With few exceptions, kids love animals. They love looking at them, petting them, watching them and, in some cases, bringing them home with no warning. So, if you feel like you spend way too much time apologizing to other dog owners for your toddler’s over enthusiastic attention, or you’re tired of explaining to your eight-year old why it’s not a good idea to have a snake and a guinea pig, you might just want to consider finding some ways to give your kids the animal fix they need outside of the house.
Lucky for you, Richmond has a number of places where you can take your family to visit animals. In many cases, you can even interact with them directly, either through petting zoos or education programs. To help you narrow down the options, we’ve looked around the Richmond area to find some of the best places for animal-loving families. The following list provides a little bit of everything we were looking for based on the following criteria:
- Variety of animals
- Age-appropriate activities for the whole family
- Availability (i.e., are the animals available year-round?)
- Reasonable prices
The following five animal attractions left us with little doubt that you and your family would love these animal-filled attractions every bit as much as we do. They each offer something unique for the animal lovers in your family and ensure that whether you’re hoping to see exotic animals or playful domestic pets, you can can always find the animals and interaction that your kids (and maybe even you) crave.
In the meantime, do you have a favorite animal-themed activity in the Richmond area? We would love to hear about it in the comments below!
If you’re looking for animals that will travel, look no further than Laughing Place Farm. This mobile petting zoo is based in Chesterfield County, but serves the Greater Richmond area with an all-around fantastic experience for animal lovers, young and old. Their “zoo” includes a wide variety of cute and cuddly critters, including pigs, bunnies, chickens, donkeys, alpacas, goats, sheep and more. Pony rides are also available, either as a stand-alone package or added on to your petting zoo experience.
Laughing Place Farm is a family-owned and operated business that has been providing positive animal interaction for families, events and the community at large for more than a decade. You can find their sweet, friendly animals at private events, as well as larger community events like the Short Pump Town Center’s Easter celebration where a Laughing Place Farm petting zoo will be available April 8 – 15, 2017, from 11am – 5pm every day. And, while they don’t offer regular visits or tours at their farm location, they do offer a summer camp for kids ages 10 and up. Camp dates for 2017 are July 2 – August 14, 2017, from 9am – 3pm daily.
Why we love them: Laughing Place Farm made our top five because of the versatility of their services. While hiring a petting zoo is hardly free, Laughing Place Farm’s reasonable prices make it an affordable option that is comparable to many popular birthday or celebration event options. For as little as $175/hour, they will bring all of the animals right to your location, perform set-up, supervise the event and provide clean up after. We love all that our other places offer, of course, but we really love the personal attention and up-close interaction that this farm provides.
By reservation only.
Mobile Petting Zoo: $175/hour; $75 for each additional hour
Party Packages (Petting Zoo and Pony Rides): $255 – $450. Click here to see options.
Pony Rides: $140 – $400. Click here to see options.
Summer Camp: $300/week
You’ve seen Meadow Farm and Crump Park pop up time and again on Richmond Mom. But it’s with good reason. This Henrico County park is pretty much a one-stop shop for family fun. The reason we’ve included it on our list of great places to visit animals is because, in addition to offering significant historical value, this 1860 living history museum features an actual working farm that shows how life would have been in rural Richmond during the late 19th century. Unlike your standard indoor museum with plaques and man-made displays, Meadow Farm uses live animals, ongoing interactive exhibits and costumed tour guides to teach you about the day-to-day life of Dr. John Mosby Sheppard, the owner of Meadow Farm, and his family.
On the farm, you’ll see animals like chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, geese, hogs, horses, cows, and sheep. And while you can’t feed the animals like at some of our other top places, you can learn about how they contributed to the livelihood and well being of farm families. Enjoy free animal tours every Saturday and Sunday at 10:30am and be sure to check out seasonal events like Sheep to Shawl. This special event is being held on April 8, 2017, from 12pm – 4pm. Visit with new spring lambs, see how sheep are sheared, try your hand at carding wool and even buy a fleece straight from one of the the farm’s sheep.
Why we love it: Even the most avid animal lovers will get bored eventually, especially when they are in the toddler years. But, at Meadow Farm, boredom is one thing you won’t have to worry about. Meadow Farm is an extension of Crump Park, one of Henrico County’s most popular family spots. This large park features walking trails, picnic shelters, playgrounds, and a 2-acre pond with fishing. With so much open space, you’re sure to see wildlife like frogs, birds, butterflies and more. So whether you’re all about the history and barnyard animals, or you want to do some wildlife exploration on your own, Meadow Farm and Crump Park have just what you’re looking for. And best of all, it’s completely free.
Meadow Farm Museum
Historic Farmhouse, Orientation Center & Out Buildings:
March-November: Tuesday-Sunday, 12pm – 4pm
December-February: Saturday & Sunday, 12pm – 4pm
Farmhouse Tours: Tuesday – Sunday, 12pm – 3:30 pm
Animal Tours: Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 am
Open daily from dawn to dusk.
The Richmond SPCA is one of our favorites because of the amazing work they do with stray and abandoned animals in the Richmond area, not to mention the incredible volunteer opportunities they offer to members of the community. Getting involved with the SPCA is a great way to help out the animals in your area, as well as enjoy time to cuddle, play and interact with dogs and cats of all shapes and sizes.
While the Richmond SPCA doesn’t accept volunteers of every age, kids 14 and older can volunteer independently and those seven years and older can come in to volunteer with an adult. Plus, there are many ways for kids of all ages to get involved and visit with the animals of the SPCA, starting with Waggle’s World, the SPCA’s kid-friendly website. It includes games, activities and ideas, as well as information about SPCA birthday parties that include games, decorations and play time with the animals; Summer Programs and Camps for kids ages 5 to 18 years old; educational tours of the SPCA where kids can learn how to safely interact with animals; and Animal Brigade, a service club for middle schoolers, grades 6-8.
And, of course, if you’re in the market to adopt a pet or donate, you can always take the kids in to see the available animals, spend time with potential pets and drop off donations and supplies. Be sure to check out the Richmond SPCA calendar of events for a complete listing of activities, special events and adoption fairs.
Monday, 12pm – 5pm
Tuesday – Friday, 12pm – 7pm
Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 12pm – 5pm
Donation Drop-Off Hours
Monday, 8am – 5pm
Tuesday – Friday, 12pm – 7pm
Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 12pm – 5pm
Summer Camps: $225 – $275/week
Birthday Parties: $175 – $300. Click here to see online package and pricing options or call (804) 521-1327.
Location and Contact:
Robins-Starr Humane Center (Richmond SPCA)
2519 Hermitage Road
Richmond, VA 23220
Main Office: (804) 521-1300
Donation information: (804) 521-1308
Adoption information: (804) 521-1307
Kids’ Programs (including camps, tours and parties): (804) 521-1327
Volunteer/Program information: (804) 521-1329
Located just south of the city in Chesterfield County, The Metro Richmond Zoo is truly one of the area’s best kept secrets. With more than 2,000 animals representing over 150 species, the zoo provides hours of animal-themed entertainment and education. While you’re there, you’ll see both exotic and indigenous animals, as well as birds and reptiles from around the world. With rides, attractions and special events year-round, the zoo truly has something for everyone in the family.
Looking for an up close and personal experience? Feed the giraffes, goats, camels, llamas, chickens, sheep and more.
Don’t feel like walking all day? See the exhibits by air on the Safari Sky Lift or take a leisurely ride on the Safari Train to see parts of the zoo that aren’t accessible by foot.
And last, but certainly not least, if you’re looking for extra excitement, try the Parrot Plunge, a quick three challenge adventure that takes you up a tree, over a sky bridge, and down a 30′ drop. Or go even further with the zoo’s Treetop Zoofari Zipline and Adventure Park. You’ll see animals from thrilling new angles as you go tree-to-tree through obstacle courses and zip line over some of the zoo’s most popular exhibits.
Although not the largest zoo in the state, the Metro Richmond Zoo has gained acclaim for its endangered primate breeding program, as well as for offering some of the nation’s most successful breeding programs for both African Penguins and cheetahs. Be sure to check out the live Cheetah Cam for a look at some of the zoo’s cuddliest characters before you get there!
Why we love it: The Metro Richmond Zoo proves that we have it all here in Richmond. The zoo provides an amazing range and variety of animals and experiences right here in our own backyard. And when it comes to family fun, the Metro Richmond Zoo delivers entertainment, education and excitement for animal lovers of every age.
Zoo: Open year-round, Monday – Saturday, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Monday – Friday, 10am – 3pm (last admission)
Saturdays and Holidays, 10am – 3:30pm (last admission)
Adult (ages 12-59) – $17.25
Seniors (ages 60+) – $16.25
Children (ages 2-11) – $11.25
Infants (ages 1 and under) – free
Unlimited Ride Wristband – $8
Safari Skyride – $3
Safari Train – $3
Jungle Carousel – $2
Parrot Plunge: $15
Zoo Treats (animal feeding) – $2
Budgie Sticks (bird feeding) – $1
Treetop Zoofari Course (ages 8+) – $50
Zip and Zoo Adult – $62.25
Zip and Zoo Child – $56.25
Zip and Zoo Senior – $61.25
Junior Explorer Course (ages 4+) – $25
Junior Zip and Zoo Adult – $39.75
Junior Zip and Zoo Child – $33.75
Junior Zip and Zoo Senior – $38.75
Purchase tickets for all events here.
Maymont is a Richmond mainstay for many reasons. The spacious grounds, the many special events and attractions, the historical significance and the all-around ambiance have made this part-park, part-zoo, part-historical landmark a go-to destination for Richmond families. But one of the most endearing features of this iconic park is the animals. From the Maymont Farm to the wildlife exhibits to the Nature Center, your animal loving family will be entertained for hours.
Whether you’re looking for hands-on fun with barnyard animals or a chance to see the wildlife that inhabits the Richmond area, Maymont has something for you:
The Maymont Farm:
After being closed for renovations and improvements, the Farm will be celebrating its grand re-opening on March 26, 2017. See the new and improved farm, feed the goats, pet Percy the Donkey, watch the bunnies hop around, and visit with other barnyard friends like cows, horses, chickens, ducks, pigs and sheep.
Hours: Farm Pastures and Barn are open daily, 10am-5pm (weather permitting)
Cost: $5 per person suggested donation (includes wildlife exhibits)
Follow the walking paths past the farm to see many wild animal species native to Virginia, including black bears, bobcats, bald eagles, hawks, gray fox and more. Please note that the animals currently living at Maymont have been obtained through official rehabilitation and rescue programs.
Hours: Open Monday-Sunday, 10am-5pm
Cost: $5 suggested donation (includes the Maymont Farm)
The Nature Center:
Get a closer look at the fish, amphibians and reptiles that you might find in and around the James River and Chesapeake Bay. The center features crabs, fish, frogs, salamanders, alligators, snakes, turtles and more. And of course, you’ll get a firsthand look at my personal favorites – the playful James River otters. With a large, underwater observation window, you can easily spend an afternoon just watching the hilarious antics of these water-loving mammals.
Hours: Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm (last entry at 4:45pm)
Cost: Youth and Adults (ages 13-59) – $4
Children and Seniors (ages 4-12 and 60+) – $3
Free for Maymont members and children under 4 years old
If you’re looking for an even more in-depth experience, try Maymont’s VIP Animal Experience (all ages) or Animal Training Adventures (ages 12+). These special animal-themed tours take you behind-the-scenes of Maymont’s animal exhibits with an exclusive educational program and personal tour guide. Program pricing includes up to four guests, making Animal Encounters a perfect way to celebrate a birthday or other special event.
Hours: By reservation only. See contact and booking information below.
$200 (up to four guests)
$150 for Maymont members (up to four guests)
$45 for each additional guest
Why we love it: When it comes to diversity, Maymont delivers. From domesticated farm animals to rehabilitated wildlife, there’s something to entertain everyone in the family. Best of all, Maymont offers the chance to be outside and enjoy hands-on interaction with many of the animals, all at a minimal charge or suggested donation.
Location and Contact:
1700 Hampton Street
Richmond, VA 23220
Visitor Center and Nature Center
2201 Shields Lake Drive
Richmond, VA 23220
VIP Animal Experience:
Call 804-358-7166, ext. 325 or email email@example.com to book.
Animal Training Adventure:
Call 804-358-7166, ext. 349 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book.