California Zoos, Aquariums, Watchable Wildlife Areas

Beach Photos: Zoo photos

California Theme Parks include world class aquariums and zoos that stretch from Eureka's giant Sequoia forests to the San Diego's bay with SeaWorld and San Diego Zoo. These attractions make great California kids vacations but are also educational and interesting for the entire family. Like so many endeavors, it's never too early to get kids involved in the environment with exposure through these well-designed theme parks that serve both as entertainment and education.

Information below is subject to change. Always call before planning a visit. 

Applegate Park Zoo
26th & R Streets
Merced, CA 96340

Applegate Park was one of the first parks to be constructed in the City of Merced, dating back to 1937..   Landscaped with twenty-three acres in the heart of the City, its zoo offers Kiddieland, with a  variety of amusements for children, including a train that runs through the park.  The park is also home to the Merced Open Air Theater which hosts celebrations of music and art. 

The zoo is open daily from March to October.  Hours  vary during other times of the year.  There is a nominal admission fee.  Kiddieland is open weekends  between March and October.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps IO, UCSD
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA  92093-0207
Tel: (858) 534-4086 Fax: (858) 534-7114

Set against a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps is home to more than 350 species of marine life found in waters from the cold Pacific Northwest to the warm tropical reefs of the South Pacific. Forty-six tanks range in size from a 70,000-gallon re-created kelp forest to small nursery tanks. The aquarium also features a man-made tide pool that stimulates an awareness in visitors of the fragility of San Diego's intertidal environments. The Birch Aquarium provides ocean science education, interprets research conducted at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and promotes ocean conservation. This coastal facility is also home to the country's largest oceanographic museum. Hands-on exhibits educate visitors about the ocean, earth sciences, and historical and current oceanographic research. Other interesting exhibits include a simulated submersible ride, and up-to-the-minute earthquake data center, and an "Ocean Supermarket," where visitors can scan grocery items to learn what ingredients come from the sea. Classes and programs for all ages provide visitors opportunities for more in-depth interaction with marine life at the aquarium and in the wild. The Birch Aquarium also hosts annual events that educate the public on various marine animals, such as gray whales and sharks.

Chaffee Zoological Gardens of Fresno
894 West Belmont Ave
Fresno, CA  93728-2891
Tel: (559) 498-4692 Fax: (559) 264-9226

Chaffee Zoological Gardens is home to the world's first computerized Reptile House. Environment chambers inside our Reptile House control temperature, humidity, and light cycles to create an environment that is as close to each species' natural habitat as possible.

 Since the building opened in 1979, the zoo has had considerable success in both maintaining and breeding reptiles and amphibians in captivity. Reproductive research is being conducted on several endangered species in an effort to enhance captive propagation. The first captive reproduction of Rattleless Rattlesnakes occurred here in 1980, and the Madagascar Ground Boas were first born here in 1985.

 The newest addition to the zoo is the South American Tropical Rain Forest Exhibit. The exhibit is a unique structure which covers 20,000 sq. ft. and is completely enclosed by a fine mesh screen suspended from towering poles which soar create a free flowing and natural environment. The rain forest contains plants and animal species found primarily in South American regions. There is a breathtaking array of flowering plants as well as vibrantly colored birds that are flying freely for the visitor to observe and enjoy. The exhibit is not only a beautiful addition to the zoo but is a source of education and information on the destruction of the world's rain forests and how the conservation of these very unique ecosystems is important to man and his future.

Charles Paddock Zoo
9305 Pismo Avenue
Atascadero, CA  93422
Tel: (805) 461-7603 Fax: (805) 461-7625

Discover over 100 animals in 5 park-like acres. Observe them up close and personal in  naturalistic habitats.  Picnic area and refreshments are available. A nominal fee is charged for admission.

The Zoo belongs to the City of Atascadero, and is part of the Community Services Department. Virtually all of the Zoo's funding goes into basic care and feeding of the animals which include:    Bengal Tiger, Red-Ruffed Lemur,  Sumatran Tiger, Asiatic Black Bear,  White-Fronted Marmoset, Titi Monkey, Two-Toed Sloth Blue, Gold Macaw, Salmon-Crested Cockatoo, Scarlet Macaw, Capybara Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine, Serval Cat. African Grey Parrot, Caribbean Flamingo, Greater Currassow, Masai Ostrich, American Alligator and much more. 

Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education
1651 Coyote Point Drive
San Mateo, CA  94401-1097
Tel: (650)342-7755 Fax: (650) 342-7853


Exotic Breeding Feline Compound
Rosamond, California 

Home to over 50 of the world's most endangered felines, EFBC/FCC is recognized by state and federal agencies as a zoo, wildlife museum, and licensed research facility. Funds received are used for the care and support of the compound's animals and long-term goals, which include a research clinic facility, a natural history museum, and public education programs. The older cages are slowly being replaced by large natural habitat enclosures that rival those found at the best zoos.

Dedicated to the preservation of endangered cats, the zoo acts as a modern-day ark in the face of human overpopulation and mass extinction of animal species. Cooperative breeding projects with other zoos  for purebred animals that are registered within the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for each cat species. Cubs born at the FCC are often sent to other zoos for their breeding programs. Open to the public Thursday to Tuesday, 10 am-4 pm
(closed Wednesdays and Christmas day). Admission is free, with donations gratefully accepted. However, photographic privileges are reserved for members only. Beginning in 2001, there will be an admission charge; at that time, everyone can use cameras, and members will get in free. Unlike a zoo, the FCC has no moats between you and the animals.
Visitors can get as close as 5 feet away from these beautiful (but dangerous) cats. Some parts of the compound are not open to the public. Wear comfortable walking shoes for your visit. Summer temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, it sometimes snows. The cats are more active in cooler weather, and at Twilight Tours.

From Los Angeles   -Take the 5 or 405 north to where the 14 (Antelope Valley Freeway) begins, just south of the Valencia area. Take the 14 north about 60 miles to Rosamond (which is about 10 miles north of Lancaster). There is only 1 Rosamond exit, which is also the exit for Edwards Air Force Base. Exit Rosamond Blvd. and go west (left turn, from LA). Go 3.5 miles to Mojave-Tropico Road; there is a light green EFBC sign on the corner. Turn right, go about 1 mile to Rhyolite, and turn left. EFBC's driveway begins where Rhyolite ends. 

 Happy Hollow Park & Zoo
1300 Senter Road
San Jose, CA  95112

Located in Kelley Park, Happy Hollow Park & Zoo has been providing affordable family entertainment, education and fun since 1961. The Park is a peaceful, creative and safe place for children of all ages, with the main focus on "little ones" between the ages of 2-10. There are creative play areas, children's rides, hand puppet and marionette shows, special events, and birthday areas.

 The Zoo is an accredited institution that participates in conservation and propagation of rare and endangered species while at the same time offering children the opportunity to see wondrous animals such as the ruffed lemur or the pygmy hippopotamus. It also gives hands on experience with many animals and the education that is needed to secure the future of endangered species. The petting zoo features llamas, goats, guinea pigs and miniature horses. 

Lindsay Wildlife Museum
1931 First Avenue
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

This wildlife rehabilitation and educational center  focuses on native California wildlife and natural history. The museum exhibits live, non-releasable native wildlife in Walnut Creek, California. Founded in 1955, the museum operates the oldest and one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation hospitals in the United States, treating more than 6,000 injured and orphaned wild animals each year. 

Lindsay Wildlife Museum fosters a living connection between people and wildlife in order to create a deeper commitment to the welfare of the natural world.  Call for hours and admission prices. 

The Living Desert
47-900 Portola Avenue
Palm Desert, CA  92260
Tel: 760-346-5694

Discover The Living Desert's 1,200 acres of blooming, scampering, flying, howling fun.  Native & exotic animals from the world's deserts, botanical gardens, Wildlife Wonders animal shows and   Hands-on Discovery Room in one of the most successful zoological parks in the country.

Within its 1,200 acres you will discover nearly 400 fascinating desert animals representing over 150 species including coyotes, bighorn sheep, oryx, zebras, cheetahs and meerkats. There are lush botanical gardens representing 10 different desert ecosystems and a journey to "Eagle Canyon," with its streams, mountain lions, bobcats, Mexican wolves and golden eagles is a definite "must see." Wilderness hiking trails, Native American exhibits and special events  attract over 275,000 visitors annually, making The Living Desert one of the Coachella Valley's top tourist destinations. 

Location:  Coachella Valley, just minutes from Palm Springs and Indio. From Hwy. 111 in Palm Desert, turn south on Portola Ave., go 1 1/2 miles, follow signs to main entrance. 

Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific
Shoreline Drive at 100 Aquarium Way 
Long Beach, CA  90802
Tel: (562) 590-3100 

The recently built aquarium features nearly 50 living exhibits requiring more than a million gallons of  Pacific seawater.  It is the only aquarium in the world to focus on the Pacific Ocean.  Visitors can enjoy 550 species, 17 living habitats and 30 exhibits which take them on a journey throughout the Pacific Ocean's three regions: Southern California/Baja, the Tropical Pacific and Northern Pacific.

Los Angeles Zoo
5333 Zoo Dr
Los Angeles, CA  90027
Tel: (323) 644-6400 Fax: (323) 662-9786
E-Mail: [email protected]
The Los Angeles Zoo is located in the heart of the nation's second-largest city. Each year 1.3 million visitors pass through the gates to view a collection of 1,200 animals from around the world.

 When the Los Angeles Zoo opened in November 1966, 80,000 Angelenos attended the grand opening. Several of the animals that were in the Zoo on opening day are with us still: elephant Gita, alligator Methuselah, Indian rhino Herman. The L.A. Zoo was the first major zoo in the United States to bar visitors from feeding the animals.

 Today the Zoo is optimistic about new exhibits that will provide better living conditions for the varied and magnificent animals that live here, and provide a more interesting experience for visitors. The Zoo continues to participate in conservation programs to preserve native habitats and ensure that animals can continue to live in the wild. All over the Zoo there is a spirit of optimism about the future as we look ahead to being one of the best zoos in the nation, and a zoo that the people of Los Angeles can truly be proud of.

Micke Grove Zoo
11793 N Micke Grove Road
Lodi, CA  95240-9499
Tel: 209-953-8840 

Micke Grove Zoo is a five-acre AZA accredited Zoo with mammals, birds, reptiles, and invertebrates. Micke Grove Park also features a Japanese Garden, San Joaquin County Historical Museum, Rides, and picnic areas in a beautiful oak grove setting.

Location: Micke Grove Zoo is located between Stockton and Lodi, California, off I-5 or Highway 99 @ 11793 N. Micke Grove Road Lodi, CA 95240

Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA  93940
Tel: (831) 648-4800 Fax: (831) 648-4810
Every day, our actions affect the marine world. And changes there can have profound effects on our daily lives.

 The aquarium tells the stories of life in the bay in order to stimulate a sense of stewardship towards the bay and the oceans beyond. These are things we care deeply about. We encourage you to get involved in marine conservation issues. It's up to each of us to work to ensure that tuna continue their wondrous journeys, that the oceans remain healthy and full of life. The future of our planet--our future--depends on it.

 Our mission is to stimulate interest, increase knowledge and promote stewardship of Monterey Bay and the world's ocean environment. In doing so, we adhere to principles of environmental responsibility in our own operations, and have adopted policies to put these principles into practice. We endeavor to maintain high standards that can serve as a model for other businesses.

Oakland Zoo 
9777 Golf Links Road
Oakland, CA 94605
The Oakland Zoo is home to over 375 animals from 125 different species living in lush, naturalistic settings. The collection is organized in biomes, geographic regions that represent the ecosystem of that area. From Africa, to Asia, to Australia, to  future California 1820 Region.

For a fun-filled view of the Zoo, take a ride on the new "C.P. Huntington" miniature train, a two-thirds size replica of the Civil War-era locomotive. Then soar high over the hills on the Sky Ride to view American bison and tule elk grazing below on the "North American Range". This 15 minute chair lift ride also offers a panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay. Fun continues with a ride on the old-fashioned carousel and other children's rides in The Rides Area.  Call for hours and admission prices. 

 Sacramento Zoo
3930 West Land Park Drive
Sacramento, CA  95822-1123
Information: 916-264-5888
Two new female Grevy's zebras,  Red Panda Forest with Maggie, Ashia and Huan-Huan, three Himalayan monal pheasants, a new baby bongo, Mi-Shan, the one-year-old female snow leopard and beautiful flamingos are but a few of the colorful animals and birds you will see.


Safari West Wildlife Preserve
3115 Porter Creek Road
Santa Rosa CA 95404

Safari West Wildlife Preserve is nestled on 400 acres in the heart of California's wine country in Santa Rosa. Safari West is home for over 400 exotic mammals and offers lodging in unique cabins shipped from Africa and re-assembled on the property. 

San Diego Wild Animal Park
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road
San Diego Zoo

Escondido, CA  92027-7017
Tel: (760) 747-8702 Fax: (760) 746-7081
Located 32 miles northeast of the Zoo, the Wild Animal Park is 20 times larger and an entirely different experience! This 1,800-acre wildlife preserve was established in 1969 under the directorship of Dr. Charles Schroeder. It opened to the public in 1972, and allows visitors to view herds of exotic animals s they might occur in their native homelands of Africa or Asia. The Wgasa Bush Line, a silent electronic monorail, skirts the edge of the Savannah and offers five miles of unobstructed views of elephants, antelope, rhinos, and giraffes. Soon to open is Heart of Africa which will offer guests the opportunity to take a walking safari for an even closer view.

San Diego Zoo
PO Box 120551
San Diego, CA  92112-0551
Tel: (619) 231-1515 Fax: (619) 231-0249
The 100-acre Zoo was founded in 1916, by a colorful and extremely enterprising local physician, Dr. Harry Wegeforth. He gathered a collection of 50 animals from various local menageries and hired a single keeper named Army, "who had one arm but it was all he needed." Today the Zoo cares for 3,800 animals (800 different species) and employs 115 individuals to care for them. The total staff numbers more than 1,000.

 The Zoo has opened several new natural habitats in recent years: Tiger River, Sun Bear Forest, Scripps Aviary, Gorilla Tropics, Pygmy Chimpanzees, Raptors, Australasian Birds, Hippo Beach, and Polar Bear Plunge. And of course you'll want to see the two important visitors that now reside at the Panda Research Station.

San Francisco Zoological Gardens
1 Zoo Road
San Francisco, CA  94132
Tel:  415-753-7080  Tel: 415-753-7161

The major zoological park in Northern California and one of the Bay Area's most popular cultural and recreational attractions, the San Francisco Zoo is home to over 250 species of exotic and domestic mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.

 The focus of the San Francisco Zoo is wildlife conservation. Through our naturalistic exhibits, field conservation projects, and educational programs, we are building a center for conservation and education.   Come visit us anytime, 365 days a year. 

Santa Ana Zoo
1801 E. Chestnut Avenue
Santa Ana, CA  92701
Tel: 714-836-4000

Today the Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park is a nationally accredited public zoological garden occupying a unique urban site in the heart of Orange County. Situated on approximately 20 acres, it hosts more than 270,000 people annually.

 Over the years the zoo's original acreage increased to its present size. The zoo has developed a 10-phase, 10-year master plan that will transform the zoo into an intimate urban oasis for animals and people. It will feature South American plants and wildlife; the only zoo in the country to focus exclusively on this region.

 The Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park is committed to providing recreation and education while bringing the message of conservation to the zoo's many visitors. It is a place to have fun, a place to learn, and a place that can be enjoyed by people of all ages every day of the year.

Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens
500 Ninos Drive
Santa Barbara, CA  93103-3798
Tel: 805-962-5339 

The beginning was modest with only a few animals - a llama, two sheep, a goat, a turkey and a pair of spider monkeys - but the potential was there in an incredibly beautiful location. The Zoo grew, always emphasizing quality rather than quantity, and soon became one of the most popular attractions in the City of Santa Barbara. Building the Zoo was a community effort. Masses of volunteers dedicated their time while local businesses contributed materials and supplies for everything from pathways to paperwork. Many of the original volunteers and contributors are still very much involved with the Zoo today.

 Also during the decade of the 70's, landscaping material, much of it donated, continued to be added to the park and zoo areas. Beautiful gardens were emerging. The Zoo took on a tropical atmosphere, highlighting some magnificent specimen plantings, especially palm trees. The entire lower end of the park had been marshy and only one lone eucalyptus tree grew there when the Zoo was opened. Now visitors wind their way through coral trees, jacarandas, silk trees, bananas and giant bird of paradise. Plantings in and around exhibits compliment the animals.

SeaWorld San Diego
500 Sea World Drive
San Diego, CA  92109-7904
Tel: (619) 222-6363

SeaWorld® San Diego ranks in the top 10 theme parks in California. SeaWorld not only features thrill rides and amusements, it also offers many family fun shows with sea mammals, oceanic creatures and lots of things for kids to enjoy in a kid-friendly, vacation destination theme park in San Diego, California. SeaWorld sits next to Mission Bay with many attractions, shops and restaurants overlooking Mission Bay. The setting is spectacular for this family fun attraction.


Sequoia Park Zoo
531 K Street
Eureka, CA  95501-1165
Tel: 707-441-4203

In operation since 1907, The Sequoia Park Zoo has long been considered one of the most important cultural facilities in the area. The Zoo is committed to providing a high quality facility that offers not only the care of a variety of animals, but also an opportunity for visitors to experience a greater appreciation of the value and diversity of our planet's life forms.

 The Zoo serves as a valuable resource for more than ten counties located in the Shasta Cascade and North Coast Regions of California. Although the Zoo is small in relation to most facilities of this nature, it is the only municipal zoological gardens on the Pacific Coast between San Francisco and Portland. As such, it serves a wide and diverse population. Sequoia Park Zoo provides a facility that would otherwise not be available to more than a half million people. The Zoo's goals include conservation, education and recreation. 


Six Flags Marine World
2001 Marine World Parkway
Vallejo, CA  94589
Tel: 707-644-4000

An amusement park with thrill rides, it is billed as the only theme park with  a marine section and a zoo, complete with bengal tigers.

Steinhart Aquarium
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA  94118-4599
Tel: 415-750-7247

Imagine 600 different kinds of fish from the size of a child's pinkie to as large as five feet, from as close as our own San Francisco Bay to as far away as the Amazon. Nowhere else can you see such diversity than at the California Academy of Sciences' Steinhart Aquarium. You may see garden eels peep up out of their sand hideouts, a freshwater polka-dotted stingray soar through the water, or a pack of hungry piranhas circle in wait of mealtime. And lets not forget what else sets the Steinhart Aquarium apart — lizards scurrying on rocks, snakes coiling around branches, and alligators lounging in the swamp.

 California Zoos, Aquariums, Watchable Wildlife Areas
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Sequoia Park Zoo

Moonridge Zoo Big Bear

SeaWorld    Tickets

Safari West Santa Rosa

Monterey Bay Aquarium


Six Flags Vallejo  Tickets

San Diego Zoo Tickets

 Long Bch Aquarium

Turtle Bay Redding

Coyote Point San Mateo


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