Most kids adore animals and a trip to see live ones is always a fun adventure for our family. I've rounded up six of our favourite places to interact with and see animals in the HRM, or within about an hour's drive, that are on our "must do" list.
Lions and tigers and bears - oh my! Oaklawn Farm Zoo in Aylesford is a long time family favourite is just over an hour away from the city and provides a solid day of fun for everyone. There are monkeys, peacocks, chickens, pigs and even zonkeys - that's right, a zebra/donkey love child. They also have a canteen with very reasonable prices to feed the kids (and offer PB&J sandwiches for the picky eaters in the crew).
Go early in the day before the heat hits to see the animals before the sun sends them into siesta mode.
Or go in the evening when they have the feeding time for the big cats (check online for the daily time).
Bring some change to feed the deer by hand.
This expansive wildlife park is in Shubenacadie, about forty minutes from the city, and provides kids a chance to see lots of animals indigenous to our area, and further abroad. We're always greeted by cheerful peacocks near the entrance strutting their colourful stuff which sets a great tone to the day. A couple other favourite stops are the playful otters, the wolves and the reindeer.
Bring a stroller if you have a smaller child - it's a BIG park and the distances between enclosures can be tiring for little legs
Bring some kid-friendly binoculars as some of the enclosures are large and the animals may be hanging out at the back
There's also a wetland and marsh trail area to add to your visit if your kids finish the park and still have energy to spare
Bring a lunch and include time to eat it at the picnic area which includes a playground
Hope Swinamer opened Hope for Wildlife as a labour of love while she worked at a veterinary hospital in Dartmouth. It's now turned into huge wildlife preserve in Seaforth, near Lawrencetown, and even has its own book and TV show! All summer long they're open for visitors every day; and open limited hours in the fall/winter. They take in injured wildlife and nurture them back to health. Then, when they're well enough, they release them back into the wild.
Admission is free but please try to leave a generous donation. They're working hard to help injured critters and need all the monetary support they can get
This is a good opportunity to teach children the importance of caring for animals and the distinction between domestic and wild animals
Did you know there is a working farm open to visitors right behind Cole Harbour Road in Dartmouth? In fact, when standing in the farm surrounded by barns and chickens, you can look over and see the traffic streaming by. This is a GREAT introduction to farm life for littles. It's not too big that it takes them a long time to get around, but it has lots of authentic farm animals that will thrill your little animal lover.
There is a lovely on-site tea house (with local crafts for sale). Make sure you build in time for a nice lunch especially if you have a child who loves tea parties. If you have a really rambunctious child though, you might want to take your lunch to go (I have one of each and my "busy" one did alright but I was nervous the whole time that he'd send a china tea cup to the floor!).
They have a few annual special events, like their Strawberry Social and Corn Boil, so check in to see what's coming up next!
Admission is by donation - again, give what you can. This is run mainly by volunteers who want to educate the public about Cole Harbour's farming history
If you've got a little cowpoke then this place is sure to thrill them. Hatfield Farms is known for their horse-drawn wagon and sleigh rides (and awesome rubber rodeo for parties) but they also have a great petting zoo that's good for little ones as it's not overwhelming. They have lots of critters to mingle with including goats, donkeys, and, of course, horses and cows.
Admission is $4/person and they are open daily but if you go on the weekend they have a package that includes a wagon ride, lunch, mini-golf, rubber rodeo AND admission to the petting zoo for $13.99/person
This place in Wolfville is a must do on every trip we take the the Annapolis Valley, and not just for their yummy fresh fruits and veggies and generous ice cream scooping! They have a wonderful area beside the market to take kids who love animals. There is a pond filled with ducks, turtles and frogs, as well as enclosures with goats, rabbits, chickens, sheep and pigs. When we were there most recently we didn't see the sheep and pigs that are usually there but the children had a blast feeding the goats and talking to the bunnies.
Bring some change to get corn to feed the goats (they even supply a hand washing station for removing the post-feeding goat slobber)
There's a great tricycle riding track and giant sandbox just after the bunny house
There is also a nice trail on the property if you're feeling up for it. It's about 2.5 km long. If you forgot the stroller at home, the short path around the main property by the chicken enclosure will probably make them just as happy!
Have you been to any of these? What's your favourite? Is there another great tot-friendly animal place in HRM we missed? I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments!