Talk to the Animals

  • Visit North Central

What prompted your visit to the country? Fresh air. Open, green spaces. Farm stands brimming with just-picked fruits and veggies. A chance to visit with a variety of animals.

Looking for all of the above? You’ll find it here. If it’s some friendly face-time with cuddly, furry, or feathered critters, you’re really in luck! On these pages, you’ll find dozens of places where you can meet, greet, learn about and chat with a wide variety of animals.


A Is For Alpaca

alpaca in massachusettsThey’re cute. They’re cuddly. And they’re friendly! They always seem to be smiling, maybe because they’re happy to see you! If you’ve never visited an alpaca farm, you’re definitely in for a treat when you see and touch the animals. And check out the terrific products—from toys to hats and mittens—crafted from alpaca fiber. Alpacas were only introduced to the United States in the 1980s, so even if you visited farms when you were a kid, chances are you haven’t seen these gentle creatures up close and personal.

Here are some farms to visit:

In the Meadow Farm, 40 Page St., Lunenburg. Take a tour, interact with the alpacas, shop for products or even take a class in knitting or needle felting. Meet Beau, Tucker, Benjamin Buttons and their other alpaca friends (along with some chickens!).

Plain View Farm, 130 Gardner Rd., Hubbardston. The alpacas, llamas (and chickens too!) at Plain View love to have company! Whether you want to drop by on a weekend with the family or plan a trip for a group, the animals are ready to welcome you. The farm also has a shop filled with everything alpaca, from dryer balls to multicolored teddy bears. Check their hours or make an appointment to visit. Other local spots to visit alpacas include the Harvard Alpaca Ranch, 58 Old Mill Rd., Harvard; and Luina Greine Farm, 65 Common St., Groton.


It’s A Wild, Wild World

owl in maOf course, if you’re in the country, there’s lots of countryside around—and lots of nonfarm animals to see (and hear)!

For a unique way to experience local wildlife, consider a canoe tour with Nashoba Paddler, 398 West Main St., Groton. In addition to renting canoes and kayaks, Nashoba Paddler leads canoe tours on local waterways. On their Full Moon Canoeing tour, you’ll be on the lookout for owls, beavers, bats, and other night creatures. On a Paddling with Beavers tour, you’ll get an up-close look at a beaver lodge and may even be surprised by the loud noise of a beaver slapping its tail on the water. See nashobapaddler.com.

Animal Adventures, 336 Sugar Rd., Bolton offers some hands-on experiences with all kinds of critters. Learn about — and even learn how to hold—Eurasian Eagle Owls, Great Horned, and Barred Owls. Animal Adventures receives over 300 animal surrenders a year, some of which will live here forever, while others get re-homed. They house from 200-400 animals—about 175 species—at any given time. You might meet a lemur, fox, chameleon, or even a skunk! Visit animaladventures.net.


Wholly Cow!

cows in massachusettsFor totally a moo-velous animal encounter, consider these spots:

Smith’s Country Cheese, 20 Otter River Road, Winchendon, where the cows are happy to take a break from their routine to accept a little lovin’ from visitors. It’s a great spot for the whole family to learn about the making of award-winning cheese, from start to finish.

The cows grazing in the field at Rota Spring Farm, 117 Chace Hill Rd., Sterling, are workers, too! They produce the milk used in the farm’s ice cream. You can’t get any fresher than that! Watch the cows and goats graze while you enjoy a cone.

Hollis Hills Farm is a 100- acre working farm overlooking Fitchburg. In season, you can pick your own flowers, fruits and pumpkins — but the cows are happy to greet visitors any time of the year! The farm has frequent festivals and band concerts, along with a restaurant, sugar house and tree farm.


Not Horsing Around

horse in maYou’ve watched them in Western movies, or maybe cheered them on while watching the Kentucky Derby on TV. But there’s nothing like meeting a stately horse in person.

At Cornerstone Ranch in Princeton, you can take a trail ride, get riding lessons, or just take a leisurely horse-drawn wagon tour, ending with a delicious ice cream treat! Looking to enjoy a bit of romance? Cornerstone offers country horse-drawn carriage ride to a picnic on Mellon Hill. The woman-owned and operated 55-acre ranch at 29 Dowds Lane, Princeton, also offers pony rides; and when winter blows in, sleigh rides!

Or stop by the New England Equestrian Center of Athol, at 802 New Sherborn Rd., a municipal park that has events from April through September, including driving instruction and a Gymkhana series with speed-racing games. Visitors are welcome any time! The park is open from dawn to dusk for people to visit and walk around, and spectators are welcome at the events. Visit neeca.org to see a full schedule and learn more about the park.


From Ducks To Donkeys

duck chick in maKids just love farm animals—chicks, pigs, cows, and more. This is why you head out of the city for a tour through the back roads of Johnny Appleseed Country! Show the youngsters that milk and eggs don’t just magically appear at the supermarket, and that there are pet-able animals besides the family dog or cat. Farms that welcome visitors are spread throughout the region, so no matter where you are, it’s easy to pop in for a visit.

Red Apple Farm, 455 Highland Ave., Phillipston, has everything a family could want for a visit: Cute animals—chickens, bunnies, goats and more —for the kids to meet and feed. The store is filled with farm-fresh fruits and products (make sure you try the cider donuts!). There’s a brew barn, too, for when you need some refreshment. Pick your own fruits in season, and enjoy festivals many weekends of the year.

Davis Farmland Discovery Farm, 145 Redstone Hill Rd., Sterling, can introduce you to some really out-of-the-ordinary farm animals, so be sure to plan a whole day when you visit! The Davis family has garnered a collection of endangered livestock from around the world, so you may not recognize some of the farm’s inhabitants. But the kids can also ride a pony, collect chicken eggs, snuggle a goat or feed baby animals — and much more.