For seniors, a visit to a petting farm or zoo can help you recapture the childhood joy that comes from spending time with friendly animals.
Here I am saying hello to the camel at the Visit to the petting zoo - Cubby and the camel at the Oshawa Zoo and Fun Farm

There are many kinds of farms where you can spend a pleasant afternoon. Winery farms. Pick-your-own farms. But, far as I’m concerned, a petting farm is a whole other thing.

There’s something wonderful about getting up close to farm animals who are eager to mooch a few bites of food and enjoy a pat on the head. And while you may think you need to be accompanied by Grandchildren, you don’t.

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Lionel’s Farm in Stouffville. We didn’t have grandchildren with us (ours are working adults), but they let us in anyway!

And we certainly enjoyed the delight of the kids all around us.

petting farm

The Purcell family runs Lionel’s Farm, located on McCowan Road

Lionel’s Farm

The Purcell family runs Lionel’s Farm, located on McCowan Road, just north of Elgin Mills. It’s a great place for family members of all ages. The petting area is compact; it takes about an hour and a half for a pair of adults to experience it, but certainly longer if the grandchildren are with you. The flat dirt pathways are easily accessible for those with a walker or in a wheelchair.

Petting farm

Goats at Lionel’s Farm

What’s to see? Ponies, horses, a cow, goats, llamas, sheep, exotic birds (including beautiful chickens and a very friendly, huge emu), rabbits and Oscar, the gigantic pig. According to scientific studies, pigs are as smart as our closest relative, chimpanzees. So, when you feed Oscar, and he grunts, he’s telling you, “More! More!” in no uncertain terms.

Woman feeding sheep

My wife feeding a sheep at Lionel Farm, located on McCowan Road

One of the sheep made us laugh over and over again. It shares a pen with a couple of llamas. Every time we tried to feed a llama, the sheep would barrel in and butt the much bigger llama out of the way in order to grab the handout. There’s always some pushing and shoving among the animals for free food, this little guy (or girl) was over the top.

Deer at the farm

Deer at the farm

As for what to do besides petting and feeding the animals? There’s a pony rides and a wagon ride and, to my surprise, playground equipment here and there among the animal pens.

Playground a the petting farm

Playground a the petting farm

That playground stuff, I think, exemplifies the sensitivity of the Purcells. They had to have been very aware that even the loveliest animals can’t keep little children enthralled forever.

Lionel’s Farm is a great value at $3 per person admission, child or adult.

Graphic showing what you can feed the animals at Lionel's petting farm

What you an feed the animals at Lionel’s petting farm

This sign at the box office reflects what the Lionel’s Farm website tells you – the folks who run the farm respect and love their animals.

They want you to be thrilled, and their animals to be safe and healthy.

Lionel's farm - boy and chickens

Lionel’s farm – boy and chickens

Lionel’s Farm is a wonderful place for a kid’s birthday. Contact the Purcell’s and they can help you set it up.

Oshawa Zoo and Fun Farm

How soft are a camel’s lips? I found out at the Oshawa Zoo and Fun Farm

It’s about three-quarters of an hour from Toronto. As I learned by offering the Zoo and Fun Farm’s young camel some popcorn, a camel’s lips are incredibly soft.

Don’t let the word “zoo” give you the wrong impression. This is not a place where you and the animals are separated out of touching range. This really is a “fun farm.” You’re liable to find at least a few chickens wandering around with you. When I was there, one of the peacocks hopped the fence and was hanging around with a couple of emus on the other side of the fence.

Petting zoo deerThe owners of the Oshawa Zoo and Fun Farm set it up in 1993 to, in their words, “have a clean, green, interactive mix of friendly exotic and domestic animals.”

The animal pens are larger than international zoo standards require. There’s ample and proper accommodation for the collection of exotic and domestic animals and fowl.

We didn’t see them all, but the exotics include camels, lemurs, macaws. monkeys, peafowl, coatimundi, Patagonian cavies , llamas, wallabies and more. I did make friends with a couple of goats, a sheep or two and one of the donkeys. The baby potbellied pigs are cute beyond cute. One mystery: why do these pigs swing their tail like a metronome gone mad?

Oh, and of course there are also cows and horses.

But guess what – nothing beats baby chicks!

petting zoo chickensThe truth is, the kid in all of us doesn’t really care what breed of animal is interacting with us. It’s the contact that matters, the look into sometimes deep and soulful eyes.

A visit to the Oshawa zoo and Fun Farm is costlier than one to Lionel’s Farm, But it’s a different kind of experience.

You really soak in the airiness and beauty of being in a vast expanse of farmland. My wife and I spent a couple of hours there, and didn’t see everything. The place is impeccably clean, and it does have a burger bar and lots of picnic tables.

child feeding sheep at petting farmThe Oshawa Zoo and Fun Farm shuts down for the winter after Thanksgiving Weekend. Admission is adults: $14, seniors: $12, children: $10 with a Family Maximum (2 adults and all children under 16): $48.00. The website has a “one child free” coupon.

When an 83 year old guy goes to sleep smiling about a baby camel, you know he’s had a great time.

How’s that for affection and a sense of well-being? Trust me. A moment with a gentle animal at a petting farm will make you feel like a child again.

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