Think a puppy is cute? Wait until you see a baby alpaca. Visit these family-friendly farms in Northern Michigan where you’ll find dwarf goats, homemade doughnuts, a wine tasting room and even a wagon ride through an elk herd.
CRYSTAL LAKE ALPACA FARM AND BOUTIQUE, FRANKFORT
Caution, these cuties will steal your heart. The 145-acre family farm tucked between Frankfort and Benzonia has 50 alpacas, with more on the way. The herd is watched over by Banner, Shandy and Murphy—Great Pyrenees who love to make new friends. The farm is also home to sassy miniature donkeys and dwarf goats. For a minimal fee, people can feed and pet the animals. Baby alpaca (cria) are born in the spring and fall, so watch for announcements on Facebook—these little bambinos are precious. Two boutiques at the farm brim with alpaca clothing, yarn, accessories and more. Fun Fact: A sweater made from alpaca yarn only needs to be washed once every 5 to 10 years—the fiber has hollow pockets inside which allows the fabric to breathe.
PAHL’S COUNTRY STORE, BUCKLEY
Friends, swing by Pahl’s pumpkin patch paradise and say hello to the sweetest goats this side of the Manistee River. Stella, Elsa and the other gals are just waiting to be loved on. And, of course, Homey (the miniature donkey) and the truly precious Mama Kitty always want attention. Say hi to Harry and Megan, the resident peacock and peahen, then take a wagon ride through a “haunted” forest and warm up with concessions such as pulled pork sandwiches, chili and broccoli cheese soup—all homemade. Take home fresh cider, doughnuts, hand-dipped caramel apples and pumpkin everything: cream cheese-filled pumpkin snickerdoodles, white chocolate chip pumpkin brownies. New this year—an apple cannon!
AMBER ELK RANCH, LUDINGTON
You’ll get up close—very, very close—to the elk at this 130-acre ranch. An hour-long wagon ride takes visitors inside the large pens where you’ll get to feed the elk straight from your hand (their tongues tickle!). Bring a picnic lunch, stop by the free petting zoo and find a souvenir at the Antler Shed gift shop. Open weekends only after Labor Day through October 13.
RUDBECKIA FARM AND WINERY, PETOSKEY
Sisters Posey (more spots) and Coco Chanel (bigger) are four-year-old Juliane pigs. Please don’t touch or feed them, but enjoy their chubby faces in their happy, bucolic habitat with a flight of wine or a pint of beer (yes, there’s also a brewery on site). All ages are welcome at this family-friendly farm in the heart of the Petoskey Wine Region. (Pssst! There are even more family-friendly wineries in Petoskey. Make it a day!)
Carly Simpson is curator of MyNorth.com’s wildly popular Daily Splash newsletter. Are you a subscriber yet? MyNorth.com/newsletter