FLUFFY ONE-ON-ONE: While the charms of living in a big, bustling metropolis are many, we often long for a place where we can go visit with animals and have a more rustic, less-headache-y experience. And when we say "place" we mean alpaca ranch, of course. You totally knew that's what we were thinking, right? There happens to be one that's just a smidge outside of Ojai in Oak View. It's home to a dozen alpacas and "one overweight llama," says Laurie Kreis of El Paca Pastures. And saying howdy to the beautiful beasties? Totally free. The ranch is open every day of the year, including holidays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and visitors are welcome. There's also a shop on the grounds selling "alpaca accessories and apparel from Peru." Definitely intriguing, but you'll want to make time to eye the camelids that call the ranch home.
HAND-FEEDING, TOO: The free ranch visit is pretty much just that -- a look-see at the animals and a chance to go inside the store. If you want a more thorough interaction with the gentle animals, you can book a private tour. They're $5 a person and the minimum fee is $50, meaning you'll want to round up ten or more of your friends. Or you can pay the minimum of $50 and arrive with fewer than ten people, if you choose; Ms. Kreis says that has happened in the past. But this allows you and your pals to enter the pens and pet and feed the alpacas. Do you know someone who needs this experience? We probably all do. For more information on the free and private tour visits, eye the El Paca Pastures site. Cute and fluffy alpacan goodness abounds. (Kudos to the Ojai Visitors Bureau for the tip.)
U.S. & World
ONE LAST THING... The llama is named Elaine. In case you were wondering.