While we may not have a big zoo like Los Angeles or the Wild Animal Kingdom in San Diego, visitors to Orange County are able to choose from two less crowded options.
Orange County Zoo
1 Irvine Park Road
Orange, CA 92869
Open M-F 10:00 am to 3:30 pm; Saturday & Sunday 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
Admission is $2 per person 3 years and older, but the zoo is located within Irvine Regional Park, so you will need to pay an entry fee to the park which is $3.00 per vehicle weekdays and $5.00 per vehicle weekends (major holidays are $7.00 to $10.00 per entry as posted).
The zoo’s focus is on animals and plants native to the southwestern United States, and exhibits include include black bears, mountain lions, bald eagles, island foxes, ocelots, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, porcupines, coyotes, turkey vultures, and coati. There is also a barnyard with goats, cheviot sheep, jacob sheep, pot-bellied pigs, doves and pheasants. A new feature is an audio tour that you can take by dialing (714) 249-4086 on your cell phone. You can enter the exhibit number and hear all about the animals, including their names, what they eat, and how they came to the zoo.
The Orange County Zoo is located within Irvine Regional Park, which is 477 acres of protected wilderness, making it a great place for families to visit the zoo, take a hike, and/or have a picnic afterwards. The park also offers pony rides, and has a fun train ride that kids love!
Santa Ana Zoo
1801 East Chestnut Avenue
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Open M-F 10 am to 4 pm; Saturday & Sunday 10 am to 5 pm
The admission fee is $8 for adults, $5 for children 3-12 years old and for Seniors 60+, and free for children under 3 years. The Zoofari Express Train Ride is $3 per person, and runs from 11 am – 2 pm daily. The Conservation Carousel also costs $3 per person, and runs from 11 am – 2 pm daily.
The Santa Ana Zoo has a strict rule put in place by Joseph Prentice, the founder of both the zoo and of Prentice Park (the park in which the zoo is located) – 50 monkeys at all times! And 50 monkeys you will see, as well as endangered species, an aviary filled with birds ranging from hawks to parrots to a bald eagle, a rainforest, and an electric train. The zoo also houses snakes, frogs, and even a couple tarantulas!
The zoo offers educational programs for teachers, parents, grandparents and students of all ages.
Photo Credit: digitizedchaos on Flickr