On our recent road trip to New York City, we decided to make a pit stop at Farm Sanctuary in picturesque Watkins Glen, New York. One of three Farm Sanctuary locations across the United States, the Watkins Glen sanctuary is nestled in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region. The 175-acre shelter is home to more than 500 rescued farm animals.
Visitors can take an hour-long guided tour, getting up close with the lovely animals that call the sanctuary home. Following the tour, you can also meander through the sanctuary on a self-guided tour too, just as long as you don't open any gates on your own. Some of these beauties are large!
If you plan ahead, you can even book one of the sanctuary's cabins for an overnight stay, which includes a continental vegan breakfast. I left our planning a bit late, so the cabins were booked. Next time!
Our tour started with a visit to Farm Sanctuary's special needs cattle. These lovelies are either advanced in age or dealing with various ailments. We visited gorgeous ladies such as Fanny, one of the stars of the documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine. Fanny was forced to over-produce milk for years in the dairy industry and spent most of her time standing on concrete floors covered in manure. Now she is enjoying thick bedding, grassy pastures and companionship with other cows and some kind and loving humans.
Some of the animals at Farm Sanctuary, like this little one above, are understandably cautious around humans.
Others, like this sweet goat, are curious, friendly and happy for some kind attention from visitors.
Just a handful of grass can buy you some one-on-one time with an adorable creature like this goat. The goats were a definite hit with my family members.
We also loved the pigs. Our tour guide told us that the pigs are often sleeping. And boy can they sleep. I guess they are accustomed to visitors, because even a bunch of strangers petting them didn't wake them up.
The pigs are bristly feeling and just so cute. And much bigger than I expected too!
Farm Sanctuary is such a lovely setting, I didn't want to leave. Plenty of room to dance if you wish too.
It was touching to see the animals co-existing peacefully. Even unplanned-for residents like this squirrel.
One thing was clear from our visit to Farm Sanctuary. Each animal is unique - they have preferences, dislikes, fears and personalities. It's truly sad to think of the millions of less fortunate animals who struggle, suffer and die in factory farms every day.
Being home to an animal sanctuary, as Watkins Glen is, means there are plenty of food options for travelling vegetarians and vegans. After our lovely tour, we were advised to try out House of Hong for casual dining with the kids. The restaurant offers Chinese food and sushi and has a separate vegetarian menu.
We had tofu with mushrooms.
Vegan lo mein noodles.
And who can order Chinese food without fried rice?
And then, even though we got free So Delicious vegan ice cream snacks following our Farm Sanctuary tour, we followed up our Chinese food with a visit to The Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor in Watkins Glen. They have an abundance of vegan soft serve flavours.
I went with the traditional chocolate/vanilla twist because it comes in a small size, while the other flavours only come in medium. I wasn't the slightest bit hungry but I had to have ice cream simply because I'm not used to finding a vegan option! Check out Farm Sanctuary's guide to Where to Dine Vegan in Watkins Glen.
Farm Sanctuary was started in 1986 after founders Gene Baur and Lorri Houston found a live sheep named Hilda in a pile of dead animals behind a stockyard. The sanctuary was originally funded by sales of vegetarian hot dogs at Grateful Dead concerts. Today, Farm Sanctuary is the country’s largest farm animal rescue and protection organization, with sanctuaries in Watkins Glen, Northern California (Orland) and the Los Angeles area.