Guide to Local & Regional Animal Spotting

by Liz Jones | February 21, 2018 1:38 am

Lions, and tigers, and bears — oh my! Pack a picnic lunch, load up the minivan, and head to one of these great spots for an educational, fun outing with family and friends.

Leesburg Animal Park[1] | Leesburg, VA
For 21-acres of year-round animal adventure, check out Leesburg Animal Park! With plenty of attractions indoors and out, kids and kids at heart have the opportunity to get up close and personal with a wide variety of animal friends![2]

Outside, let little ones take a pony, wagon, or even camel ride, enjoy a live animal show, and explore an animal petting area. Play on the playground, have a picnic, and listen to the sounds of your newest animal friends!

Is it too hot or too cold outside? Don’t miss Leesburg Animal Park’s indoor play space, which offers a 3-level kid’s play zone with slide and trampoline, toddler play area, and even a discovery room. Families will find more live animal shows and exhibits inside as well so make sure to stop by and say hello to the chinchillas, lemurs, sloths, and more!

Kidwell Farm at Frying Pan Farm Park[3] | Herndon, VA
Dating back to the 1930’s, Frying Pan Farm Park is Fairfax County’s oldest working farm. You can meet draft horses, chickens, peacocks, rabbits, sheep, goats, cows, and pigs at Kidwell Farm! The park is open year-round but is especially busy in the spring with many animal births! Be sure to follow Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park on Facebook[4] for updates on additions to their furry farm family. Also to getting up-close and personal with animals, enjoy their many walking paths, playgrounds, carousel, special events, and more!

Roer’s Zoofari
1228 Hunter Mill Rd., Vienna, VA 22182
Connect: Online[5] | Facebook[6] | (703) 757-6222

Discover 30-acres of fun and adventure at Roer’s Zoofari! Formerly known as The Reston Zoo, Roer’s Zoofari has recently reopened under brand new ownership! Take a safari wagon ride, feed, and pet the animals, and get up close and personal with the residents of the Reptile House and Aviary! Visitors will love the carousel and special events the Zoofari has planned year round, too! Plan a birthday party, school trip, or a day of discovery at Roer’s Zoofari today!

Great Country Farms
18780 Foggy Bottom Rd., Bluemont, VA 20135
Connect: Online[7] | Facebook[8] | Twitter[9] | (540) 554-2073

Plenty of friendly barnyard friends awaits your visit at this working farm, including cows, chickens, pigs, and miniature horses. Make a day of it by playing on rope swings or a giant jumping pillow, picking fresh produce, playing a round of putt-putt, enjoying a country hayride, and much more! The farm is open from early March through November (weather-dependent). Also to daily passes, Great Country Farms offers CSAs and membership packages.

Ticonderoga Farm
26469 Ticonderoga Rd., Chantilly, VA 20152
Connect: Online[10] | Facebook[11] | Twitter[12] | (703) 327-4424

Year-round outdoor fun can be found on this 1,000-acre, 5th generation farm that features goats, sheep, and pigs! Be sure to join them at one of their many festivals or daily during peak season to enjoy playgrounds, jumping pillows, pedal carts, slides, a willow maze, and much more!

Hidden Oaks Nature Center[13]
7701 Royce St., Annandale, VA 22003
Connect: Online[14] | Facebook[15] | Twitter[16] | (703) 941-1065

Ideal for children two-years and older, the Hidden Oaks Nature Center is located in the 52-acre Annandale District Park among woodland trails and creeks, perfect for hikes and picnics. Inside the nature center is a climbing “tree” loft/puppet stage, a resource library, the Urban Woodlands interactive exhibit, and rain garden. The live animal displays include several types of turtles, snakes, and iguana. Become a Nature Snooper (free) and receive a complimentary gift from the Friends of Hidden Oaks. Plan to also to enjoy the 1/3-acre Nature Playce with an unstructured woodland play area for making mud pies, digging in wood chips and leaf piles, and making forts. Be sure to check their website[17] for hours and days of operation as they change seasonally.

Claude Moore Colonial Farm [18]
6310 Georgetown Pike, McLean, VA 22101
Connect: Online[19] | Facebook[20] | (703) 442-7557

Opened in 1973, Claude Moore Colonial Farm at Turkey Run portrays Northern Virginia family life on a small, low-income farm just before the Revolutionary War in 1771. Children and adults visitors can participate in daily activities of an 18th-century family farm through self-guided tours, horticulture programs, and educational programs. Be sure to check the events page[21] often to see when the 18th-century special events are held, including the traditional Colonial Market Fair. See heritage breeds of livestock representing animals that were present in Virginia in the late 18th century. Take home some market fair merchandise, books, games, toys, local fruit preserves and butter, educational items, and more from the Gatehouse shop. Open from April through December, Claude Moore Colonial Farm provides special events, programs, and educational opportunities for the entire family to enjoy!

The Broadlands Nature Center[22]
21907 Claiborne Pkwy., Broadlands, VA 20148
Connect: Online[23] | Facebook[24] | (703) 729-9704

Open to the public, the 5,000-plus-square-foot Broadlands Nature Center houses some furry and scaly friends, such as a snake, rabbit, newt, fish, turtles, and doves. Children can sign-up with parents to be a nature center volunteer and handle and feed the animals. When a naturalist is present, they will try to give visitors a chance to interact with the animals too! The Broadlands HOA has partnered with Audubon Naturalist Society to provide nature center activities, naturalist programs, and summer camps. A list of year-round programs and dates, participation waivers, and program contacts can be found here[25]. Also, there are opportunities to fulfill Girl Scout and Cub Scout nature and wildlife badges through some of these programs. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 am-5 pm and select Saturdays from 10 am-2 pm, but be sure to call the office number before heading out.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo
3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008
Connect: Online[26] | Facebook[27] | Twitter[28] | (202) 633-4888

Operated by the Smithsonian, this is one of the oldest zoos in the US. Open 364-days of the year (closed only on Christmas), this regional favorite doesn’t charge admission. Animals in a variety of sizes are exhibited throughout the 163-acre park — the Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, and Giant Panda habitat are the most popular attractions, as well as their new carousel. Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) memberships are available and entitle members to benefits such as special event admission, parking perks, and discounts at Park retailers.

Catoctin Wildlife Preserve & Zoo[29]
13019 Catoctin Furnace Rd., Thurmont, MD 21788
Connect: Online[30] | Facebook[31] | Twitter[32] | (301) 271-3180

A plethora of animals that jump, swim, fly, roar, and tweet awaits your visit to this beautifully landscaped, wooded preserve. Lemurs, kangaroos, tigers, wolves, and alligators are among some of the animals you will encounter. Plus, visitors can board safari trucks and head into a wooded setting to see, touch, and feed additional animals like zebras, buffalo, and camels. This preserve and zoo is open daily from early-March through November (weather- dependent) and offers extended hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Glen Echo Park Aquarium[33]
7300 MacArthur Blvd, Glen Echo, MD 20812
Connect: Online[34] | Facebook[35] | (703) 464-4763

See, touch, and learn at the brand new Glen Echo Park Aquarium! Open to the public on the weekends, this Chesapeake Bay discovery center offers visitors a chance to get up close and personal with live animals! Explore the touch tank, play on the pirate ship, or get to digging in the large sandbox! With displays, a turtle aquarium, and a science tool discovery table, this is a fun and educational destination for families who want to enjoy all that Glen Echo Park and the Chesapeake Bay have to offer!

Luray Zoo
1087 US Hwy. 211 W, Luray, VA 22835
Connect: Online[36] | Facebook[37] | (540) 743-4113

Luray Zoo is the only true rescue zoo in Virginia. Residents of the zoo are retired zoo animals, unwanted pets, confiscated animals, and sadly, abused animals. Interestingly, one of the largest venomous snake collections on the east coast is housed at this facility! The Luray Zoo is open year-round with extended hours from April through October. Daily admission and season passes are available.

Virginia Safari Park
229 Safari Ln., Natural Bridge, VA 24578
Connect: Online[38] | Facebook[39] | Twitter[40] | (540) 291-3205

Virginia’s only drive-thru zoo is home to 1,000 exotic animals from six continents! Interact with elk, camels, giraffes, and more as you drive your own vehicle along a 3-mile path. Afterward, stretch your legs while strolling through interactive habitats at the Safari Village or observe Bengal Tigers in their own habitat. You can also view a variety of birds at the aviary and feed/pet goats, pigs, and other farm favorites in the farmyard petting area. Open daily from early March through November (weather- dependent) with extended hours during June, July, and August.

Natural Bridge Zoo[41]
5784 South Lee Hwy., Natural Bridge, VA 24578
Connect: Online[42] | Facebook[43] | Twitter[44] | (540) 291-2420

The mission of this privately-owned facility is to propagate and to rear threatened and endangered species. From giraffes, llamas, and white tigers to a variety of birds including macaws and parrots, visitors will enjoy seeing, feeding, and interacting with them all! An African Elephant ride is also available for a nominal fee. Visit once during the season of April through December (weather-dependent) or purchase a season pass for unlimited fun!

Maranatha Alpaca Farm
71 Coakley Ln., Fredericksburg, VA 22406
Connect: Online[45] | Facebook[46] | Twitter[47] | (540) 841-4878

Open to tours[48] year-round from Wednesdays to Fridays[49] for both families and groups, Maranatha Alpaca Farm is a fun way to learn more about these curious animals. Check out this unique “farm” located in a residential area to feed and pet alpacas. Tours also include a visit to their fiber studio where you can purchase products made with alpaca fiber in their market. Visitors who fall in love with an alpaca are even given the opportunity to adopt one[50]!

National Aquarium[51]
501 East Pratt St., Baltimore, MD 21202
Connect: Online[52] | Facebook[53] | Twitter[54] | Instagram[55] | (410) 576-3800

A visually spectacular destination, the National Aquarium in the Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore, is a must-visit for anyone regionally. Packed with over 17,000 animals and award-winning exhibits, the aquarium has a tropical rainforest exhibit, an Australian Outback exhibit, and an impressive Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit featuring hundreds of colorful tropical fish, sharks, eels, and more on a fabricated reef in a 335,000-gallon, 13-foot-deep, open-air aquarium.

Virginia Living Museum[56]
524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601
Connect: Online[57] | Facebook[58] | Twitter[59] | Instagram[60]| (757) 595-1900

The Virginia Living Museum is home to more than 250 living species native to Virginia. Through discovery centers, exhibits, and hands-on interactive exhibits, such as touching live horseshoe crabs and fossilized dinosaur tracks, visitors of all ages will learn the importance of protecting the balance of the natural world. The museum also houses one of the largest displays of native Virginia living plants, an underground gallery to see Virginia’s geology, and the state-of-the-art Abbitt Planetarium Theater. Boasting more than 16 species of birds is the 5,500-square foot Coastal Plain Aviary. The outdoor, 3/4-mile boardwalk crosses Deer Park Lake and meanders through the woods and wetlands to see wolves, beavers, river otters, bald eagles, vultures, deer, wild turkeys, and much more. Special tours are available year-round at an additional cost.

The Maryland Zoo[61]
1876 Mansion House Dr., Baltimore, MD 21217
Connect: Online[62] | Facebook[63] | Twitter[64] | (410) 396-7102

Formerly known as The Baltimore Zoo, this animal park boasts 1,500 animals including penguins, polar bears, and an array of reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Additional animal experiences such as camel rides, a carousel, and various interactive events are also available for a nominal fee. The Maryland Zoo is open daily from early March through December and select days in January and February (weather-dependent).

Clark’s Elioak Farm
10500 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, MD 21042
Connect: Online[65] | Facebook[66] | (410) 730-4049

This petting farm, located in the heart of Howard County, is a great place to spend a morning, host a birthday party, or take an educational tour. After petting ostriches, turkeys, and sheep you can stroll through their enchanted forest, mine for gems, ride a pony, or hop aboard the Cow Train. The Farm is open in early April through November (weather-dependent).

Petting Zoo at Baugher’s Orchards & Farms[67]
1015 Baugher Rd., Westminster, MD 21158
Connect: Online[68] | Facebook[69] | (410) 848-5541

Farm livestock, including lambs, rabbits, and pigs, along with barnyard animals like alpacas and peacocks call Baugher’s home. When visiting, walk right through the pasture and get up-close and personal with their gentle animals. Some animals with more aggressive behavior are behind a fence, through which they can be pet. Two playground sets and a gazebo make this the perfect spot to spend an afternoon from early May to October (weather-dependent).

Green Meadows Petting Farm
10102 Fingerboard Rd., Ijamsville, MD 21754
Connect: Online[70] | Facebook[71] | Twitter[72] | (301) 865-9203

At Green Meadows Petting Farm, your children will have the opportunity to touch the sheep, feed the goats, and milk the cow! Click here[73] to learn more about each animal, and be sure to pack a picnic and enjoy this country setting. Special events like a Barnyard Bash and Easter egg hunts are scheduled throughout the season, from early April through October (weather-dependent).

Old Maryland Farm
301 Watkins Park Dr., Upper Marlboro, MD 20774
Connect: Online[74] | Facebook[75] | Twitter[76] | (301) 218-6700

Designed to complement school curriculum, Old Maryland Farm at Watkins Regional Park is a great destination for an educational experience learning about farming and farm animals. Although not a petting zoo, various volunteer opportunities, interpretive programs, and exhibits are available across the farm for animal care, agriculture, and gardening.

Land of Little Horses Farm Park
125 Glenwood Dr., Gettysburg, PA 17325
Connect: Online[77] | Facebook[78] | (717) 334-7259

Little ones will delight in meeting miniature horses and other farm friends at the Land of Little Horses Farm Park! Along with animal performances and other events, the daily schedule includes a variety of attractions, including pony and wagon rides, which will interest the entire family! Pet the little horses at the Close Encounters Display, watch an animal show in the indoor arena, or watch a herd release as the animals are led out to pasture to graze! Additional special events, including summer camps for children ages 6 and up, are also scheduled during the year. Before leaving, check out the Hobby Horse Café or Gift Shop to round out a day at the park!

Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo[79]
291 Wagner Ln., Kingwood, WV 26537
Connect: Online[80] | Facebook[81] | (304) 329-3122

Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo, open from mid-April through October (weather-dependent), boasts more than 30 different native and exotic species[82]. You’ll find a menagerie of chimpanzee, tigers, bears, and Baboons in this 20-year-old+ woodland zoo. Plus, kids will enjoy activities like feeding a young giraffe (fee-based) at select times!

Virginia Zoo[83]
3500 Granby Sr., Norfolk, VA 23504
Connect: Online[84] | Facebook[85] | Twitter[86] | (757) 441-2374

The Virginia Zoo in Norfolk boasts a rich history of recreation, education, and conservations. At over 100-years old, the zoo is home to more than 500 animals. From the plains of Africa to the jungles of Asia, the Virginia Zoo is a world of discovery waiting for you. Open year-round, the Zoo offers fun, education and excitement for everyone. Meet elephants, tigers, kangaroos, red pandas, and more. Plus, kids can go nose-to-nose with prairie dogs through viewing bubbles in their interactive habitat.

Disclaimer/Terms[87]: These opportunities are subject to last minute cancellations and changes that might not be reflected in this post. Please, always confirm by calling/clicking.

  1. Leesburg Animal Park:
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  3. Kidwell Farm at Frying Pan Farm Park:
  4. on Facebook:
  5. Online:
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  13. Hidden Oaks Nature Center:
  14. Online:
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  17. their website:
  18. Claude Moore Colonial Farm :
  19. Online:
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  21. the events page:
  22. The Broadlands Nature Center:
  23. Online:
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  25. here:
  26. Online:
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  29. Catoctin Wildlife Preserve & Zoo:
  30. Online:
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  33. Glen Echo Park Aquarium:
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  41. Natural Bridge Zoo:
  42. Online:
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  48. Open to tours:
  49. Wednesdays to Fridays:
  50. adopt one:
  51. National Aquarium:
  52. Online:
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  56. Virginia Living Museum:
  57. Online:
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  61. The Maryland Zoo:
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  67. Petting Zoo at Baugher’s Orchards & Farms:
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  79. Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo:
  80. Online:
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  82. 30 different native and exotic species:
  83. Virginia Zoo:
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