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Favorite California zoos

Ready for a walk on the wild side? Head to one of these great California zoos or aquariums.

Child at Zoo

Northern California

1. Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding

Turtle Bay Exploration Park lives up to its name with the variety of exhibitions, museum, gardens, bridge, children’s area and Café in this spacious park. Witness daily fish feedings, participate in summer butterfly exhibits and activities, and join in on the animal trainer talk for starters. Next move on to the museum for hands-on learning, featuring exhibitions that change seasonally. For the park’s youngest visitors, the Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp resembles a real forest camp, filled with play equipment, ecology exhibits and a trail. And, not to be missed are the 20 acres of gardens, and the famous 700-foot-long Sundial Bridge is suspended above the Sacramento River, open to foot traffic only.

840 Auditorium Dr., Redding, CA 96003. Hours: March 15–September: 9am-5pm; October–March 13, Closed Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday-Saturday 9am-4pm, Sunday 10am-4pm. Admission: Museum, Forest Camp and Gardens: Adults: $14; Child 4-12 & Seniors: $10.

2. Sacramento Zoo, Sacramento

The Sacramento Zoo is home to more than 500 animals from more than 140 different species, from snow leopards to red pandas, from eagles to reptiles. The facility also offers opportunities for kids to learn through classes and camps, and even boasts programs for seniors. Those who want to see the animals in action at night can bring a tent and sleeping bags to camp overnight at the Zoo. And, it is not uncommon to see groups of children celebrating a birthday with the Zoo’s birthday party programs. Be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes because this Zoo spans 14.5 acres of fun and education for the whole family.

3930 W. Land Park Dr., Sacramento, CA 95822. Hours: February-October, 9am-4pm daily; November-January, 10am-4pm, closed on special dates throughout the year; Admission: Weekdays: Adults $10.50; Seniors: $9.75; Children 3-12: $6.50; Children 0-2: Free; Weekends and Holidays: Adults: $11.00; Seniors: $10.25; Children 3-12: $7.00; Children 0-2: Free.

3. Safari West, Santa Rosa

400 acres of safari adventure awaits families in the Sonoma County area. The Safari West Wildlife Preserve is home to more than 400 African animals and birds, offering several ways to see these magnificent creatures. Safari adventure tours get you up close and personal with the wild animals; guided safari tours gives visitors insight into these amazing creatures; hiking trails are guided by staff; and overnight stays in safari tents, which include meals, give families the full safari experience. Animals in their natural habitat include giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, lemurs, antelopes, white rhinos, monkeys, macaws and more at this wildlife retreat. Remember to bring sunscreen, binoculars, bottled water, and plenty of space on your camera! But, call ahead; reservations are required.

3115 Porter Creek Rd., Santa Rosa, CA 95404. Hours: March 22–October 26 9am and/or 10am, 1pm and/or 2pm, and 4pm. daily; Admission: Adults: $68; Children 3-12: $30; infants 1-2 $10.

4. Swanton Berry Farm, Davenport

For a pick-your-own fruit experience for the entire family, pack a picnic and make a day of it at the Swanton Berry Farm’s Farm Stand location. The Farm Stand features u-pick strawberry fields, approximately 10 minutes away from Santa Cruz, during the month of May and June. These organically-grown fields get picked over fast, so call ahead for availability. For those who just want to indulge in fresh, organic fruit but do not want to pick their own, the farm stand is opened year-round offering fresh picked strawberries and more. While at the farm, take a self-guided tour of the field, check out the plants and animals on the farm, and visit the photo exhibit inside to learn about the history of farming along the coast.

25 Swanton Rd., Davenport, CA 95017. Hours: U-Pick strawberry season: beginning May Friday–Sunday 8am-7pm; Farm stand open 7 days per week year round. Admission: Free; strawberry u-pick price $2.50 per pound.

Southern California

1. Los Angeles Zoo, Los Angeles

Spread over 130 acres and established over 40 years ago, the Los Angeles Zoo is visited by over 1.5 million people each year who come to see the 100 birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles that reside there. The Education Division offers classes for interested people of all ages – from children’s programs for kids as young as two to courses and lectures for adults. Don’t miss the new Campo Gorilla Preserve, where you can see seven western lowland gorillas up close. The zoo is also home to botanical gardens.

5333 Zoo Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90027. Hours: Daily 10am– 5pm; Admission: Adults: $13; seniors ages 62 and up: $10; children ages 2-12: $8; children under 2: free.

2. San Diego Zoo, San Diego

The San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park near downtown. It is home to over 8,000 animals and is 100 acres in size. It is recommended that you plan on being there for at least three or four hours so that you can see everything. While the guided bus tour is a great option to become acquainted with the grounds, if you are able, make sure to walk around and experience the many exhibits, including the aviaries. The San Diego Zoo is great for walking with the city’s temperate climate and the zoo’s beautiful grounds. If you have young children, be sure to bring a stroller. The hills create a great walk for adults, but can tire little feet quickly.

2920 Zoo Dr., San Diego, CA 92112. Hours: Spring (January 1 – June 25): 9am– 6pm; Summer (June 25 – September 6): 9am– 9pm; Fall (September 7 – October 3): 9am– 6pm; Winter (October 4 – December 9): 9am– 5pm; Holiday (December 10 – December 31): vary – call for details; Admission: Adults 12 and up: $37; children ages 3 – 11: $27; children 2 and under: free.

3. San Diego wild Animal Park, Encinitas

Located just 30 miles north of downtown San Diego, the Wild Animal Park is an expansive 1800 acre wildlife sanctuary that houses over 3500 animals. There is something for everyone at the Wild Animal Park, including guided tours and safaris, education programs, and even sleepovers. There is an endless supply of exhibits that will allow you to get up close and personal with elephants, lions, and many other animals. Once again, San Diego’s nice weather will ensure you enjoy your outdoor experience. Several activities at the Park will ensure you some mild exercise, such as the 2.5 mile Kilimanjaro Safari Walk.

15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido, CA 92027. Hours: vary by season and holiday – see website for specific times and dates; Admission: 12 and up: $37; children ages 3 – 11: $27; children 2 and under: free.

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