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Go Wild! Places to Pet, Feed, and See Animals
Upstate New York has some surprises in store when it comes to all things fluffy and four-legged. Animals may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Empire State - but they play a big part in what makes New York so special to visitors.
When you plan your visit, don’t forget to add in a stop to these one-of-a-kind animal-focused attractions:
Cracker Box Palace – Farm Animal Haven – Alton, NY
Cracker Box Palace is more than a farm, it’s a no-kill sanctuary for animals recovering from illness, neglect, and abuse. The farm takes all kinds – horses, chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs, swans, cows, even llamas and alpacas – and welcomes visitors to take a tour (self-guided or by appointment) and interact with their current residents. Families will love the basic farm tour, and kids will delight in add-on experiences like the tractor-drawn hay rides, nature walk, or demonstrations by a registered Wildlife Rehabilitator. Other programs and projects are happening at the farm year-round, so be sure to call ahead to get the details before you visit.
Hidden Valley Animal Adventure – Varysburg, NY*
I bet you never expected to see an ostrich stroll past you in Upstate New York. But at Hidden Valley Animal Adventure in Varysburg, NY, that’s exactly what they have in store. The park is home to over 300 animals and 40 different species that get up close and personal with you on an hour-long guided “Wild Game Safari Tour.” Grab your camera and gear up for camels, zebra, llama, emu, bison, and more. End the day with a meal at Hidden Valley’s Trailside Grill & Bar, open Wednesday to Sunday evenings.
*Safari Tours run May – October. Winter Sleigh Rides are available in the off-season (November – March, weather permitting) pulled by a team of Belgian horses.
Painted Bar Stables – Burdett, NY
Take in the fresh air and breathtaking views of the Finger Lakes region in an unforgettable way – on horseback! Painted Bar Stables offers trail rides year-round to visitors of any experience level – beginner or advanced – at a walk, trot, or canter. Choose your adventure - from a one-hour Scenic Trail Ride, all the way up to a four to five-hour Advanced National Forest Day Trip - or pick a specialty experience like the Moonlight Trail Ride. Whatever your speed may be, it’s sure to be a day to remember.
Alpacaville – Bemus Point, NY
Stock up on warm alpaca wear – and kisses – at Alpacaville in Bemus Point, NY. This alpaca farm is home to several of the fluffy creatures, and welcomes visitors for animal activities (by appointment) or to browse the store during regular operating hours. It’s hard to pass up a fuzzy cardigan made from alpaca fleece – and they make great gifts around the holidays too!
Pro Tip: Many areas of New York State have alpaca farms to visit and explore. Other great stops include Heavenly Sunset Farm and Close-Knit Alpacas (Woodhull, NY), Alpaca Delights (East Bethany, NY), Enchanted Forest Alpacas (LeRoy, NY), and Stoney Elm Alpacas (Walworth, NY).
Adirondack Animal Land – Gloversville, NY
Get up near Gloversville, NY, and you can’t help but plan a trip to Adirondack Animal Land. It is home to over 500 animals and features the largest Animal Petting Area in the region. See bottle raised bear cubs as they romp around and play, stand next to a giraffe, hug a donkey, and hand-feed dozens of baby animals at this wildlife and adventure park. The Country Kitchen is well stocked for hungry people who need a snack, and the Souvenir Shop will be sure you have a lasting memory from the day.
Birding - Livingston County
Bird watchers can find a haven of feathered friends at Birding in Livingston County, NY. The Audubon Society recognizes three sites in the county as Important Bird Areas: Nations Road, Letchworth State Park, and Hemlock and Canadice Lake. In these areas, hundreds of species of birds nest, feed, and take flight as they delight in the natural wonders found in this westernmost area of the Finger Lakes. Bring your binoculars – you never know what you may see out there!
Dog Sledding/Skijoring at Adirondack Kennel - Oswego County
Dogs may not be considered the most exotic of animals but it’s a pretty wild experience when you’re getting pulled along the snow by a pack of Alaskan sled dogs! In Oswego County, dog sledding and skijoring (getting pulled along on skis by a dog or horse) is all the rage. You’re going to want to pack your mittens for this one!
Seneca Park Zoo – Rochester, NY
Seneca Park Zoo is probably the most traditional way to get your fix of animal interaction on this list, but there is no lack of family-fun to be had here. The Rochester-based zoo features a “Step Into Africa” Exhibit with lions, baboons, and elephants, an Eco Center with river otters and sturgeon, underwater viewing areas for polar bears, sea lions, and penguins, and so many more exotic and amazing animals to experience. It’s perfect for a day with the kids and offers a once-a-month Zoo Brew event (throughout the summer) for the 21+ crowd, where your animal experience comes with a side of wine or beer.
Duffy Fainting Goat Farm – East Bethany, NY
As the name might suggest, Duffy is known for their Myotonic Goats - better known as Fainting, Nervous, Stiff Leg, Wooden Leg, and Tennessee Scare Goats. It’s a silly sight when these easy-going creatures “faint” when startled or surprised, but luckily one that only lasts 10-15 seconds before they get right back up and going again. But goats are just a piece of the puzzle - the family also specializes in breeding Great Pyrenees dogs, mix Livestock Guardian dogs, and Great Bernese on their farm in East Bethany, NY. Every day is a busy one at Duffy! Call to schedule a visit.
Choose the animal adventure that’s right for you and… GO WILD!
Photo Credit Hidden Valley Animal Adventure