I love zoos. Ever since I was a kid, zoos have been a regular part of my life. When I was little, I was fascinated by the animals. Now that I’m older, I appreciate the conservation efforts and educational opportunities that zoos provide. Sometimes, though, a large zoo can be daunting to visit, especially for families with small children- those little legs get tired fast, and a stroller isn’t always an easy thing to tote around.
Orange County doesn’t offer any large zoos, so travel to and from surrounding counties that have larger zoos (like the LA County Zoo and San Diego zoo) can be too much of a trip. One of our local zoos, the OC Zoo at Irvine Regional Park, is just the right size for the little kiddos (and adults that want a quick trip), and at $2 per person over the age of 2, is totally budget-friendly. There are even coupons available to lower the cost more.
I’ve taken my 5-year-old to this zoo (and our other local zoo) ever since he was a baby. By the time he was 18 months old, he had the barnyard/petting zoo portion – and goat-brushing-and-feeding it offers – down pat. Now that he’s 5, he’s totally fascinated by the bears and mountain lions, and one of his favorite times during the day at the zoo is feeding time for those animals. We went last weekend just to see the new baby porcupine (on display on certain days at specific times right now) and wound up staying for almost 2 ½ hours to listen to the informative talks given by some of the zookeepers, and also to see some of the animals that were out and about with keepers greeting the public. I heard a lot of happy exclamations from the children that had an opportunity to pet a hedgehog and a snake.
There are a wide variety of animals at the OC Zoo; most are indigenous to the Southwestern United States and some are found here in Orange County. Animals include black bears, mountain lions, eagles (we saw golden and bald eagles), an ocelot, red-tailed hawk, a variety of owls, numerous reptiles, porcupines, coyotes, an incredibly high-energy weasel, and many more. Once your zoo visit is complete (and it’s easy to complete in about an hour) you can head out and enjoy the rest of the park as well, like the many playgrounds, the paddleboats, and the Irvine Park Railroad. You can also take a hike into some of the Orange County backcountry and still return in time for dinner. It’s a great way to spend these last few weeks of summer with family before the start of school and give your kids some education about the nature all around them.
OC Zoo Admission Fee: $2 per person ages 3 years and up; ages 2 and under are free.
Entry Fee for Irvine Regional Park: $3 per vehicle weekdays /$5 per vehicle weekends (Major Holidays: $7 to $10 per entry as posted)
Orange County Zoo
1 Irvine Park Road
Orange, CA 92869 (714) 973-6847
Open Daily: weekdays 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.; weekends 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1