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11 Zoos to Visit in Southern California

A visit to a Zoo is a very popular family outing. However, we’re thinking you may not be aware of all the incredible zoos around southern California. There are many to explore – from small zoos that you can easily visit within a couple of hours to others that are so large you could spend a couple of days there. Plan your next outing using our list of Fun, Fantastic Zoos In and Around Los Angeles!

Dad holding toddler feeding leaves to a Giraffe at the LA Zoo
Feeding the giraffe at the LA Zoo – photo by Jamie Pham

11 Zoos Near Los Angeles

America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College
7075 Campus Rd., Moorpark, CA 93021
(805) 378-1441

Hours: Weekends 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, excluding holidays
Admission: Adults: $9
Children and Seniors: $7
Children (2 and younger): Free

About: America’s Teaching Zoo is part of Moorpark College’s Exotic animal Training and Management (EATM) Program which prepares students “for a variety of positions in public and private animal parks, zoo and oceanariums for careers in animal handling and training for the entertainment and wildlife education industries.” 

Special Experiences: Live animal presentations are held each day at 12:00 pm and 2:30 pm, as well as training demonstrations at 1:30 pm. And throughout the day, students will have an animal out for guests to meet close up. 

Big Bear Alpine Zoo at Moonridge
747 Clubview Dr., Big Bear Lake, CA
(909) 584-1299

Hours: Summer Schedule (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend) Daily 10 am to 5 pm
Winter Schedule (Begins after Labor Day weekend and ends the Friday before Memorial Day) Daily 10 am to 4 pm
** On snowy days, the Zoo may open later or not at all
Admission: Adults (13+): $15
Seniors (60+): $10
Children (3-12): $10
Children (2 and younger): Free
Military Personnel (currently serving or retired with ID): $10

About: The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is a “rehabilitation facility offering injured, orphaned and imprinted wild animals a safe haven.” Most of the animals that are rehabilitated at the Zoo are successfully released back into their native environment. The Zoo is home to animals and birds from more than 85 species. Some of the Zoo’s animals include the bald eagle, arctic fox, snowy owls, mule deer, coyotes, bears, and more. 

California Living Museum (CALM) Zoo 
10500 Alfred Harrell Hwy, Bakersfield, CA
(661) 872-2256

Hours: Open Wednesday – Sunday 9 am to 4 pm
Admission: Adults: $10
Seniors (60+): $7
Children (3-12): $6
Children (3 and younger): Free
U.S. Military and Veterans: Free

About: “CALM is located on 14 park-like acres and features over 400 species of non-releasable animals and California native plants. Only animals injured or who cannot survive in their native environment are housed at CALM.” 

Special Experiences: If you visit on the weekend, be sure to take a ride on the Central California children’s Railroad , which “weaves its way around the CALM grounds.”  The Children’s Park allows young visitors the chance to touch and interact with domestic and farm animals. 

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 346-5694

Hours: October 1 – May 31: 8 am to 5 pm
June 1 – September 30: 7 am to 1:30 pm
Admission: Adults (13+): $24.95
Seniors (62+): $22.95
Children (4-12): $14.95
Children (3 and younger): Free

About: “For nearly five decades, The Living Desert has been engaged in the important work of preserving, conserving, and interpreting the desert and all its varied plant and animal life.” There are several dining options on-site as well. 

Special Experiences: A variety of special interactive experiences are available including the chance to Feed a Giraffe, the G-Scale Model Train which features “more than 3,300 feet of track laid for 8 different loops,” and more.  

Los-Angeles-Zoo-entrance

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 644-4200

Hours: Daily 10 am to 5 pm
Admission: Adult (13-61): $22
Seniors (62+): $19
Children (2-12): $17
Children (23 months and younger): Free

About: The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens “is home to more than 2,200 animals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles representing more than 270 different species, of which more than 58 are endangered.” The Zoo’s “botanical collection comprises several planted gardens and over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants.” Across 133 acres, families can explore many different exhibits including the Elephants of Asia habitat, the Rainforest of the Americas, and the LAIR (housing more than 60 amphibian, invertebrate, and reptile species). There are several on-site dining options. 

Special Experiences: Generally, a range of special experiences are available at the LA Zoo including the chance to feed giraffes, the “Flamingo Mingle,” and behind-the-scenes experiences. Currently, all special experiences are on hold for health and safety reasons. Check the website for details as they become available. 

Orange County Zoo
1 Irvine Park Rd., Orange, CA 92689
(714) 973-6847

Hours: Monday-Friday: 10:00 am to 3:30 pm
Saturday-Sunday: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
Admission: Visitors (3+): $2
Children (2 and younger): Free

About: The Orange County Zoo is located inside Irvine Regional Park. The Zoo focuses on “animals and plants native to the southwestern United States.” Many of the animals here are “injured, orphaned, confiscated, or not releasable into the wild.” Families may observe black bears, bald eagles, mountain lions, turkey vultures, porcupines, and more. It’s a small Zoo making it a great place for little ones who may get too tired to explore a larger zoo. 

Special Experiences: The Orange County Zoo hosts special experiences such as a Children’s Zoo as well as a special Storytime Area. However, due to health and safety concerns, some of these special experiences are currently closed and/or not being offered. 

Beckham the Rhino Iguana at the Reptile Zoo
Beckham the Rhino Iguana at the Reptile Zoo, photo courtesy of the Reptile Zoo

The Reptile Zoo
18818 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 500-0591

Hours: Open Daily 10 am to 7 pm
Admission: Adults: $15
Children (4-12): $10
Children (3 and younger): Free

About: At The Reptile Zoo families will find a unique facility housing “over 100 exotic species of reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids from around the world.” Located in a very unassuming strip mall in Fountain Valley, from the outside there is nothing that would prepare you for what you will get to experience inside. They have one of the largest collections in all of California, including a large variety of venomous and non-venomous reptiles, that you can learn about from their friendly staff.

Special Experiences: Families may opt to participate in additional experiences (for added fees) including an Animal Encounter and Photo (with an 8-12 foot Burmese Python), Feeding Experiences (the chance to feed a tortoise), and more.

Galápagos Tortoise at san Diego Zoo
Galápagos Tortoise at the San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Dr. (in Balboa Park), San Diego, CA 91201
(619) 231-1515

Hours: Daily, rain or shine, including all holidays. 
Hours can vary (staying open later in the summer) but currently are 9 am to 8 pm.
Admission: Adults (12+): $62
Children (3-11): $52
Children (2 and younger): Free
** Each year, from October 1-31, children ages 11 and younger are granted free admission when accompanied by an adult. 
** Multi-Day/Multi-Park Passes are also available. Check the website for details. 

About: The San Diego Zoo may be regarded as the most famous zoo in the world. You’ll find “100 acres of lush, naturalistic habitats and unique animal encounters” here. The Zoo is “home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals representing approximately 660 species and subspecies and a prominent botanical collection with more than 700,000 plants.” 

Special Experiences: A number of special experiences are available including Inside Look Tours, a Discovery Cart Tour, a 4D Theater, Skyfari Aerial Tram, and more. Additionally, some special attractions such as the Kangaroo Bus and Guided Bus Tour plan to return on June 15th. However, other attractions such as Animal Encounters and Play Areas remain unavailable. Check the website for details. 

feeding-a-giraffe-at-the-San-Diego-safari-park
Feeding a giraffe on the special Jeep Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Zoo Safari Park
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, CA 92027
(619) 231-1515

Hours: Hours can vary (staying open later in the summer) but generally are 9 am to 6 pm.
Admission: Adults (12+): $62
Children (3-11): $52
Children (2 and younger): Free
** Each year, from October 1-31, children ages 11 and younger are granted free admission when accompanied by an adult. 
** Multi-Day/Multi-Park Passes are also available. Check the website for details. 

About: San Diego Zoo Safari Park ((previously known as the Wild Animal Park) will have families feeling as if they’re out on Safari. The 1,800-acre Safari Park is “home to more than 3,600 animals representing over 300 species.” Many animals live in “herds of mixed species, in expansive savanna habitats.” 

Special Experiences: Families may opt to experience a special safari such as the Sun Up Cheetah Safari (watching a cheetah run at top speed before the Park opens), Roar and Snore Safaris (one-of-a-kind sleepover experiences), a Behind-the-Scenes Safari (a chance to explore parts of the Park normally not open to visitors), and more. However, some special attractions such as Animal Encounters and the Play Areas are temporarily unavailable. Check the website for the most up-to-date information. 

See Also: Roar and Snore Experience at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Golden headed Lion Tamarin at the Santa Ana Zoo
Golden headed Lion Tamarin at the Santa Ana Zoo, photo courtesy of the Santa Ana Zoo

Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park
1801 E. Chestnut Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 836-4000

Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 10 am to 5 pm
Admission: Adults (13+): $12
Seniors (60+): $9
Children (3-12): $9
Children (2 and younger): Free
(Every 3rd Sunday of the month admission is free for Santa Ana residents.  Proof of Santa Ana residency required.) 

About: The Santa Ana Zoo may be best known for its “50 Monkeys At All Times” rules. Mr. Prentice, the founder of the Zoo, made the stipulation that for the Zoo to exist, 50 monkeys must be on the grounds at all times. (Get the kids counting and see if you can spot them all on your visit.) There is a cafe on-site as well. 

Special Experiences: More than a Zoo, the Santa Ana Zoo offers lots of fun “extras” including a children’s farm, train ride, endangered species carrousel, and Ferris wheel. However, at this time, the Ferris wheel and all “direct animal-contact interactions” remain closed. 

feeding the giraffe at the Santa Barbara Zoo
feeding the giraffe at the Santa Barbara Zoo

Santa Barbara Zoo
500 Ninos Dr., Santa Barbara, CA 93103
(805) 962-5339

Hours: Monday – Thursday 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
Friday – Sunday 10:00 am to 3:30 pm
Admission: Adults (13+): $19.95
Children (2-12): $14.95
Children (2 and younger): Free

About: The Santa Barbara Zoo is a charming zoo that also has the feel of a big park, with ocean views! You’ll find 146 species of insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals. You’ll find on-site dining options as well as ample spots for a picnic lunch (benches as well as open green spaces). The Zoo’s size makes it entirely possible to visit all your favorite animals in one day. Advance tickets are required. 

Special Experiences: The Zoo Train (additional ticket required) takes you around the perimeter of the Zoo. And a highlight of a visit here is the opportunity to hand-feed a Masai giraffe (giraffe feeding also requires an additional ticket). For health and safety reasons, some of the Zoo’s indoor areas and “high-touch areas” (such as the Children’s Play Area) remain closed. Check the website for details. 

Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher who has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles zip code. You can read more from Wendy at her website WendyKennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).

MomsLA is your source for Things to do with Kids in Los Angeles.

Disclaimer: MomsLA has made every effort to confirm the information in this article; however, things can often change. Therefore, MomsLA makes no representations or warranties about the accuracy of the information published here. MomsLA strongly urges you to confirm any event details, like date, time, location, and admission, with the third party hosting the event. You assume the sole risk of relying on any of the information in our list. MomsLA is in no way responsible for any injuries or damages you sustain while attending any third party event posted on our website. Please read our Terms of Use which you have agreed to based on your continued use of this website. Some events have paid to be listed on MomsLA.

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