06/04/2010 02:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Day Trip to the Real Happiest Place on Earth

A few months ago I felt that itching feeling coming up again, the one we all get from time to time beckoning us to bail out of Los Angeles for a bit. I just wanted to feel more connected to nature than my weekly 45-minute trek up Runyon Canyon. After some mild searching on line, I found what I now consider the real "happiest place on earth." This is no Disney excursion that will put you back $250 to enter and $100 to eat. Rather, this experience is offered on a donation-only basis and you will leave feeling so enriched, rested and at peace with the world that you will gladly repeat the trip up the 405 and 14 North the following Sunday too.

Welcome to Animal Acres. (text continues below)

When I pulled into the paradise of Animal Acres in Acton, a short 45 minutes north of Los Angeles, I knew that I found my home away from home. I was greeted by a lovely woman named Ciddy who was to be our tour guide for the weekly Sunday 11 am and 1 pm tours. She escorted us into the goat and sheep areas where we were greeted by dozens of these loving and adorable creatures who nuzzled and kissed us much like my golden retrievers at home. The tour commenced and we were all - families, babies, men, and women - taken through the 26 acres of land owned by Lorri Houston. Lorri is dedicated to rehabilitating and giving the rescued slaughterhouse farm animals the liberated and happy life they deserve. Unlike the local farmer's market petting zoos, Animal Acres allows the animals to live in their home environment. They roam the land and never are considered or treated as commodities. Consequently, children are able to experience a true connection with these creatures because they are in a stress free and serene situation.

While touring the beautiful grounds, we were able to hand-feed the cows and horses carrots, rub the pigs' bellies, and watch the hens and turkeys rule the roost as they spread their wings and sunbathe in the courtyard. It was clear that these sentient beings, who would have either been destined to be our dinner or our shoes, respond much like our cats and dogs do at home. Even though these animals were cruelty case rescues, the only thing they wanted to do was give and get love from all of us.

As a child, I always knew that there was something special about animals, not just the family poodle or the outdoor cat that would saunter by our door at leisure. I always found something "other worldly" and peace provoking about what Animal Acre's calls our "furry and winged friends." Living in New York and Los Angeles the majority of my life, I had become quite disconnected from most living creatures other than the neighbor's Labrador and the "pocket- book dogs" at Barneys. The closest thing I saw to a cow was the chopped meat section at Whole Foods.

I have been back to Animal Acres many times since my first trip. I have brought those who eat meat, strict vegetarians, and friends on the fence. One thing is clear and consistent with all who visit - for just a few hours they feel connected. There is no denying when a chicken sits on your lap, nestles with you, and searches for your hand for pets and kisses, that there is something in all of these creatures that is worth a second glance.

For more information on Animal Acres, please visit them at