Think a fun day would be an adventure with your family to a farm or petting zoo near you? It’s hard to resist a photo of your child petting or interacting with a cute animal at a farm or petting zoo.
I know what you are thinking, “are there any petting zoos near me?”
Yes! There are quite a few! We’ve pulled together a huge list of petting zoos and farms where you can interact with animals. These farms and petting zoos are located near Greenville, SC, in Western North Carolina, Northern Georgia, as well as in Charlotte, NC, and Columbia, SC. So wherever you are, find a petting zoo near you, or a farm that makes a great day trip.
Our list includes places open year-round places to pet animals, plus seasonal farms, and mobile and event-based petting zoos. We have tried to make sure these are places that treat their animals kindly and with respect as well. If we missed any, let us know in the comments.
Is There a Petting Zoo Near Me?
Yes, there probably is a petting zoo on this list near you! Use the links below to navigate this list by location.
Are you planning a trip to Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC? Some call it the Riverbank Zoo, some call it the Columbia Zoo, no matter what you call it, we know you’ll enjoy a trip to this popular zoo in South Carolina. With over 2,000 animals spread across 170-acres there is so much to explore, learn and do! We will share all of our tips, what to expect, and how to prepare for your day of wild, memorable fun at this awesome zoo in Columbia.
The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is made up of two large sections. You have the zoo side and then you have the botanical gardens side. This is where Waterfall Junction, the popular splash pad and play space, is located. It’s so cool, that we have a whole other article focused just on the Riverbanks Botanical Gardens and Waterfall Junction.
Are you thinking about snow tubing at Black Bear Snow Tubing in Hendersonville, NC? Western North Carolina has great snow tubing and Black Bear Snow Tubing is a stellar option for families! They have a huge mountain to get your winter in high gear with a fun snow tubing trip for the whole family! We took a trip up to try out that snow-tubing mountain and it was so much fun! Now we have all the details to share so you can plan your trip!
Media tickets were provided for this review and the opinions are solely those of the author.
While there aren’t any places to snow tube in the Upstate, SC, there are definitely options nearby and one of them is Black Bear Snow Tubing in nearby Hendersonville, NC, just over an hour from Greenville, SC. The snow tubing family-owned operation has been in business for seven years and they really have a good thing going there, which I’m going to tell you all about in this story.
Snow Tubing at Black Bear
The slope at Black Bear Snow Tubing is 600 feet long with an 80-foot drop and it’s pretty fast. They make their own snow (unless they get a big snowstorm, which doesn’t happen too often) and the hill is well-maintained by their attentive staff.
How it works is that when you get to Black Bear, you go to a little shed to watch a short safety video, where you learn how to get out of your tube on the run and not to start snowball fights, sign a waiver, and head inside the cozy lodge to pay. Then you get your tubes and head to the hill.
They have a pulley system to get you to the top of the hill, which works by slipping the handle of your tube on a cable that takes you, while sitting inside your tube, right up the hill to the top. Once at the top, you’ll wait for a few minutes before being situated into your group by the staff and then sliding down the hill.
Why Black Bear is Different
I’ve snow tubed at many places in our area and I think Black Bear Snow Tubing is pretty fantastic. Here’s why:
You can (and should) make a reservation ahead of time, which is crucial for us in Greenville who need to travel out of state to go snow tubing. It’s quite a bummer to get to our snow tubing place and either find out that they are sold out or having to wait hours for an open slot.
The staff is attentive and efficient. They were always around watching the hill to make sure things were running smoothly and safely. When there was a slight backup at the top of the hill, they figured out how to manage to get us all down the hill and back up to keep snow tubing without interruption.
The lodge is super cozy and warm and has reasonable concessions. I got a $2 hot chocolate and it was amazing. Plus, they have food, including apple cider donuts, that is affordable and you can get warm by the wood-burning stove inside or watch on the deck if you don’t want to go tubing.
The setup takes into account smaller kids. There is playground next to the place where you wait in line to go up the hill so smaller kids can get out their energy and there is a big fire pit also near the waiting area where you can warm up.
If you forgot a hat or gloves, they have them for sale inside the lodge. I feel like us parents can relate when our kid gets out of the car to go snow tubing and forgot his or her winter hat.
The check-in is fast. This is important because you want to get on the hill and start having fun as soon as possible!
Black Bear has excellent communication. They post daily on their Facebook page about current snow conditions, which is super helpful when you’re unsure about the weather.
The snow is real. They don’t have any synthetic chemicals in the snow – it’s the real deal.
My kids, ages 11 and 8, and I had such a blast snow tubing at Black Bear Snow Tubing. We went down the hill about 10 times (maybe more, I lost count honestly) and had so much fun together. I really love places where adults can carelessly be kids again. My kids are already asking to go back. The hill was super fast and seeing my kids faces light up with joy was special. I love those moments.
Tips on How to Enjoy Snow Tubing at Black Bear
Winter being winter, it’s usually cold when you go snow tubing. I’ve found that bringing hand and foot warmers is a really good trick to keeping everyone warm and comfortable. You can get them at Wal-Mart, Amazon, or most drug stores and they stay warm for hours.
It’s also really important to make a reservation when you know you want to go snow tubing. This is especially true during school breaks and holidays. Snow tubing is an awesome family activity on a day off but a lot of people also have the same thought. Don’t forget to make a reservation.
You don’t need to wear snow bibs or snow pants. I had on fleece leggings, hiking boots, and a couple layers of tops with a heavy coat (it was really cold when we went!) and I was fine. I saw people wearing all kinds of clothes that worked for them like pants, leggings, jeans, and sweatpants. The snow wasn’t wet at all when we went but if you go on a warmer day, you may want to bring a change of pants in case they get wet.
There are port-a-potties outside the lodge to use and no bathrooms indoors.
Double-check Black Bear’s Facebook page before heading out. Snow tubing is very dependent on weather, which changes often in the mountains. They will post current conditions and if they are open or closed most days.
Ticket Prices and Policies at Black Bear Snow Tubing
Tickets are $30/hour or $40/two hours for snow tubing. Kids must be 4 years old in order to go snow tubing. You can either sign a waiver when you get to Black Bear Snow Tubing or print one out online ahead of time. Either is fine.
While Black Bear Snow Tubing does take walk-ups, it is much better to make a reservation ahead of time instead of getting there and finding out they are full. Online reservations are fantastic for this very reason so definitely make use of them.
And be sure to check Black Bear Snow Tubing’s Facebook page before heading out to double check they are open and running. Winter tubing runs mid-December through February usually depending on the weather, of course.
And if you want to tube during other times of the year, you totally can! They have warm-weather tubing in the fall.
Did you know you can “snow” tube in the fall at Black Bear Snow Tubing? You can! No snow is required thanks to Black Bear’s super-fast tubing mat, the only one like it in the United States! We got to visit Black Bear and try this “snow” tubing and let us tell you, fall snow tubing is where it’s at. Move over pumpkins, there’s a new fall favorite in town. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your visit to Black Bear Snow Tubing this fall.
Thanks to Black Bear Snow Tubing for providing tickets so we could bring this review to our readers.
How can you snow tube without snow?
The special green and white mat in use at Black Bear comes all the way from Germany. Purchased for use at Black Bear because this mat outperforms all its competitors when it comes to speed. In the winter the mat is covered in snow, but in the fall, you can tube right on the mat. This means even in warm winters with little snow, tubing is still an option for family fun. So, what we have learned is, snow is not required for super speedy “snow” tubing runs.
Fall is awesome at Black Bear Snow Tubing
No crowds, fewer lines, fun music, and a pretty view of changing leaves across the valley make fall an awesome time to visit Black Bear Snow Tubing. You’ll get more rides down the hill in your tubing time than in the winter. It’s not cold. It’s not wet. You can even get yourself some apple cider donuts, coffee, or cocoa and enjoy them on the covered rocking chair back porch, overlooking the tubing hill. We tried it and we are convinced, fall is perfect for snow tubing!
Summer tubing, without snow, runs weekends through October 30th, 2022.
Winter tubing, with snow, runs weekends December 17th, 2022 through February 26th, 2023. (If the weather is too warm for snow, tubing will still be open using the mat.)
Visiting Black Bear
First off, we love nearby Hendersonville, NC, and the drive up from downtown to Black Bear Tubing through the changing leaves was gorgeous. When you arrive at Black Bear, just follow the signs to park and then head towards the fun!
Visit the video shed first where you’ll watch a very short safety video. It’s just a couple of minutes long and it plays on a loop. While you’re there, sign the waiver for yourself and the kids. Bring your waiver across to the lodge where you’ll pay, get your stickers, and also where you can purchase treats and beverages like apple cider donuts, coffee drinks, cocoa, and more.
When you’re ready to tube, you’ll head down the stairs, grab your tube and jump in the line for the tube tugging line that will bring you to the top of Black Bear’s 600-foot-long tubing run. Staff will hook you onto the line. At the top, you’ll be unhooked from the line and then walk your tube to the run. Staff will help you get your tube into position and push you off down the 80ft vertical drop.
Up to 4 people can go down the run at a time, and you can hang onto other tubes if you want to all go together. Want extra fun? Just ask the staff at the top to spin you going down.
Once you’re at the bottom, pull your tube back over to the tube tugging line and you’ll be off on another run before you know it.
Clean portapotties are available beside the video shed, as well as an outdoor handwashing station.
Who can tube at Black Bear?
First, kids under 4, and under 35 lbs, cannot be on the slope. They can use the slope-side playground for some fun while bigger kids tube.
Second, kids ages 4 to 6 must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
Third, there is a maximum weight of 300 lbs.
My kids, ages 11 and 14, had a blast. Initially, my 14-year-old was a little not sure he wanted to come, thinking it was not going to be very exciting and that he was too old for such things. He was so glad he came. And, in fact, we saw lots of adults taking runs down the slope, too. I had planned to go down once or twice, just to be thorough in my review, and ended up going down a lot more because it was really fun!
It’s one of those life things that are just plain fun for anyone. Escape from whatever is bugging you to the fresh air and whip down that hill on a tube. Laugh with the kids. Enjoy them, even as teens and preteens, asking you to go down the run with them. There are not enough moments like that in the world, if you ask me.
We really loved the family atmosphere at Black Bear. They do not allow alcohol or any open profanity. All the staff were super friendly and helpful. When I wasn’t tubing myself, I could clearly see where my kids were at all times from the covered porch. It was really brilliantly arranged for a couple of hours of low-stress family fun.
Tubing on the mat was really fun. No heavy coats, no wet gloves. It was all the fun of snow tubing without the cold, with the added benefit of short lines and no crowds. We had a great time and think you’ll enjoy it, too!
Plan Your Trip to Black Bear Tubing
1-hour tickets are $30 each, and 2-hour tickets are $40 each. (2022 prices)
Open until October 30th for summer tubing, and then opening December 17th for winter snow tubing.
Saturday: Open at 10 am, last ticket is for 7 pm. Sunday: Open at 12 pm, last ticket is for 5 pm.
Have you visited Village Park in Kannapolis, NC? Not only does this park have two amazing playgrounds and multiple picnic shelters, but you’ll also find North Carolina’s only double-decker carousel lit with 1800 lights! As if that weren’t enough, the park also has a real miniature train that families can ride around the park. Tickets for the carousel and train are very inexpensive. Topping all that off is a free holiday light display and seasonal events. We loved our visit to Village Park in Kannapolis and we have all the information for you!
Village Park Carousel
Manufactured in Italy, this carousel is the only double-decker carousel in North Carolina. It features over 1,800 lights, hand-painted murals, and traditional carousel music. The classic carousel is set beside a green space as you enter the park in its own covered shelter, making this park feel whimsical and inviting.
Tickets to ride the carousel at Village Park are $1.50.
Village Park Train
The train shed at Village Park is located across from the carousel. From there, families can hop on board and ride around the park, past the splash pad, both playgrounds and across the paved and shaded walking paths.
Tickets to ride the trail at Village Park are $1.50.
Purchase tickets for both the train and the carousel at the exterior window of the main building at the park’s entrance.
Village Park Playgrounds
Climb high, bounce, swing, and slide at both of Village Park’s playgrounds. Located side by side, one playground is intended for the 5 and under crowd, while the other is meant for older kids. We loved the climbing options and long slides at this park!
Paved Walking Trails
Taking a walk or a run? The paved walking trails at Village Park and connected to other trails in the area could be just the right place for you. You can take the 2-mile loop between Village Park and Bakers Creek Park on the 8th Street Greenway and the Bakers Creek Greenway.
Free and Cheap Holiday Fun at Village Park in Kannapolis
We love FREE and low-cost holiday fun, and Villiage Park is packed with it. They have a totally free holiday light display with thousands of lights! Walk through the displays at your own pace for a magical holiday experience, or, if you want to turn it up a notch, book tickets for the park’s holiday train, the Winterland Express! Ride the train through the park’s lights and see them in a whole new way. End your evening with a ride on the two-story carousel for just $2 per person.
Celebration of Lights
This free holiday light display in Village Park is on daily from November 19th through December 30th, 2022. Hours are Sunday through Thursday 6 pm to 9 pm and Friday and Saturday 6 pm to 10 pm. The display will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
In addition to the lights, Santa will be on-site to visit with the kids every evening! Plus enjoy live holiday music, entertainment, crafts, and a miniature train display.
Are you looking to explore some hiking and biking trails in Cabarrus County, NC? Cabarrus is home to dozens of trail systems, and explorers are rewarded any time of year with the naturally beautiful landscapes the trails carve their way through. From family-friendly hiking and mountain biking to leisurely strolls and water recreation, Cabarrus County has a nature trail for you to fall in love with!
Located just Northeast of Charlotte, Cabarrus County may be synonymous to some as the hub for NASCAR enthusiasts. However, the natural beauty of the rolling countryside throughout the county balances out nicely against the backdrop of major cities like Concord and Harrisburg. Many of the trail systems listed below highlight the ability of nature and civilization to combine positively, in a way that is beneficial to the natural system while keeping the growth and expansion of nearby cities in mind. So, lace up those boots and check out some of the top trail systems to hike or bike throughout Cabarrus County in the list below!
Natural Trails to Hike and Bike in Cabarrus County
Length: 12.6 miles of completed land trails in Cabarrus County 105.1 miles planned for construction Difficulty: Easy to strenuous Offers: Running, walking, mountain biking, and hiking
The Thread is a multi-county, regional trail system that offers 11 segments in Cabarrus County alone! There are over 300 miles of land trails to explore and 170 miles of water trails, with stunning views. The public can access launch points throughout the system to kayak, canoe, and participate in other watersports that connect to other land trails across North and South Carolina. The Carolina Thread Trail is expanding, with a master plan to eventually join the current 11 segments in Cabarrus for a total of 105.1 miles of trail in Cabarrus County.
Length: 2.1 miles one way Difficulty: Moderate Offers: Hiking, walking, mountain biking, running
The Buffalo Creek Preserve Trail is one of The Thread’s featured trails. The trailhead is particularly interesting due to conservation efforts by the Catawba Lands Conservatory, being made up of a restored Piedmont Oak Savannah. The trail continues past streams and wetlands, through working farmland, into serene habitats, and finally through young forests. The trail is also part of the Butterfly Highway, a conservation initiative to create networks of pollinator-supportive plants and habitats.
Length: 4.25 trail miles Difficulty: All skill levels Offers: Mountain Biking
Located just a few miles from Downtown Concord, NC, the Brown Mill Mountain Bike Trail has something for all skill levels to enjoy. There are multiple dips, flow sections, jumps, switchbacks, rock features, and a gravity cavity that make it a premier spot for mountain biking. The trail is suitable for most riders and is perfect for biking multiple laps to hone your skills.
Length: 3.5 trail miles total Difficulty: All skill levels Offers: Mountain biking, walking trails, playground, picnics, fishing
Rob Wallace Park is located in Midland and offers a skills area for beginner to expert mountain bikers to perfect their skills along with balance features and berms. Within the park is the Powder House Trail, a one-mile-long riding trail, as well as the 0.7-mile Quarry Loop.
Length: 5.7 miles total Difficulty: Easy Offers: Walking, hiking, biking
The Hector Henry Greenway runs along the Rocky River and connects three segments, The Mills at Rocky River, Riverwalk, and Moss Creek. The trails are primarily paved and are considered easy for biking and walking. The Greenway is part of The Thread trail system and offers wildlife viewings, boardwalks, educational displays, and gorgeous views of the surrounding wetlands.
Length: Multiple paved trails throughout the 16-acre park Difficulty: Easy Offers: Paved walking paths throughout the park
Located in Kannapolis, Village Park offers over 16 acres to explore. There are paved walking paths throughout the park through green space, perfect for picnics and outdoor recreation. The park also offers a splash pad and a ride-on train, the Rotary Express Train, which is a g-24 scale replica. The cost for the train is $1.50 per person and it is open on weekends from April until September. In addition, there are picnic shelters, a carousel, music concert series, and special events at this park to enjoy during your walk or bike trip.
Length: 2.5 miles of trails for hiking and biking Difficulty: Easy, Moderate, and Difficult trail offerings Offers: Hiking, biking, playground, amphitheater, splash pad (summer)
Harrisburg Park has over 2.5 miles of both paved and natural trails to explore for both hiking and biking. The Ball Field Loop is considered easy and is approximately 0.5 miles long, perfect for strolling or letting your kids join you on your walk. If you’re looking for something more difficult, the Harrisburg Extension Loop offers 1.5 miles of trails with some moderate to difficult hills to climb as you venture through the forest and across three creek crossings. In addition, the park offers a large playground, a splash pad in summer, and special events at the amphitheater.
Are you ready to explore the outdoors in Cabarrus County?
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Lake Glenville in Jackson County, NC is truly a hidden gem, perfect for families especially who love the outdoors, and a peaceful retreat away from our busy lives.
Thanks Jackson County, North Carolina for inviting us to spend a weekend at Lake Glenville.
The Cashiers area of Western North Carolina has held a special place in my heart since my family moved to South Carolina more than eight years ago because it was the first place we took a family vacation. And it was just amazing – we hiked, ate at delicious restaurants, went swimming in waterfalls, tried out paddle boarding, and had that relaxing family trip I had envisioned. Now, even years later and after many day trips to the area, I’m still in love with this piece of heaven and was delighted to explore a part of Jackson County that I had yet to check out: Lake Glenville.
My two daughters, ages 11 and 8, packed as much as we possibly could into the weekend and left reluctantly because we had such a great time together. I already have a list of things I want to do that we didn’t get to. But, for now, let me tell you about why Lake Glenville should be on your family’s list of places to go, especially if you’re searching for that hidden gem of a spot to relax and enjoy each other. And one of the best parts: we did our entire weekend trip on just one tank of gas.
If you need more ideas of places to go and things to do in the Cashiers area, see our big guide!
You can explore Lake Glenville, the highest lake in Eastern US, in Jackson County, NC by boat with Lake Glenville Scenic Boat Tours. We did the beautiful boat tour and will tell you all you need to know to enjoy the scenic lake.
Thanks to Jackson County, North Carolina for hosting us and providing the opportunity to take the boat tour.
Created in 1941, Lake Glenville is the highest lake east of the Mississippi River at more than 3,400 feet. But really, even if you didn’t know this cool information, you would be just as enamored as I was seeing it because it’s spectacularly gorgeous and serene. That’s what drew me in the most. There’s something really special about mountain lakes (besides the amazing fact that they are free from sharks). Maybe it’s that crisp mountain air, the ancient hills that loom in the distance, that clear water – whatever it is, that’s where I want to be.
So when I had the opportunity to take a boat tour with Captain Mark and his scenic boat cruise on Lake Glenville – the only boat tour company that operates on the lake – I was all in. We got to see waterfalls, a bald eagle nest, and enjoy the beauty of the lake.
Looking forward to picking a pumpkin at The Nix Pumpkin Patch in Hendersonville, NC? This u-pick pumpkin patch allows you to cut the pumpkin right off the vine. We visited The Nix Pumpkin Patch and had so much fun searching for the perfect pumpkin, visiting their market, drinking apple cider, and making a lot of memories!
The Pumpkin Patch is open from September 17th, 2022 until late November.
The Nix Pumpkin Patch is a family-owned and operated pick-your-own pumpkin patch. Situated amongst a plethora of orchards and farms, you’ll find one of the only u-pick patches in the Hendersonville area. There is just something about cutting your pumpkin right off that vine that makes it so much better!
Fall is just about here! Time for corn mazes, fall festivals, and apple picking! One of the local favorites is Sky Top Orchard near Flat Rock, NC. Read on for local mom Jackie Vest’s tips and things to expect when you visit Sky Top Orchard, so you can make the most of your visit!
The Sky Top apple season starts in August and runs through the Sunday after Thanksgiving, giving families plenty of opportunities to seek out their favorite varieties of apples. This orchard has over 22 different kinds of apples to choose from! They also churn out a regional sensation: apple cider donuts! As soon as you pull up to the orchard and open your car door, you are drawn in with the delicious fried cidery-sugary smell wafting through the air. Plan on buying at LEAST a dozen. If you come on a busy weekend, you’ll need to wait in line for them, but don’t let that stop you!
Apple picking is an enjoyable activity for kids of all ages. While you may need to walk a bit to the row of choice, the picking is quick and easy work. Many apples are available low to the ground, easy picking for even the smallest kiddos. My boys (ages 5 & 7) hopped off the hayride, took off down a row, and filled up their bags before I even caught up with the little stinkers!
The orchard also offers plenty of play structures, a honeybee hive (in which kids can usually spot the queen bee behind the glass), a bamboo forest, some farm animals like sheep, chickens, goats, and peacocks, and plenty of delectable goodies in addition to the apples and cider donuts. Pies, jellies, hot cider, fudges, and frozen apple cider slushies, to name a few! Outside food is acceptable and there are plenty of picnic tables or areas to spread a blanket – just be mindful of bees and limit sugary foods.
The orchard also does a great job accommodating large groups with hayride tours, apple picking, and educational programs which teach kiddos everything they could want to know about how apples grow through the seasons. This is a favorite field trip destination!
Bring cash or check – while they do accept credit cards, their wifi can be spotty so their credit card processing system isn’t always working.
Try to go on a Monday or early week. The weekends can get pretty busy.
Wear sneakers or other walking shoes that are okay to get dirty.
Bring quarters for feeding the farm animals.
Sky Top has real bathrooms now. No more having to use a port-a-potty.
Apple varieties are planted in accordance of when they are in season. They plant the earliest apples closest to the entrance and it progresses further away as the season goes on. In other words, the later in the season you visit the orchard, the further you will need to plan on walking to pick apples.
There are plenty of already-picked apples to choose from if you want all the fresh flavor without the work.
You must pre-pay for apples and you are required to pay for at least one peck per 6 people (around 10 pounds). A basket is provided.