A Dream Birthday Party for Animal Lovers!
It was the week before my daughter’s sixth birthday party, and the venue we had been counting on suddenly didn’t work out. In my frenzied search for a new and last-minute venue, I remembered the Critter Barn. My daughter had spent two glorious days in their hands-on summer camp last year, holding baby chicks and kittens, learning how to milk and bathe a goat, wrangling ducks and chickens, and having the time of her life.
Would the Critter Barn do birthday parties by any chance? I called, and it turns out they do! They graciously fit us in for the weekend and we alerted her friends of the change in plans.
Little did we know how awesome the party would turn out to be!
Not Your Ordinary Petting Zoo
If you aren’t familiar with the Critter Barn, it is a fully-functioning educational farm in Zeeland, about half an hour from Grand Rapids. On its three acres of land you’ll find chickens, turkeys, ducks, pot-bellied pigs, cows, a horse, a pony, donkeys, rabbits, sheep, geese, goats, cats, and MORE!
This isn’t your ordinary petting zoo, though. Visitors are encouraged to wander the grounds and get up-close and personal with the animals. You can pet, hold, and help feed most of the animals, and you can even step into some of the pens. Friendly volunteers–many of them kids!–are always nearby to help answer questions, show how to properly handle animals, and educate about the farm and critters.
Coming from a farming family ourselves, we can say it is truly a one-of-a-kind place, like getting to help out at grandma’s farm for the day. This places is absolutely heaven for animal-loving kids like my daughter!
Baby Animals, Chicken Eggs, & Pony Rides, Oh My!
While we waited for all her friends to arrive, we met the sweet volunteer teacher who would be the kids’ guide for the party. She let them visit a large pig–and by “visit,” I mean that we were actually allowed to go into his pen (which had just been cleaned, thankfully), rub his back and let him sniff our hands and boots.
We also got to peek in at the baby goats and their mommies as we waited. Even the kids who had been holding their noses when we first arrived at the farm had forgotten about the smells by this point, and by the time everyone arrived, all the kids were super excited to begin the tour portion of the party.
The tour was 90 minutes long and included extensive interactive visits with most of the animals on the farm. If your child loves hands-on time with animals, this is ideal!
Because it was March, the farm was filled with adorable baby animals. The kids started out with the sheep, where they got to hold and cuddle the lambs, some born just the day before.
They learned about how the farm cares for the gentle sheep and quickly learned to distinguish the sheep who were pregnant. It was my first time seeing a lamb in person, too, and they were even cuter than I thought they’d be!
The kids then went to visit the cats and rabbits. The Critter Barn has a room of friendly cats that visitors can pet and hold, another room with all kinds of different rabbit species, and a rabbit play pen where kids can play with the gentlest of the bunnies. Some baby bunnies were out to play, too!
Next, the teacher gathered the group in a circle on the floor and brought out two little kids–the baby goat kind!–and let my daughter and her friends take turns holding the babies in their laps. It was the sweetest thing to see the kids resting quietly in the children’s laps! Then everyone went out to feed the big goats out in their pen with buckets of hay.
Toward the end, the kids stepped into the chicken coop to gather their own eggs, which they got to take home in cartons. Not only was it fun, but they got to learn firsthand about where their breakfast eggs come from. Even my two year old was able to participate in this, and was so proud of his little carton of eggs that he had gathered all by himself. He insisted on making scrambled eggs with them the moment we got home!
Finally, the tour ended with pony rides for all the kids! Could it get any better?!
By this time, the kids were ready to come in for some lunch and cake. We had our own private room during this time, and it was a joy to hear them chatting about the morning’s adventures. I could tell that they had not only had a blast, but had learned many things as well.
The Nitty Gritty & Some Tips About the Critter Barn
We found the Critter Barn’s birthday party package to be a crazy good deal – the Critter Barn had some of the best prices AND offered a ton of animal interaction!
So how much was it anyway? The party cost $125 and included 8 kids, 2 adults, a private party space, a birthday shirt from the Critter Barn, and a half-dozen carton of eggs for each guest to take home. Additional children are $10 each and adults are $5 each. Not bad at all!
Here are some tips if you plan on holding a birthday party at the Critter Barn:
- Make sure your child and his/her friends are dressed to get messy. You’ll want boots if it’s muddy, as well as clothes that they (or their parents!) won’t mind getting dirty.
- No need to worry about the weather if you choose to hold your party here, as most of the facilities are indoors. It was actually raining on the day of our party, but it was still a huge success!
- Though the majority of the farm is indoors, it can still be quite chilly on cold days because the barns aren’t heated. Be sure to dress warmly if it’s cold outside.
- If you want to bring food for your party, the Critter Barn is very supportive. Ask about borrowing refrigerator space if needed.
- The half-dozen eggs make great birthday party favors! You won’t need to prepare your own goodie bags for the party, unless you want to, of course!
If the Critter Barn sounds like a place your child would love, the good news is you don’t need to wait for their next birthday to visit! The Critter Barn is open year-round for visitors and admission is amazingly FREE (though donations are encouraged!). If you want to learn more about the Critter Barn’s educational programs, including summer camps (for ages 3 and up) and story times for toddlers, click HERE.
Have you ever visited or had a birthday party at the Critter Barn before? Anything we missed or something you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments!
SEE ALSO: West Michigan Birthday Party Guide