A walk in the park: Beacon Hill and the running of the goats

Part of an occasional series exploring North America’s national, provincial and state parks.

VICTORIA
When you ask people for travel recommendations, you’ll mostly get answers similar to what the region’s tourism bureau would tell you: popular art museums, science centres, overpriced “adventures” where you’ll find yourself shoulder to shoulder with families who seek out attractions in far-away cities that are exactly like attractions in the cities they’ve come from.

And then you have the one friend who says, “Have you seen the running of the goats?”

Keep that friend forever.

We arrived at Beacon Hill Park a little before the goat stampede. The “zoo” isn’t very big, but there’s a lot to see — a donkey, some tired alpacas, plenty of ducks and peacocks cruising the paths like they own them.

Miss Jillian, who is 6, you’ll remember, got quite close to a peacock. “It’s like a goose,” I warned her. “Just back up a little and don’t get in its face.”

An employee strolled over and gently corrected me, “It won’t hurt her. When it’s had enough, it’ll just walk away.”

“Like a cat?” I suggested, but she didn’t answer me. Jillian got a step or two closer to the peacock and it walked away from her, lazily, and not unlike a cat.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” called another staffer from down the hill. He appeared to be a parent-wrangler, because he’d lined up all the adults and children off the route of the crazed stampeding goats. Many of the children had no idea what was about to happen and hadn’t yet developed the fine motor mental gymnastics that allows a person to effectively file “running of the goats” under any normal human categorization. Their parents held them out like sacrificial lambs and whispered silly things like “What does a goat say?”

“And now,” he finally yelled, “the running of the goats!”

We give the Beacon Hill petting zoo a coveted four out of four completely arbitrary stroller wheels.

There are staff everywhere, including a poop crew in the goat pen — they’re unobtrusive but ready to answer questions. In addition to the goats (when we were there, there were 21 kids and more on the way) and peacocks, there are pigs, alpacas, a donkey and miniature horse, a couple of budgies, and dozens of ducks.

The entrance to the zoo within Beacon Hill is by donation, making it accessible to everyone (be generous when you can; it’s for the kids, after all). Parking is free for three hours. The petting zoo is open from 10 to 4 daily, with goat stampedes at 10:10 and 4:10.

For more information, check out beaconhillpark.com.

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