They love the family dog, but kids also go gaga at the chance to pet 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 observe exotic animals like zebras and sloths. There’s also a jungle play area inside that’s open year-round. 19246 James Monroe Hwy., Leesburg; adults $16.95, kids 2-12 years old $14.95, 2 and under free
The zoo, formerly known as Roer’s Zoofari, is home to a menagerie of animals. Take your car for a ride around the park and have the opportunity to feed wild animals like watusis and Asian water buffalo. Coming soon is the opportunity for zoogoers to park their car and explore a variety of exhibits, including exotic butterflies, colorful birds, lemurs, and more. 1228 Hunter Mill Rd., Vienna; $10 for ages 3 and older
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 Rd., Herndon; free (wagon rides $4.50 per person, under 2 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. 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC; free admission
This post originally appeared in our August 2019 print issue and online on August 7, 2019. For more stories like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine’s Things to Do newsletter.