When your kids yearn for a more hands-on animal experience than a zoo, these animal farms near Chicago will scratch that itch!
A family field trip to the zoo is swell any day of the year, no matter the season—until your own little animal goes bananas because she can’t touch the giant kitty cats or climb into the gorilla enclosure. In that case, it’s time to hit an animal farm, where getting up close and personal with nature’s creatures is not only welcome but encouraged. We’ve combed the city—and beyond—to find the very best places to interact with animals, from pigs to turkeys to goats and more. From petting zoos to full-fledged animal farms in and near Chicago, you’ll give your kiddos a hands-on experience they won’t soon forget. Just don’t forget the antibacterial wipes.
Brookfield Zoo’s Hamill Family Wild Encounters
Covering just over three acres, Brookfield Zoo’s Hamill Family Wild Encounters features unforgettable hands-on experiences that include opportunities to touch and feed animals. Purchase seed sticks and play feeder to hundreds of colorful parakeets that happily land on your hand, watch the kids giggle as goats nibble on their shoelaces, and experience the friendliness of wallabies as they welcome you into their enclosure. There are also up-close encounters with red pandas, llamas, alpacas, and reindeer as well as a rotating selection of animal ambassadors.
3300 Golf Rd.
In the northern suburbs, kids can feel the softness of a rabbit’s fur, hold a chick, and buddy up to goats at this activity-filled animal farm and petting zoo. While you’re there, check out the mini-golf course, bouncy house, miniature train, and carousel. And don't forget the important mission of this non-profit: It provides a safe and caring living environment for people with disabilities. Families can also buy sweets, snacks, and souvenirs, or have a meal at the restaurant, which greatly helps the community that lives, works, and thrives there.
14245 W. Rockland Rd.
The Center Children's Farm
Family farm tours, hayrides, and pony rides are just a few of the extras you get at Palos Park's petting zoo. Your Old MacDonald-in-training will learn all about the animals with the help of friendly guides, and the seasonal Junior Farmers program gives kids a chance to experience what it’s like to take care of chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs, goats, and other creatures.
12700 Southwest Highway
Lincoln Park Zoo's Farm-in-the Zoo
City kids get a little bit country at this rural pocket of Lincoln Park Zoo. It's worth a heads up, however, that this isn't your typical petting zoo: Most of the animals can't be touched by the public. The good news? There are facilitated chats with zookeepers and some animal interactions through scheduled programs like Meet a Chicken, Greet the Goats, and the Cow Milking Demonstration. The old-fashioned Main Barn houses exhibits about the weather and egg hatching.
2001 N. Clark St.
Aurora's scenic living history museum has a petting zoo section just for farm animals. Chickens strut, bunnies scurry, and goats bleat "hello." While you're there, take advantage of other attractions, including rides on a steam train replica, a carousel, paddle boats, pony rides, a tractor pull, the Adventure Playground and more.
100 S. Barnes Rd.
Forest View Farms & Equestrian Center
Baby goats, llamas, and ducks. . . oh my! This horse farm and petting zoo in the south suburbs is worth the trip. Small children get a kick out of the pony rides, wagon jaunts, and barn tours. Older children and adults go for the horseback riding lessons.
16717 S. Lockwood Ave.
Randall Oaks Barnyard Zoo
See a peacock flaunt its feathers. Go face to face with an alpaca. Giggle at the "oink" of a pig. The fun is unending at this cute little petting zoo that has a vibrant menagerie. Added bonus? The animal farm includes ponies that you can ride. Be sure to save time to romp around at one of the park’s three toddler-friendly playgrounds.
1180 N. Randall Rd.
Santa's Village Amusement Park
This spot named after the jolly guy in red is a gift that keeps on giving all year round ... not just during the holiday season. The park has rides that are zippy and ones that are slow-moving to ease little kids into the amusement park experience, as well as a picturesque petting zoo. Along with the usual array of barnyard pals—goats, donkeys, sheep, ponies—there are parakeets, a giant tortoise, caribou, and muntjacs. Their season runs from May through the end of October, and they're open for select weekends in November and December.
601 Dundee Ave.
Additional reporting by Rachelle Stoller