You may be able to relate to our family being well versed on the animal of the moment. Very well versed, knowing each and every detail there ever was to know. Each breed. Each nuance. And thanks to YouTube channels, like the ones on hamsters, your child can perseverate on an animal all day long.
So, why not take your animal lover to one of these awesome animal destinations? Please check out The 12 Most Awesome Animal Stops in Southern California!
1. The Oasis Camel Dairy is inland of San Diego, closer to Julian (land of amazing apple pie!). This is a peaceful sanctuary of camels (who act more like friendly, pet dogs) and you’ll learn all about these magnificent beasts, witness a camel milking, and ride one if you’d like. There are an array of other animals to say hello to as well. Wear a hat and comfy tennis shoes so you can walk around in the dirt (and water and snacks for everyone). You have to go during their monthly farm tours, so check their schedule online. www.cameldairy.com.
Photo Copyright Ostrichland U.S.A.
Ostrich, Emu and Mini Horses!
2. Ostrichland U.S.A is just outside of Solvang, California. It’s a little stop with acres of Ostrich and Emus. The cool thing here is feeding the birds from bowls. They’re not shy and are amazingly strong, so hold on tight. I’ve been twice and both times they had a section of baby emus that were adorable. It’s a pretty quick stop, with a killer gift shop where you can purchase ostrich memorabilia and huge ostrich eggs. Enormous omelette anyone? Find out more info at their website here: www.ostrichlandusa.com.
3. While you’re there, plan to stop by Quicksilver Ranch to view mini horses! It’s a few miles down the road and totally worth it. Really, they’re miniature horses. My kids thought it was unbelievable that horses could be so tiny. *Mom Warning: not all miniature horse parts are tiny. Apparently, their horse equipment to make more miniature horses is the same size as standard horses. Visit their website at www.qsminis.com.
4. The Gentle Barn, with over 160 farm animals, is a lovely place 45 minutes North of Los Angeles. They’re open from 10am to 2pm on Sundays, however they have many programs for at-risk youth, special needs children, and educational/school opportunities. If you want to see some horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, llamas, and more, this is your one-stop destination. Visit their website at www.gentlebarn.org. Some celebrities even have birthday parties there, so you may get some stargazing while you’re there too!
5. Still didn’t get enough farm animals? Hop over to the Farm Sanctuary, in Acton, California. Again, open for 1 hour tours on Sundays. Check their website for availability and times Farm Sanctuary.
Photo Copyright Aquarium of the Pacific
6. If you are a sea creature lover, you’ve come to the right state. The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach is epic-ly awesome. There you can touch sharks, feed Lorikeets (tons of them in their own forest), get up close to jelly fish, and so much more. It’s the coolest aquarium I’ve ever been too and my kids absolutely love it. It’s right by the Pacific Ocean, so there are tons of boats rides and dining options in walking distance. This is definitely an all day trip. Their website is www.aquariumofthepacific.org.
7. Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is a tiny aquarium underneath the Santa Monica pier and it’s awesome! You’ll probably spend only a half hour there, but there’s much to do on the pier and they have the best photo opportunities against the murals. Get their hours here at www.healthebay.org/. Plan on taking a ride on the famous Carousal while you’re there.
8 .Southern California is certainly home to some amazing zoos, with The San Diego Zoo being the most famous. If you’re traveling there to see the Pandas, make sure you hit that exhibit first thing in the am as the line gets super long. We weren’t about to wait over an hour with a kiddo with autism and a toddler, so we passed on the legendary Pandas, but they have endless amounts of fabulous exhibits, so any day there is a pleasure. Both the Los Angeles Zoo, and the Santa Barbara Zoo, are equally fantastic, but below I’ll list the zoos I think are really special and worth the extra stops.
9. Just outside of Palm Spring is The Living Desert Zoo. First off, my toddler went nuts over their enormous, miniature train display. Seriously, this was like toddler crack, and everyone of all ages seemed to be enjoying it just as much, with an interactive station you can control the trains with a push of a button. ‘Sheldon’ from The Big Bang Theory would go bananas over this train set up that is giving conductor hats away on National Train Day. And they have a dinosaur display like Jurassic Park. Okay, so it’s a zoo, you’re thinking, what about the animals? It gets even awesome-er. You can feed the giraffes for $5.! I always think it’s special when people can really get to touch an animal and make that connection. Talk about amazing picture opportunities. Who doesn’t want a giraffe licking them as their Facebook Profile Pic? They also have camel rides, overnight camping, and it has this desert oasis, safari feel to it. Take note, it’s HOT there, so plan accordingly. Water, hats, and sunscreen are a must. Their website is www.livingdesertzoo.org.
(**$$$ Tip – we received a half price discount upon admission because we’re LA Zoo members. When visiting any zoo in the United States, check to see if they’re in partnership with your local zoo membership and have more money to spend at the souvenir shop!)
10. Safari Park (San Diego Zoo Safari Park), which used to be the Wild Animal Park and not to be confused with the San Diego Zoo. This is inland, closer to Escondido, California. I grew up going to this park, so I’m particularly fond of the magical oasis (yes, I said magical). Aptly named, you may walk through the park or take one of the many adventures scheduled on carts or trains, witnessing the rhinos, giraffes, zebra, cheetahs, and so many more animals in their natural habitat. Take the flightline (kind of like zip-lining), a hot air balloon tour, or play at the playground. Wear comfy shoes, you’re gonna get a workout, or they have accommodations for those with disabilities. Check out all their fabulous info at San Diego Zoo Safari Park Website here.
11. Moorpark Teaching Zoo is off the beaten path and is nestled into the Moorpark College Campus. It’s a zoo where students are learning to become zoo keepers, so it’s small and personal. They do daily shows and there are always tons of students on hand to answer questions and show off the animals. So if you’re heading to Ventura or to the Outlet Malls in Oxnard on the weekend, you’ll want to take a detour off the beaten path and check this out. Moorpark Zoo Info Here.
12. For the adults on the spectrum that can’t get enough of big cats, specifically Bengal and Siberian tigers, black and spotted leopards, and African lions, then Shambala is the destination for you. Again, you have to be over 18 to visit, but it’s a memorable experience with safari tours, sunset safaris, and even overnight tent stays. Find out all about this amazing cat sanctuary here at www.shambala.org.