As C is obsessed with making animal noises right now, I went on the prowl to find animals for him to see. Like, in real life. Not just in a book. Searching the handy-dandy The Big, Fun Guide to Tar Heel Country, I found Spence's Farm on page 90.
Visiting Spence's Farm is a little tricky. The place is very laidback. Because of that it is hard to figure out when you are welcome to show up with your toddler (and toddler is defined very loosely, pretty much any age will do). I was told Wednesdays "at 9, or 10, or 11, but no definitely before 10:30"; and Fridays, "11, no, wait, 10." The gist is: open Toddler Time on Wednesdays and Fridays in the morning. Just call ahead to let them know you are on your way, make sure the time works, and they will accommodate you.
Toddler time is GREAT. Spence's farm is all about hands-on learning. So bring anti-bacterial wipes and shoes that you can hose off afterwards.
We started by getting in with the chickens. Literally, we got in the chicken pen. We fed them, chased them, laid our hands on warm eggs fresh from under a nesting hen, and petted them. C was a little apprehensive of the turkeys, but I would be, too, if a turkey twice my size was wandering around.
Then we went to the bunnies. We tried to feed them, but they weren't so interested. So we petted them, and watched a loose bunny hop around enjoying his freedom.
We pet and fed the goats. And we brushed and groomed a pony. Spence's Farm offers pony rides as part of the Toddler Time. So at some point in your visit you get to put your child on a pony, and they walk him around. We opted not to do this this time around simply because we were so busy chasing chickens....and brushing the pony (which was a huge hit).
C and I also wandered the garden. The garden is mostly for educational purposes. Spence's does offer a CSA, though, if you are interested. I left with some fresh mint. They encourage all visitors to bring home handfuls of mint since it grows like a weed, and they have problems controlling it. I'll be having a mint julep tonight.
It isn't cheap to visit at $15. But that is $15 total for your family, not per visitor. The Toddler Time is said to last 45 minutes but we were there well over an hour without any complaints. And we were accompanied the entire time by 2 very enthusiastic and fun workers. I personally felt as though it was money well-spent to get up close with the animals.
Spence's Farm is full of whimsy. There are signs all over, pottery shed, haymaze, swings, and lots of color and art. So it can seem a little disorganized. I was completely confused upon first arriving. But the staff here is absolutely fantastic and willing to help. They clearly love children and what they do.
Spence's also offers after-school activities, summer camps, mini-camps, horseback riding lessons, organized field trips, birthday packages, and who knows what else (Toddler Time just showed up on their website and they don't even list the Friday time, but I know it exists).
Right off of Eubanks right, kinda near Timberlyne (Orange Leaf anyone?), we had a great hour at Spence's Farm.
Oh, and make sure you charge your camera battery before you go. That's a good tip.
Spence's Farm for Kids
6406 Mill House Road