Noah's Landing, the hands-on zoo in Harnett County, is definitely a family affair.
Run by Dora Turner, the 12-acre farm and zoo is in Coats, which is about 45 minutes from Raleigh. Her son is there with her daily to care for the animals. A daughter is a veterinarian. And another daughter does marketing and various other jobs.
"My kids and I came together with a mission to teach children in an interactive way," Turner tells me.
A tour through Noah's Landing isn't like your traditional zoo experience. When I drove up with my kids and mom for a recent tour, a peacock greeted us in the driveway.
As Turner showed us around, my daughters were able to pet many of the animals - from an armadillo to a pig. They fed a zebra carrot sticks (which Turner spends her evenings chopping) and watched turtles come up to the surface for pellets they'd thrown in. Along the way, Turner shared facts about the animals from what they eat to where they live and other tidbits.
"They are not allowed to touch primates at any time, but other than that they touch a lot of neat things," said Turner, whose collection of more than 60 species also includes ring-tailed lemurs, a vervet monkey, a yak and a two-toed sloth.
Turner, who has worked with children for years in 4-H, scouting groups and other capacities, said kids learn best when they get a chance to interact with what they're seeing.
"Kids are tactile and like being interactive with things and we thought that was the best way to teach," she said. "That's why we did our zoo a little bit differently."
Noah's Landing, a popular spot for school field trips, is open for guided tours on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m from March 15 to Dec. 1. No appointment is needed. You can just show up. Tickets are $8 for kids and $10 for adults.
If you have young kids, Turner says that the best time to visit is during one of the zoo's four special events during the year because you won't have to go on a guided tour.
Noah's Landing hosts special events on Mother's Day and Father's Day weekends, at Halloween and on Labor Day weekend. During those weekends, the zoo is open for unguided tours and includes a variety of special activities, games and crafts for the kids.
The upcoming Blue 'n' Cue at the Zoo is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 1 and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 2. Admission is $8. Barbecue plates from Stephenson's Barbecue are $8. The day includes bluegrass music, meet and greets with the animals and a visit from owls and raptors at the Wildlife Rescue Center in Sanford. Click here for details.
Noah's Landing also offers camps, birthday parties and a mobile nature center that goes to festivals and schools.
For more information and to see some of the animals, watch the video. Go to Noah's Landing's website for all the details.