Like most children, my kids LOVE animals. Babies always seem especially intrigued by fur babies and their giant parents. You can always take your animal lover to the Indianapolis Zoo, but there are quite a few lesser known locations in the area where little ones can see and touch critters and creatures. Here are some animal encounters in Indianapolis, all of our favorite places to see, touch and get nose to nose with animals in Indy.
Your kids are into pets but you just can’t bring home any more. I feel you. There are some great spots to visit domestic animals without covering your sofa in fur.
While this seems like an obvious place to see animals many people (especially those who don’t own pets) don’t consider the pet store a destination. Many, however, offer lots of opportunities for viewing animals and even some have animals in areas where they can be held.
Visit with cats and dogs at your local Humane Society. Many of them will have opportunities for you to visit with animals and maybe even volunteer to help with the care of the animals. Check the website of the location near you to find hours for tours, opportunities to cuddle the animals, and service opportunities.
Hang out with cats in a pretty cool cat habitat. Also, you can adopt one! Kids can gently play with the cats and sometimes even hold them. There are lots of cat toys to engage with the cats.
Get an up close view of horses and ponies at these locations. Kiddos that are big enough to sit up can ride on a pony and experience the amazing animals first hand.
Ft. Benjamin Harrison State Park
The saddle barn at Ft. Ben State Park offer trail rides (for ages 6+) and lessons starting at $21.00 per person and parent assisted pony rides for all ages for $3.50 (or $3.00 if paying by cash). Open daily 9am-5pm March 19-Oct. 30
For $5 each child, you can visit this family farm for unlimited miniature pony rides. There is also playground equipment to play on and other animals including a friendly goat, and bunnies, chickens, and ducks that kids can pet and hold. Some other farm animals such as pigs and sheep are also available to see.
Where to See Farm Animals in Indy
A few local farms offer opportunities to get up close and personal with their animals. Below are some features of our favorites. Contact each location before visiting to check on seasonal hours and animals available.
During the fall, Kelsay Farms has animals for kids to see and interact with.
Piney Acres offers access to their barnyard animals during certain times of the year.
Waterman’s offers barnyard animals to visit and feed during their fall festival and also an exotic animal display.
A bit of a drive from Indy, Fair Oaks Farm is worth the trip for fans of barn animals. A dairy barn and cow adventure with birthing barn, pig adventure including ultrasound experience, and lots of opportunities for learning, exploring, and eating!
This dairy farm produces milk and other dairy products. Tours, self guided tours, special events and a restaurant make it a great location to get up close and personal with animals.
Tyner Pond Farm supplies meat and eggs to Indianapolis residents and restaurants. Self guided tours are welcome and special events are a lot of fun.
An animal encounter barn offers kids an opportunity to see farm animals up close. Goats, sheep, calves, and other baby animals roam freely and children are often able to pet them. The grounds of Conner Prairie also offers chances to view horses, hogs, cattle, sheep, and goats often doing the jobs they would have done in the 1800s.
Places to See Animals
Check out the event calendars at these locations for new and fun animal-encounters and experiences.
Indiana State Fair Grounds
Check out the events calendar for the State Fair Grounds to see the schedule for horse shows, pet adoption events, and sheep auctions. Many events are free or cost just $5 for parking.
Located southwest of Indianapolis in Centerpoint, In. this working rescue center is one of the largest in the U.S. and houses nearly 200 large cats including lions, tigers, pumas, bobcats, and more. Hour long tours are available for $5/children 12 & under and $10 for adults. Children 5 and under must be held or remain in a stroller at all times.
Open Tues.-Sun. 1-5pm and Fri and Sat nights from 7:30-9pm and located just north of Lafayette, Wolf Park is a non-profit specializing in research, education, and conservation of wolves. The animals in the park consist of five species of wolves, all hand-raised and socialized to serve as ambassadors for their wild relatives. The Wolf Park offers guided tours (no reservations necessary), demonstrations, and lectures, and evening hours include howling with the wolves! Kids 5 and under are free, 6-13 are $6, and adults are $8. Check the website for special events and pricing.
Just south of Indianapolis there’s a farm that everyone should visit. While they aren’t animals, honey bees are so interesting and important to our vitality. Kids (and their adults) can visit a bee hive, learn about the different things that bees produce and sample honey.
The Indianapolis Zoo is full of opportunities to see many kinds of animals from all over the world. While you’re at the zoo, you might have an up close and personal experience with any number of creatures. Walk through the zoo with the flamingos, feel the sweep of air as the macaws fly above you, peek at a sloth, feed the birds, paint with the dolphins, let a butterfly land on you at Butterfly Kaleidoscope and so much more!
Nature Centers at Eagle Creek Park, Holliday Park, and Zion Nature Center
Viewing enclosures which contain hawks, owls, and vultures, Meet a Raptor demonstrations, and birdwalks are just a few activities offered at the Ornithology Center. The Earth Discovery Center offers school and family programs, day camps, and more and exhibits include live, native reptiles, amphibians, fish, and insects. Every Saturday and Sunday the EDC hosts an informal family nature program. These are free and open to the public.
Exhibits at the Zion Nature Center focus on local Indiana wildlife and habitats. Turtles, snakes, and amphibians are on display to serve as educational animals at the center. The center is located on the grounds of Eagle Elementary School and is open Sat 10-5 and Sun noon-5. Contact the center to inquire about weekday hours.
The newly renovated Habitat Hall nature center features a large water table, live animal enclosures, and other interactive exhibits. The Nature Center also features a bird and wildlife observation area with feeding stations and a sound system to allow viewers to hear the birds. The area is free and open to the public Mon-Sat 9-5 and Sundays 1-5pm.