Discover the Fun at Fort Rickey Discovery Zoo! Fun for everyone! (You know we had to do that)
If you grew up in the area, there’s a high probability you spent time at Fort Rickey, located in Rome, as a child. I have vivid memories of going there with my neighbors and spending hours in the water park area followed up tons of hands-on animal interaction. As I grew up, I didn’t necessarily visit as much but when I began this job, it brought Fort Rickey back into my life… and if there’s anything this has taught me, it’s that you’re never too old to play with animals.
There are several things I love about Fort Rickey Discovery Zoo. Something that has remained constant is that the owners care deeply about their impact and their love for animals. This past spring, Fort Rickey was sold by Len Cross to new owners Rebecca and Chris Stedman. I’ve known Len for as long as I’ve been in this job and it was clear that he needed to sell to the right people. Rebecca and Chris are the perfect fit given their history with Fort Rickey combined with their education and passion for animals. While many things will remain the same, Rebecca and Chris have big plans.
First, it’s important to know what Fort Rickey’s Mission is. That is; to education children through their various shows as well as create intimate connections made between children and animals through zoo features. Visitors have the opportunity to engage in animal activities and fun. Along with exhibits of native and exotic animals, Fort Rickey offers hands-on animal shows, a petting zoo with tame deer that you can feed and a maternity ward for baby goat cuddling! Other attractions for kids include a giant tube and tunnel maze with a ball crawl.
If you visit their website, it will become abundantly clear that they strive to provide families and children with a totally unique experience. You can count on visiting a clean environment with one-of-a-kind contact with animals. Another cool thing about Fort Rickey is that they have a wide variety of zoo species from all over the world. And rather than specializing in large, exotic species, they focus on smaller more accessible animals. Some of their best-known residents are African pygmy goats, lemurs, gray wolves, llamas, tortoises and many more.
When we talked to Fort Rickey about this blog and the message they hope to get across to past and future visitors, it comes down to them wanting to create intimate connections between children and animals. On a personal note, as someone who is not a child, holding the baby goats is literally one of my favorite things to do EVER. Each year, we take locals on a tour around the county to showcase our attractions. This past year, we visited Fort Rickey and there is something truly heartwarming to see adults GIDDY with excitement holding baby goats and feeding deer. It’s so cool to do and creates a sense of calmness and happiness that can only be achieved in an atmosphere like Fort Rickey.
Currently, the owners are working on providing educational/interactive talks for every animal on exhibit. Fort Rickey goes beyond what’s “normal” at a zoo by providing a more personal environment. According to Rebecca, “When children interact with an animal, especially a young/baby animal, they will often remember the sweet experience they had. We firmly believe one of the greatest works we can do for our planet is to educate our young youth on how to care for it through experience.”
We highly recommend following Fort Rickey on Instagram and Facebook to stay in the know. Recently, they held a goat yoga class that looked amazing (what is it about these baby goats?!). Rebecca and Chris plan to host other events throughout the year and make sure to mark your calendars for the spectacular Fall Fun Festival! This event kicks off late September and runs until the end of October. During this time, they switch from their regular summer operation to new hours, activities and pricing.
So what can visitors expect during the Fall Fun Festival? Some delicate zoo animals are moved off exhibit into their warm winter quarters. Approximately half of the zoo is closed off to foot traffic to allow safe operation of their wagon rides. If the kids don’t want to do a wagon ride, there are still plenty of animals to enjoy! This event really focuses on all our favorite fall activities too. There’s tons of hands-on family fun with kid-friendly activities such as a hay bale maze, pedal tractors, oat-filled activity station, pony rides, wagon rides and more. Plus, the concession stand menu goes full-on fall with hot cider, donuts, hot chocolate, chili, freshly baked pies and homemade fudge (ok now I’m ready for fall). The Fall Fun Festival is open to the general public weekends only, including Columbus Day. The festival runs from 10am until 4:30pm and admission is $7 (+ tax) per person with children under two admitted free. Pony and hay rides cost $4 per person!
If you plan to visit during the summer, make sure to check the website for the daily show schedule. There is something so nostalgic about a visit to Fort Rickey; as a matter of fact, my mom just found some serious #tbt pictures of me as a child petting the deer! Whether you’re a little kid or a parent or maybe looking for a creative date idea, Fort Rickey is worth a visit. They perfectly encapsulate fun and education with hands-on experiences, shows and learning. Plan your visit today and make sure to take pictures!