A totem pole shaped like a four-scoop ice-cream cone stands as a beacon in front of Jim Mack's Ice Cream, beckoning passers-by to experience the nostalgic establishment's homemade ice cream, 24-hole miniature-golf course, and resident black bear, Ricky. The ice-cream stand and snack shop, which opened in 1958, crafts a menu of ice cream, malts, burgers, hot dogs, fries, and other specialties. The outdoor picnic area allows guests to enjoy their treats to the sounds of chirping birds and whistling winds, which also serve as the mini-golf course's full-time commentators. The expansive, family-friendly facility also features a pinball arcade and a miniature zoo. Llamas and goats roam the petting-zoo area, grazing from the delicious pellets that grow in children's hands. The facility's mascot, Ricky the bear, also greets guests from inside of her large enclosure where she climbs on logs and tells jokes for nickels.
On a 187-acre parcel of Gunpowder Falls State Park sits Graham Equestrian Center, a horse haven named one of the region's best places for horseback riding by CBS Baltimore. Here, trainers specialize in all facets of equine education, teaching students how to handle and ride horses in a way that's both safe and fun. Visitors can put these lessons to use in a number of settings; the center features access to many miles of tree-lined trails, as well as a large outdoor arena and training pen.
The Marshy Point Nature Center is enshrouded in nearly 3,000 acres of natural terrain from the combined Marshy Point Park and neighboring federal land. In this emerald oasis, a variety of wildlife including Barred Owls, Bald Eagles, and Red Fox make their home amongst the three miles of wooded trails and ponds. Hikers and birdwatchers can gather to see these creatures in their natural habitats or take a canoe out to the middle of the Dundee Creek and practice walking back to shore. Throughout the year, the Marshy Point Nature Center also runs activities including a spring festival with a muddy obstacle course and the Popsicle Plunge, which immerses swimmers into the Chesapeake Bay for the sake of charity or really sweaty tendencies.
Land of Little Horses Farm Park awes visitors with pint-size miniature horses and a touchable menagerie of llamas, alpacas, donkeys, goats, and chickens. Each day brings a brand-new schedule of events for the farm's talented denizens, encouraging families and animal lovers of all ages to make tenderhearted contact with furry farm life. Visitors learn about the farm’s history and the daily ins and outs of maintaining a playground for its fuzzy stars. Goats demonstrate their generosity by producing rich, creamy milk for the farm's dairy workers, and mini horses enjoy grooming and luxurious sponge baths, sans the rubber ducky. The magnificent equine miniatures flaunt their finesse in arena performances, pulling off charming tricks and height-defying feats. Adults and children alike get up close during petting-zoo time, showing farm-dwelling critters just how well humans have mastered the hug.
• For $50, you get a Lion Level animal adoption and member benefits package (a $100 value). • For $125, you get a Pride Level animal adoption and member benefits package (a $250 value). • For $250, you get a Savannah Level animal adoption and member benefits package (a $500 value). • For $499, you get an Africa Level animal adoption and member benefits package (a $1,000 value). The Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo’s range of adoption plans enables donors to contribute to a year's worth of care and feeding for an animal of their choice, including african lions, amazon parrots, and bengal tigers. Adoptive animal parents can use their set of guest passes to visit the sun bears, kangaroos, crash-landed martians, and galapagos tortoises that roam the preserve's 50 acres. A hundred colorful fish frolic in Delaney's Japanese Koi Pond near Asian plants and a recently naturalized waterfall, and the dozen inhabitants of nearby Alligator Bayou glide and snap through a miniature Louisiana swamp stocked with spanish moss. One-hour safari rides, led by reanimated 19th-century British explorers, trek through the preserve's heart, where bison, zebra, and llamas approach the truck to be petted, fed, and photographed.
It all started with a farmer's generosity. In 1924, a civic-minded citizen handed over 16 acres of lush farmland and a small group of critters to the Borough of Norristown. Today, the Elmwood Park Zoo and the Norristown Zoological Society welcomes guests in hopes of creating a future stock of wildlife lovers and conservation advocates. A menagerie of around 300 beasts indigenous to the Americas—including jaguars, howler monkeys, timberwolves, and bald and gold eagles—peer back at visitors. Even though they're from Africa, giraffes get in on the fun too during certain seasons, grazing on foliage and the toupees of particularly tall patrons. Guests can also spy on more than 15 species that are threatened or endangered. All the while, smaller animals mosey around at the petting barn, tots climb aboard gentle ponies, and winged beauties sail through the air at the butterfly preserve.