunscreen and your handy-dandy camera and experience an interactive safari right in your Northern Virginia backyard.
Take a trip on the wild side this summer and visit the unique assortment of petting zoos Northern Virginia and its surrounding areas have to offer budding animal lovers and their families. Each zoo is locally owned and operated by dedicated Virginians and animal specialists who want to share the joy of nature and wildlife with the community in a safe and interactive environment.
Leesburg Animal Park
19270 James Monroe Highway, Leesburg; open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
This summer, take your children to a world of fun and adventure at the Leesburg Animal Park. Pet and feed friendly farm animals like llamas, donkeys, ducks and bunnies and observe exotic animal exhibits home to serval big cats, white-handed gibbons and zebras. There are also pony rides, weekend camel rides at 2:30 p.m., live animal shows and indoor and outdoor playgrounds complete with a slide, trampoline and toddler play space.
Admission: Kids ages 2-12 and seniors 60 and older are $9.95, adults are $12.95, and the Kid VIP Pass, which includes a pony ride and animal food souvenir cup, is $14.95.
Additional costs: Pony rides are $3.50, and camel rides are $7.
Feed costs: Animal food bags are $2, animal food souvenir cups are $5, and souvenir buckets are $10.
1228 Hunter Mill Road, Vienna; open daily from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Formerly known as the Reston Zoo, Roer’s Zoofari opened the gates of its 30-acre park in April, and it’s home to exotic and farm animals. Embark on a narrated safari ride and feed antelope, zebras and ostriches at either 11 a.m., 1 p.m. or 3 p.m., and then stop by the barnyard to bottle-feed baby goats, lambs and piglets. You can let a colorful bird perch on your arm in the free flight aviary exhibit, and later watch a snake slither around the Reptile House. You can also get up close and personal with parrots, snakes, ferrets, hedgehogs and young alligators during the Meet the Creature experiences, which take place every day at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Roer’s recently added a mini zebu and a baby Asian water buffalo, and another surprise animal will arrive later this month.
Admission: Adults are $15, seniors 65 and older and military members are $13, and kids 2-12 are $10.
Additional Costs: Safaris are free, but each additional ride is $3.
Feed Costs: Animal feed is $3.50 per cup or $12 per bucket, lamb bottles are $2.50, and Budgie Feeding Sticks are $1.50 or four for $5.
Frying Pan Park: Kidwell Farm
2739 West Ox Road, Herndon; open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Become a part of Frying Pan Park’s historic Kidwell Farm for the day and pet the sweet draft horses, goats and cows inside the barn. Meet the newborn baby animals and follow a peacock in hopes that it spreads its regal feathers. Then take a wagon ride around the property between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Frying Pan Park’s landmark carousel is also within walking distance of the farm.
Additional Costs: Wagon rides are $3 per person or $90 for a private ride.
Virginia Safari Park
229 Safari Lane, Natural Bridge; open daily from 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Ranked among the Top 10 Animal Attractions in the United States by Family Fun Magazine, the Virginia Safari Park provides families with an adventure of a lifetime at an affordable price. As the only drive-thru safari in Virginia, this zoo has a variety of animals ranging from zebras and bull elk to camels and ostriches. Purchase a grain bucket and drive through the open habitat, feeding the animals from the comfort of your car while witnessing them interact with their environment—if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a birth. The Virginia Safari Park also contains several animal exhibits in the Village Walk-Thru. Feel the scrape of a giraffe’s tongue as it eats out of your hand at the Giraffe Feeding Station, observe the rare Bengal and orange tigers in the Tiger Territory, let iridescent birds sit on your hand at the Budgie Adventure Station and keep an eye peeled for little joeys peeping out from their mothers’ pouches at the Kangaroo Walk-About. Then head to the petting area where you can stroke and feed baby farm animals before popping into the Reptile House to hold one of the many reptiles as staff member give information lectures.
Admission: Children 2-12 are $12.95, infants 1 and younger are free, seniors 65 and older are $18.95, and adults are $19.95.
Feed Costs: Animal feed is $3.50 per bucket or $12 for four buckets, giraffe grain is $.50 per serving, and a Budgie Feed Stick is $1.50 or $5 for four.