Forest fauna and farm animals delight kids of all ages in Orange County, NY
Bears, owls, bald eagles, cows, horses, llamas, and salamanders are just some of the storybook animals that children can meet in the flesh and fur! They’re the center of attention at farms, museums, parks, and trailside zoos just 50 miles from Manhattan. Kids get to make a real life connection to nature while watching the sometimes humorous antics of the residents of our woods, trees, and fields.
Deer and wild turkeys are plentiful here in Orange County, and perhaps you’ll see an opossum, raccoon, or groundhog through the car windows. Don’t hit that skunk! From soaring hawks and eagles to brilliant jays and cardinals, scout out our feathered friends, too. You’ll find quite a few of them at the Bear Mountain Trailside Museums & Zoo where many are actually local residents that can no longer survive in the wild. This famous park on the Appalachian Trail also has riding animals! Climb aboard the carousel a short distance from the zoo and you can circle the Adirondack-style pavilion on a handsomely carved native animal of your choice.
Talk to some animals and they’ll talk back! That strange voice saying “HELLO!” comes from Edgar the crow at Hudson Highlands Nature Museum’s Wildlife Education Center. Joining him at this indoor mini-zoo are a great horned owl, screech owls, mice, turtles, snakes, frogs, and salamanders. Interactive displays keep little hands busy, and demonstrations by museum educators introduce children to a new animal every weekend. The nature center is open Friday through Sunday from noon to 4pm, so there’s time to see the special exhibits like ‘Marvelous Moths’ on display right now.
Got milk? We do! As the herd contentedly chews their cud in the historic barn at Bellvale Farms, the farmer shows how milking is done. Offer one of these bossies a clump of grass to eat and watch their baby calves gambol outside in late spring. Tours are offered by reservation at 12:30pm on Sundays from June through October. The deliciousness of the farm’s milk is manifested in the homemade ice cream at Bellvale Farm Creamery just up the hill from the farm.
Peeping, clucking, and baaing are the overture at many of Orange County’s farms and orchards, heard even before you see the adorable baby chicks and silly goats. You’ll meet a few donkeys and ponies, too. Pick berries or vegetables at Lawrence Farms or Ochs Orchards and you’ll be treated to their barnyard friends as well. Take a peek at the hen house when you check out one of the weekend tractor pull events at the Orange County Farmers Museum.
Feed the animals, and feed yourself! Pennings Farm Market Orchard Pub & Grill crafts delicious lunches from what they grow, and you can also share some feed with the babies in their petting zoo. Step back in time at Museum Village and look for the animals outside the barn; they’re just like the ones folks kept during the 19th century. Later in the season, Overlook Farm Market’s resident pig, Sunny, and Apple Ridge Orchards’ dog, Drummer, will be among the animals greeting you at apple-picking time. For something more exotic, visit the alpacas at Rock Ridge and Shalimar Alpaca Farms. These amazingly gentle creatures contribute the fiber woven into the goods you’ll find at the gift stores.
There’s a whole menagerie here in Orange County. Come have a conversation with nature and find even more fun places at www.OrangeTourism.org and on our Facebook page. Contact the office at 845-615-3860 for more suggestions Monday through Friday from 9 to 5.
Bear Mountain State Park, Bear Mountain
Hudson Highlands Nature Museum, Cornwall
Bellvale Farms, Warwick
Lawrence Farms Orchards, Newburgh
Ochs Orchards, Warwick
Orange County Farmer’s Museum, Montgomery
Pennings Farm Market, Warwick
Museum Village, Monroe
Overlook Farm Market, Newburgh
Apple Ridge Orchards, Warwick
Rock Ridge Alpaca Farm, Chester
Shalimar Alpaca Farm, Warwick