So many kids love animals. I was never really an animal lover, but it's funny how kids can make you like (and even love) things you never thought you would. I know some of you get the goosebumps when you see a construction site because you know your child would love to pull up a chair and watch with endless interest. It's like that with animals for us.
In addition to the zoos we love, and of course Davis' Farmland in Sterling, we have found some unique places in Massachusetts to get our "animal fix." Please feel free to comment by adding your favorite spots as well.
Our 5 favorite places include....
1. Animal Adventures on Sugar Road in Bolton. You can take a personal tour on most days of the week for about $12 a person (there's a coupon in the Entertainment Book if any of you can get your hands on one). For us, the price is so worth it as a treat because it's usually just your family, a few others and a tour guide. You can study a wonderful variety of animals up close, touch them, ask questions...It's just very educational, interactive and exciting without the formality of crowds and a group presentation. It's nothing fancy inside as the facility is family-run on the grounds of the owners' home, but for kids who are passionate about their animals, it's not about the facility. Plus, Animal Adventures is conveniently located off of 495. www.animaladventures.net
2. Lupa Zoo in Ludlow. This zoo was completely free of charge until just a few years ago, which is why our family initially fell in love with it. We couldn't believe that this zoo, literally in the Lupa family's back yard, had giraffes, alligators, mandrills, zebras, etc. And for FREE! It was the most unexpected and fun place we had visited. Now, Lupa Zoo charges $9.50 for adults and $6 for children, which is still a good value. It's a quaint zoo that offers so much including a shady playground. Plus, it's about 15 minutes off of the Mass Pike going West. Stop in at Russell's in Ludlow afterwards for some fresh fruits and vegetables and an ice cream. www.lupazoo.org
3. Overlook Farm, Heifer International in Rutland.
It's completely free to drop into this farm at any time to see the good work this farm does to help fight global hunger. There are stunning views, a variety of animals including pigs, goats, a camel, bunnies and more plus gardens and an entire global village to tour. Your kids can tour replicas of homes from Tibet, Guatemala, Thailand, etc. complete with the livestock and garden indigenous to the area. There is a nice gift shop and plenty of spots for picnics. www.heifer.org/site
4. NEADS in Princeton. Visit the national headquarter of NEADS International, an organization that trains dogs to assist people with special needs. Call them to inquire about their puppy petting hours. NEADS usually charges a small fee of $5 per family, and you can visit between 4 and 5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday to pet and play with the puppies! They often have other puppy programs as well. It's best to search the Web site for this information but also call them as well as the information can sometimes be "buried" on the site: www.neads.org. Plus if you call NEADS before you visit, you can confirm the puppies are on site and not "on a field trip."
5. Sterling Animal Shelter, Sterling. It may sound weird to visit an animal shelter for fun, but we love visiting with all the puppies and kitties and seeing the new breeds that arrive each week. It's free and sooo adorable! We always donate our spare change and feel good that the animals are adopted very quickly. This facility is so clean and organized that we feel very comfortable. You can get an ice cream at Meola's in Sterling (right down the street) and even play a round of mini-golf at Mulligan's (near Meola's on Route 12).www.sterlingshelter.org