Parents of adorable two-legged animals know just how much children absolutely love animals of the four-legged variety. Youth, from tiny tots to teens, have a natural empathy and compassion for their feathered and furry friends. Feeding, petting, grooming and chasing critters around the barnyard will light up your child’s eyes. But before driving hours out to the country to connect with nature, drop in at some of the best local petting zoos in and around Philadelphia.

Jersey Shore Alpacas
521 Route 47 S.
Cape May, NJ 08204
(609) 889-4957
www.jerseyshorealpacas.com

Jim and Tish Carponelli purchased their 17-acre farm in beautiful Cape May County in 2006 and began their fleece business with just three alpacas. With names like Annabel Lee and Oliver Twist, 17 of the soft, endearing animals now call the farm home. Visitors are welcome to tour the farm for free, feed the alpacas and shop at the farm store year round on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Thursdays and Fridays in July. After enjoying the herd, stop for some ice cream at Little Danny’s, a Cape May fixture that’s located across the street.

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Johnson’s Corner Farm
133 Church Road
Medford, NJ 08055
(609) 654-8643
www.johnsonsfarm.com

Pick your own produce and then let the kids have a ball at the fee-based Discovery Barn and Animal Farm. Sit back in the shade while your little tikes challenge themselves on the climbing rocks, space net and pedal go-kart tracks. When they get tuckered out, walk over to the popular petting zoo where all of the goats, sheep and chickens are waiting to be fed. On hot summer days, bring a towel and cool off at the splash pad before bidding farewell to all of your farm animal friends.

KidsZooU 
Philadelphia Zoo
3400 W. Girard Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 243-1100
www.kidzoou.org

For the ultimate petting zoo experience, KidsZooU: Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo & Faris Family Education Center gives kids the thrill of getting up close and personal with an expansive barnyard of farm animals and activities. The state-of-the-art, $33 million facility is the largest zoo learning center in the country. The rarest goat in the world is housed here, as well as sheep, miniature horses, chickens and ducks. Animals and human guests are invited to freely roam trails and bridges together, and kids are encouraged to feed and groom the friendly creatures.

Related: A Guide To The Philadelphia Zoo

Linvilla Orchards
598 Linvill Road
Media, PA 19063
(610) 876-7116
www.linvilla.com

Designed as a fabulous fun zone for animal-loving young ones, Linvilla Orchards is a must-do for the whole family. After working in the u-pick fields or purchasing fresh produce at the huge farmers’ market, your clan can enjoy some hot dogs and sandwiches at the Garden Center Cafe. Climb aboard the Playland Express on weekends as it’s pulled by a circa 1865 steam locomotive around a one-acre track, then let your toddlers tumble and play at the massive playground. Don’t leave, however, before visiting the barnyard. It can get pretty packed during the summer with excited youngsters, but contending with crowds is well worth seeing the smiles on your kids’ faces as they play farmer to chickens, ducks, geese, doves, quail, pheasants, peacocks and Guinea hens.

Terhune Orchards
330 Cold Soil Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
(609) 924-2310
www.terhuneorchards.com

Terhune Orchards has delicious u-pick produce, a farm store, walking trail, winery and wagon rides, but its biggest attraction is its barnyard of animals. The petting zoo is open all year, and admission is free. Kids love to feed the donkey, horse, sheep, ducks, geese and chickens straight from their hands. For a special treat, pedal and stationary tractor rides allow the little ones to imagine life as a real farmer.

Susan DeFeo has been a professional writer since 1997. She served as a community events columnist for New Jersey’s “Cape May County Herald” for more than a decade. A writer for numerous online publications, Susan has covered health, fitness, beauty and travel, all subjects that are near and dear to her as a married mother of seven children. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.