City living offers few opportunities for contact with goats, lambs, ponies, chickens and most other farm animals. While we accept day-to-day life as it is, parents welcome the chance for their kids to interact with farm animals at zoos, animal parks and ranches around the Bay Area.

Family Farm at San Francisco Zoo
1 Zoo Road
San Francisco, CA 94132
(415) 753-7080

Although the San Francisco Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals representing over 250 species, it is not too big to overlook the sweet connections that come when small children can playfully interact with goats, chickens and a miniature donkey, or see ducks lazing in a pond. The quaint Family Farm sits tucked within the Fisher Family’s Children’s Zoo where farm animals wander as kids feed and pet the goats and other animals, and chase after the chickens. The chance to feed pellets to the animals is a nice touch for the little ones here.

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo
1300 Senter Road
San Jose, CA 95112
(408) 794-6400

Just as its name implies, Happy Hollow has fun stuff for kids, and lots of it. The park also has an Animal Barn in its Double H Ranch Exhibit, a mini zoo that offers close contact with domestic animals ready and eager for some loveable petting and playful kid interaction.

Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo
1451 Middlefield Road
Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 326-6338

This popular small zoo makes it easy for little ones to manage, as the animals hang out and get close to the kids. Animals here are mainly native wildlife, such as bobcats, bats, raccoons, rabbits and geese. Other residents are reptiles, like snakes, plus tropical birds too. There is also a pond with a footbridge set above swimming ducks and large tortoises.

Related: Best Zoo And Aquarium Events In The Bay Area

Aquarium of the Bay
2 Beach St.
San Francisco, CA 94119
(415) 623-5300

Here is another hands-on activity for kids — Touch the Bay at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco. The San Francisco Bay is literally at their fingertips when kids visit the interactive touch pool and become acquainted with sharks, rays and skates passing by. Come early for the Bat Rays, most active in the mornings when they often pop their heads out of the water to look around. Kids will delight in touching the various sea stars, anemones and cucumbers in the Invertebrates Touch Pool to find out if they are soft, slimy or bumpy. Check website for ticket prices.

Oakland Zoo
9777 Golf Links Road
Oakland, CA 94605
(510) 632-9525

The Children’s Zoo is a highlight at the Oakland Zoo and inspires kids to learn through hands-on exploration and play. The four-acre exhibit allows kids to run, dig, hop and watch as they discover and follow their new animal friends, or climb on the play structure and spiderweb. Kids can head down to the petting zoo and gently pet the goats and sheep roaming around. This is a great place for children to meet the animal world up close.

Related: Five Alternatives To Zoos In California

Melanie Graysmith is a writer, artist and educator based in San Francisco. She writes on adult education, art and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. She is also a member of an independent filmmaking group. Her work can be found at