At The Gentle Zoo, youngsters feed pigs, pat ducklings, and interact with the other fuzzy residents. Elsewhere on the zoo’s 10 acres, guests can leap about on the bounce house, blast corn from the corn cannon, navigate the maze, or enjoy a leisurely ride on the tractor train. Such attractions enthrall kids at onsite birthday parties, while the mobile petting zoo’s 12–15 staff-supervised animals offer nuzzles and create memories in children's minds. The creatures also hit the road for the animal-encounters program, which combines hands-on animal contact with educational 45-minute presentations. The Gentle Zoo donates its proceeds from the program to its Creature Connection, Inc. nonprofit, which rehabilitates rescue animals before they participate in outreach programs for foster children and at-risk youth.
Dinosaur World lets modern-day adventurers see what the world was like when dinosaurs ruled the earth. More than 150 life-size dinosaurs peer imposingly from the hillsides, crane their necks up through native trees, and stomp through prairie fields at the theme parks that stretch out over 20-plus acres of land in Texas, Florida, and Kentucky. The fiberglass, steel, and concrete dinosaurs reach up to 80 feet in length, and are built according to the latest scientific discoveries about what dinosaurs looked like.
Starting November 8, visitors will see 20 dinos come to life at the new animatronic dinosaur exhibit.
Visitors who want to experience what it's like to be a paleontologist can dig for fossils at the Fossil Dig and uncover a life-size stegosaurus skeleton from under the sand in the Boneyard. The Dino Gem Excavation lets explorers uncover something entirely different?real minerals and gems?and a geode cracker lets them split geodes to reveal their beautiful crystals. Before leaving, visitors can play on the dinosaur-themed playground and check out the Prehistoric Museum to see a variety of cast and real fossils.
Country Critters Farm isn't really a farm in the traditional sense: it's a petting zoo that's home to ponies, cows, goats, chickens, and a menagerie of other amiable creatures. Open on Saturday and Sunday?and weekdays by reservation?the farm is filled with nine rustic, kid-friendly activities that range from pony rides and hayrides to a playground and bounce houses. Though they welcome school field trips and onsite birthday parties, the staff can also load up their Big Red Barn?a mobile petting-zoo trailer?and bring their cuddly residents to birthday parties and other events.
More than 100 exotic and endangered animals can be seen at Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch, an educational, nonprofit wildlife ranch licensed by the USDA and featured on the Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs. Knowledgeable staffers pilot a fleet of safari trams that ferry guests across the park's sprawling pastures, dispensing enlightening wisdom as they pass zebras, kangaroos, emus, bears, and monkeys. The staff brings patrons face-to-face with many of the exotic critters and often stops to allow guests to pet and get to know the animals. Interactive presentations and small-animal habitats further educate visitors on the menagerie of rare creatures.
Bob and Coni Keyes began the adventure that is Green Meadows Petting Farm in Wisconsin in 1964, when it was simply Green Meadows Farm. As a "pick-your-own" raspberry and vegetable farm, there was nothing there yet to pet, especially since raspberries notoriously withhold affection. When they discovered that most farms of their ilk prohibited youngsters, they brought in animal friends to make their farm a family affair. All it took was the raves of one nursery school group, and suddenly the new Green Meadows Petting Farm was bringing in up to 1,200 visitors a day. Through the decades, Green Meadows has expanded its array of animals and family entertainment, which includes horse-drawn hayrides, sleigh rides, mobile pony parties, and more pumpkins than in a headless horseman's closet. They've also expanded to locations to Maryland and Texas, allowing kids in two times zones the chance to get closer to nature's critters.