Finding Rural Retreats in our Urban Oasis: Petting Zoos in San Francisco Bay
Maybe you live in the heart of downtown, or maybe suburbia is more your style, whatever it is, I’m guessing that it’s rare you have lambs to pet, chickens to feed and ponies to ride! Here I’ve found some great ideas to get your kids interacting with farm life in and around San Francisco Bay.
Happy Hollow Park and Zoo - 1300 Senter Road, San Jose, CA 95112
This is a real favourite which is why it is number one! This is definitely more than just a zoo, this is an amusement park, education centre and petting zoo all rolled into one. As well as multiple play areas and rides, Happy Hollow has an animal contact area located in Double H Ranch exhibit where your children can pet the more domesticated animals.
Lemos Farm - 12320 San Mateo Road (Hwy 92), Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
This farm is exactly what we’re talking about when we’re looking for traditional petting zoos in San Francisco Bay! With pony rides, train rides, a dig zone (yes you can use a real digger!) and hay rides, this is the perfect place to introduce your little one to life on a farm! And if your little urbanite needs more than country living to get excited, on the weekends, there’s outdoor lazer tag!
San Francisco Zoo - 1 Zoo Rd, San Francisco, CA 94132
Again, this is a much bigger attraction than just a petting zoo. San Francisco zoo is renowned for its layout and design and is a really big day out, but if you are looking for one of the more basic petting zoos in San Francisco Bay, it’s got that too. Family Farm has a little pond with ducks, an area where kids can feed the goats and a little donkey they can groom. True, it may not be as exciting to us as the hippo and giraffe feeding but for little ones, there is nothing quite like interacting with animals.
Aquarium of The Bay - Pier 39, The Embarcadero and Beach Street
Do your kids ever talk about what they would do if they encountered a shark! Well now their dreams can be reality. This is definitely one of the alternative petting zoos in San Francisco Bay, but it’s still a petting zoo! The interactive touch pool here at the aquarium allows visitors to touch leopard sharks, swell sharks, big skates and more. Of course, there is so much more to see here, including a giant octopus, guitarfish and Sevengill sharks (big ones!). There are also a 3d theatre, magic shows and behind the scenes tours!
Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo - 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301
This is an unusual little place that has quite the variety of animals that you can interact with or sit and admire. From bats, to bobcats to bug displays and more, this is one of the smaller petting zoos in San Francisco Bay, making it a great place for a manageable but energetic birthday party.
Countryside Farms - County Side Farms, 6666 E. Main St, Stockton, CA 95215
Another family run farm that really feels like country living. Here you can have fun berry picking as well as playing with the farmyard inhabitants. Goats, horses, chickens, giant haystacks, tractors and tee pees, there is a lot of simple wholesome fun to be had here.
Oaklands Zoo - 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland, CA 94605
Again, although more of a big zoo rather than one of the small petting zoos in the San Francisco Bay area, Oaklands zoo does have a little interactive petting area the kids should really enjoy. The Children’s zoo here is a fun play area that will let your little one run around and let off steam (remember, they’re animals too!) whilst also learning about animal life.
Berkeley Farm – Central Park Dr, Berkeley, CA 94701
This is a free farm that is really interactive. Here you can feed pigs, cows and more. Out of all the petting zoos in the San Francisco area, this is the one where you might get really dirty! This is a great farm for little kids who don’t have much animal experience and the bonus is it’s a well kept secret, so pretty quiet most of the time. Can’t recommend it enough!