If you plant it, they will come. The words rang in Jim Bennett’s ears as he shot awake in September 2009. Jim had dreamed of taking his daughter to a pumpkin patch, and when he awoke that night he scribbled plans to bring that dream to life. Over the next year, Jim and his crew hand planted pumpkin seeds on the fourth-generation Bennett Farm to prepare it for a fate quite different than its 60 years as a cattle farm without a single crop grown on it.
These days, pumpkins and gourds wait on the vine in three patches as hayrides pass by daily. At the petting farm, youngsters interact with sheep, miniature horses, and miniature-miniature horses, which mice rode in the old west. Kids can also navigate a hay-bale maze, frolic in the corn crib, and race down a 36-inch, 20-foot-long pipe slide.
Chefs in the cook house craft teacakes, pork skins, and apple pies with a wood-burning stove and wash pots hanging over an open fire. In the sorghum mill, workers transform farm-grown cane syrup, which the Bennetts sell in their country store alongside handmade soap and honey from local vendors.
Staff Size: 50+ people
Average Duration of Services: 2?4 hours
Parking: Parking lot
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Train ride
Locals agree that the best was to take in Noccalula Falls Park's natural beauty with a ride on The C. P. Huntington Train. The train wends its way through park grounds, taking guests between the outdoor animal habitat?home to a lion, a lynx, and foxes, to name a few?and the deer park, home to 10-point buck named Rambo.
The locomotive chugs by Pioneer Village, a collection of rough-hewn log buildings assembled in the style of early settlements. The trek concludes by the park's miniature golf course, which uses natural rock formations, waterfalls, and streams to add challenge to its 18 holes, rather than showcasing a less friendly challenge that goes through the lion's habitat.
The animal lovers behind Tigers for Tomorrow at Untamed Mountain founded the preserve and environmental education center to both rescue predatory animals that had been discarded when they were no longer wanted, as well as to educate the public about these creatures. As a last-stop preserve, the nonprofit exotic animal park keeps all the animals it takes in for the rest of the animals' lives. The education center also focuses on teaching the public about its more than 175 animals, particularly its apex predators?big cats, bears, and wolves.
Open only on Saturday and Sunday, visitors here can learn about the animals' habitats and behaviors on their own during a self-guided walkabout. These take about an hour and lead tennis-shoe-clad visitors through the slightly wild trails at Untamed Mountain. Guests can also opt for a guided tour, and all guests will have a chance to interact with the animals at the children's animal contact yard. This features everything from goats and pigs to birds of prey and reptiles.
Once inside the carnivore preserve, guests can safely get close to (but not touch) the tigers, lions, bears, leopards, wolves, and other predators. Because it is a working preserve, visitors can view the keepers feeding and interacting with the animals. Tigers For Tomorrow has also been featured in Southern Living, Lookout Alabama, Alabama Home Sweet Home, and more.
Whether cuddling a tiny spotted piglet, nuzzling a baby goat, or cradling a fuzzy bunny, it's nearly impossible to suppress affectionate coos during a visit to Little Vine Petting Zoo. The zoo abounds with creatures of all kinds, from gentle donkeys to soft alpacas to one spiny hedgehog. Ponies and horses trot down the trail with wee riders on their backs, guests can opt for hay rides, and take pictures inside of rustic stagecoach. Ambling down a tree-lined road, the farm’s colorful train transports guests around the area. The cheerful farm staffers also host bashes onsite and can travel for on-location parties, bringing along ponies and animals to delight guests at birthday parties or confuse bridesmaids at weddings.
As a USDA–licensed petting zoo, the farm owners pride themselves in caring for their animals as an extension of their family. When they’re not introducing their barnyard companions to visitors, the owners breed and show Nigerian dwarf goats as a full-time goat farmers.
Inanda Stables boasts boarding and training facilities and teaches equestrian enthusiasts the proper ways to ride and care for their cantering companions. During the two 30-minute private lessons, Centaur top-halves learn the tenets of basic horse safety, the parts of the horse, and the details of the equipment. After gleaning the essentials of the English saddle, horse-top explorers enjoy a leisurely walk and a comfortable trot atop an American Saddlebred horse. Wind down the lesson by soaking in the countryside views and nibbling tea-soaked crumpets atop a four-legged tour guide.
Jerry and Liz Bates happily settled into the ?alpaca way of life? in 2008. They farm alpacas, and it gives them a sense of peace to be out in natural surroundings with their fuzzy family. Tours of their farm, Southern Estate Alpacas, begin with Alpaca 101 lessons, where you learn about the origins and uses of alpacas. Next, you can visit with the herd to feed them out of your hand, pet their soft wool, or get a Facebook photo with a baby dwarf goat. Alpaca petting zoos are a good option for families with small children, since they have no horns or hooves and only a bottom set of teeth, so they can?t bite. After you?ve met your new best friend, head to the farm store to get a scarf or sweater made from his exquisite wool.