From pony rides to lessons about farm animals, here’s where your youngsters can interact with zoo animals in the NoVA region.
They love the family dog, but kids also go gaga at the chance to per goats, cows and other barnyard animals. These petting zoos welcome gentle little hands.
Leesburg Animal Park
This popular NoVA destination offers a lot of the fun of a zoo, without the parking headaches you’ll find in DC. Kids can pet and feed farm animals like goats, sheep, llamas and pigs, take a pony ride (and even a camel ride on select weekends!) and observe exotic animals like zebras and monkeys. There’s also a jungle play area inside that’s open year-round. // 19270 James Monroe Highway, Leesburg; adults $14.95, kids $10.95, 2 and under free
This wild destination is home to a menagerie of animals. Take an open-air bus ride around the park and have the opportunity to feed wild animals like zebras, buffalos, emus and more; head over to the barnyard area for feeding and petting rabbits, pigs and goats; plus get up-close-and-personal with parakeets in the park’s aviary. There’s also a spot to see creepy-crawlies like a python, tarantulas, even a bearded dragon (which is much smaller than it sounds)! // 1228 Hunter Mill Road, Vienna; adults $17, kids 3-12 $12, under 3 free
Frying Pan Farm Park
Parents in the know count this county park as one of their go-tos to entertain little ones. Frying Pan showcases what farm life was like between the 1920s and 1950s—and that includes a host of barnyard animals. Wagon rides offer a tour of the property and families can take a rest on the porch of the Kidwell Farmhouse after they’ve met the farm’s horses, chickens, peacocks, rabbits, cows and more. // 2709 West Ox Road, Herndon; free (wagon rides $3.50 per person, under 3 free)
Smithsonian’s National Zoo
The granddaddy of local zoos for little animal lovers, the National Zoo is a must. It’s generally packed in the summer, but the up-close access to the world-famous pandas, plus elephants, tigers, all manner of monkeys (oh my!) and more is worth the trip into the city. Animal keepers are also on hand at the Kids’ Farm, where they chat about the animals and answer questions about the cows, donkeys, goats, chickens and more. And don’t miss the zoo’s Dino Summer (through Aug. 31) that features life-size dinosaur audio-animatronics and a live dinosaur show. // 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC; free admission (dinosaur show: $10 adults, $8 kids 3-12, free under 3)