6 places for a family-friendly, wild adventure
Before the summer ends, take your family for a walk on the wild side.
When was the last time you saw a wolf? How about an African lion or a North American bison? Well, they're practically in your backyard. Break out the sneakers and bug spray because there's no better nature walk with the children than one that involves animals.
Here are some great animals to visit:
Discover packs of wolves at the Wolf Sanctuary of PA, 465 Speedwell Forge Road, Lititz. Managed by volunteers, the sanctuary offers one-hour walking tours to view the wolf packs. Before you go, take a look at the website to see the wolf packs.
The open tours are at 10 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays; reservations are required for Tuesday and Thursday tours (schedule through the contact page/). Cost is $12 per person.
On the closest Saturday to a full moon, the sanctuary has moon tours; instead of walking with a tour guide, you can walk at your own pace to each wolf pack area, and a guide will describe that pack. The cost is $20, and gates open at 7:30 p.m. for anyone 16 or older. For the moon walk, you can take a chair or blanket to sit beside the campfire. Here are the moon tours for the remainder of the year: Aug. 1, blue moon; Aug. 29, sturgeon moon, Sept. 26, harvest moon; Oct. 24, hunter's moon, Nov. 28, beaver moon; Dec. 26, cold moon.
A lion, tiger, bear, snakes, bison
The safari starts here, Lake Tobias Wildlife Park, 760 Tobias Road, Halifax (north of Harrisburg), at this 150-acre park designed for children to enjoy animals of all kinds. This is where you'll find the African lion and the North American bison, alligators, buffalo, snakes and much more.
At the main area of the park, you'll find a petting zoo, concession area (try a bison burger -- or normal fare like chicken nuggets and pizza), and the reptiles and exotics facility with snakes, tortoises, tropical birds, lizards and more. Then, climb aboard an open-air bus (the top is cut off) for the best part – an hour-long safari ride that rides through the farmland for a view of exotic mammals.
On July 25, there's a Wild Days Weekend Animal Parade from noon-4 p.m. There will be photo opportunities with baby animals.
Park admission is $7 for adults and children 3 years old and older, and the safari tour is an additional $6. During the summer, the park is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and until 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Hawks, eagles, falcons
The Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, 1700 Hawk Mountain Road, Kempton (north of Reading), calls itself "nature's greatest airshow" because about 20,000 eagles, hawks and falcons fly past the lookouts each year.
To see the show, there's a hike of about 1 mile from the visitors center to the north lookout. Wear sneakers and take some water; if you have binoculars and a long-lens camera, pack them, too. You'll land at a congregation of large rocks, where you can sit and watch the show. The best time of year to see raptors is between late August and late November. The hawks (hence the namesake) rule this Appalachian passageway. Bald eagles are more likely to be seen in early September.
While you're in the area, a massive Cabela's sporting goods store is along Interstate 78 in Hamburg, near Hawk Mountain. Mounted birds and animals decorate a large display in the center of the store, and a deer and antler display fill another room. The cafeteria at Cabela's can meet the needs of the whole family.
Butterflies and caterpillars
It's Butterfly Weekend Aug. 1 and 2 at Nixon Park, 5922 Nixon Road, York.
From 9-11 a.m. Aug. 1, join a butterfly guide for a hike to identify butterfly species. Register in advance, and bring a water bottle, binoculars and field guides.
For creature lovers, a one-hour insect hunt starts at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 1 and 12:30 p.m. Aug. 2, led by a park naturalist. Search for insects in the sensory garden or by the stream. No registration required.
Pack a picnic to have lunch with Penn State Master Gardener (and caterpillar expert) Deb Carman for answers to all caterpillar and butterfly questions. Pack a photograph of your favorite creature for her to identify. It's two hours and begins at 11 a.m. Aug. 1. No registration required. Carman follows the caterpillar talk with a one-hour session at 2 p.m. Aug. 1 on how to maintain a butterfly garden. Live creatures will be part of the presentation, which requires no registration.
For a $5 fee, receive a milkweed plant and seeds along with a PowerPoint presentation on the life of monarch butterflies. It's at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 2 with citizen scientist and photographer Kim Frey. Registration required.
You need neither skill nor fishing equipment for the family fishing event from 9 a.m.-noon Aug. 8 at William H. Kain County Park, 274 Hess Farm Road, York. Adam Spangler from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will teach families how to fish or sharpen your skills.
Pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, ponies, bunnies
The Country Barn, 211 S. Donerville Road, Lancaster, opens its summer season on July 25. It's an 82-acre working farm with a lot of activities for young ones. Ten acres are dedicated to the Barnyard Kingdom with pig races and a variety of farm animals to visit – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. During the fall, pumpkin picking and a corn maze are big draws.
In addition, the Country Barn has wagon rides, slides and a pedal kart track. (If you stay until the evening, take your cowboy boots for some country line dancing.)
From July 24-26, the Farm & Food Bluegrass Festival rolls into the Barn. The cost is $50 for a three-day pass or $20 Friday, $25 Saturday or $15 Sunday. The party starts at 4 p.m. Friday with an all-you-can-eat pig roast ($10) with coleslaw, baked beans, mac and cheese, potatoes and corn. For dessert: homemade ice cream. Entertainment Friday is Remington Ryde, Carroll County Ramblers and Nitro Ride. Concession food will be available for the 2-11 p.m. festival. Jay Armsworthy and Eastern Tradition headline that night with performance also from Heart & Soul, Summit Hill Bluegrass, Scott Eager & High Lonesome, Special Reno & Smiley Tribute Show. Sunday starts with a 9 a.m. church service, a breakfast buffet (included in the show ticket) and entertainment by Canaan's Land Gospel. Call 717-872-1554 to reserve a ticket.