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Rivah Visitor's Guide

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Family Fun Rivah Excursions

Ah, June. The kids are starting to count down those final days of school as summer rapidly approaches.

While they look forward to pool parties, playing outside and sitting around the house doing absolutely nothing, reality starts to set in for the parents. They know that as soon as the newness of summer vacation wears off, the groans, moans and “I’m bored” declarations will begin and it will be mom and dad’s responsibility to entertain these restless youngsters. But where to go? What is there to do? And most importantly, how much will it cost?

Before you work yourself into a panic, rest assured, the Rivah counties offer many excursions, at little or no cost, while still packing in plenty of family fun.

Excursion #1

Run wild and free at River Birch Animal Farm
If your household is full of animal lovers (or just an animal house), you might be thinking a trip to the zoo sounds like a fun idea. However, there’s no need to trek all the way to Richmond or D.C. to visit the animals. Middlesex County has got you covered.

Enjoy lunch with the birds underneath the pavilion.

Located just a few miles east of Urbanna on Route 33 is River Birch Animal Farm in Locust Hill. Home to over 50 different kinds of animals, this non-profit farm is completely supported by donations from visitors and community members. The farm also serves as a refuge to animals whose owners could no longer care for them. The farm is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  and completely free of charge.

Unlike traditional zoos, River Birch Animal Farm offers a completely independent and hands-on experience. No need for a tour guide here. Visitors may tour the facilities on their own and interact with the animals openly. There aren’t any, “look but don’t touch” restrictions. In fact, touching and petting is strongly encouraged. Kids may hold the rabbits or feed the emus. You can leave your piggy bank at home too. At River Birch, you don’t have to pay a dime to give the birds a treat. They have free snacks readily available.

Don’t be surprised to find yourself sharing a seat with a goat.

This outing will feel like a safari for the more adventurous members of your brood. While several of the farm’s residents are fenced in or caged, many run free. That’s right. As you take in all the sights at the farm, don’t be surprised to find a turkey in your path or hear a rooster announce your presence. You may even have to share a seat with a goat.

If you find yourself a bit hungry after feeding the animals escape the heat and enjoy a sandwich under the pavilion. You may also dine right beside the ducks and miniature horses at one of the bistro tables.

As you leave, make sure you stop at the River Birch Gift Shop so you can purchase a t-shirt commemorating your visit.

Excursion #2

Pick your own at Westmoreland Berry Farm
If animals aren’t your cup of tea but you still want a rustic experience, Westmoreland Berry Farm offers a variety of activities in one location.

Fill your bucket to the brim with strawberries from the pick-your-own fields.

Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, your family could easily spend the whole day. Best of all, there’s no admission charge.

The best place to start is undoubtedly the place of this farm’s namesake, the berry fields. A tractor-pulled wagon will shuttle you down to the pick-your-own fields where you can gather strawberries, raspberries and blackberries by the bucketful. If your bucket should runneth over, it’s okay to sneak a few samples!

Then it’s back onto the tractor and off to the Country Store. While waiting to weigh your harvest, browse the shelves of gifts, goodies and knick-knacks, many of which come from area businesses.

The farm experience continues as kids view animal acrobatics on the Great Goat Walk. These sky-walking creatures love to make the trek up and over a long wooden bridge, crossing the road to visit the pulley feeder system that the kids can’t wait to operate.

The Country Store has lots of goodies and gifts, many of which are made locally.

Kids can also feed and touch furry friends in the young animal petting zoo. For even more fun, check out the farm’s playground and the Vorhees Nature Preserve next door.

If the hayride to the berry fields wasn’t enough for your youngsters, let them catch a ride on the cow train. This spotted caravan operates on weekends and only periodically throughout the season so make sure to call ahead. What a great way to keep them entertained at only $2 a ride.

Finally, you can unwind from a fun-filled day with a meal from the Eagle Café. Grab a hot dog and enjoy your lunch in a rocking chair or at a picnic table under the café’s veranda. Don’t forget to try a fresh fruit sundae for dessert, that is if you haven’t taste-tested too many berries already.

posted 05.23.2013

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