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20 Must-Visit Zoos and Petting Zoos in SoCal! 🦁

Best Zoos and Petting Zoos in and Near Los Angeles!

(Updated for 2024) Are you ready for a wild adventure? Pack your bags and get ready to explore the best zoos and petting zoos in Southern California! These animal attractions are perfect for families with kids and offer a chance to get up close and personal with a wide variety of creatures. Imagine the excitement on your child's face as they feed a friendly goat or touch the soft fur of a rabbit.

These zoos and petting zoos not only provide a chance for kids to learn about and interact with animals, but also offer a chance for families to bond and create lasting memories. From farm animals to wild animals, there's something for everyone at these amazing zoos and petting zoos. Don't let your kids grow up without visiting these must-see attractions. So come on and let's embark on this exciting journey together!

🦒 Find a Zoo Near Me 🐼

Zoo-tastic: 🦁 14 Must-Visit Animal Attractions in California!

Here is a list of the best Zoos and Petting Zoos to visit with your kids before they grow up! :

5333 Zoo Drive

Los Angeles, CA 90027

​(323) 644-4200

The 133-acre Los Angeles Zoo is home to more than 1,100 animals, including 29 endangered species. Get close-up looks at spectacular Sumatran tigers, Elephants of Asia, Giraffes, and African Lions. Learn more about some of the L.A. Zoo’s animal residents, from the amazing animal keepers to different shows and activities at the Zoo. As you stroll the zoo grounds, also take some time out to appreciate the botanical bounty around you. And, if you have little kids, visit the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo to get up close with goats and sheep in the Muriel’s Ranch.

1801 East Chestnut Ave.

Santa Ana, CA 92701

​(714) 836-4000

The Santa Ana Zoo is a small zoo that has wonderful primates and macaws, a rainforest exhibit called "Colors of the Amazon" that highlights the wonderful colors of the animals that live in the Amazon, a huge porcupine' and a walk-through aviary. The Crean Family Farm provides a barnyard adventure with goats, sheep, and chickens that can be fed and petted. Zoofari Express rides are also available on the weekends.

1 Irvine Park Road

Orange, CA 92869

(714) 973-6847

The Orange County Zoo is a small, friendly zoo in the middle of Irvine Park. The zoo focuses on animals and plants from the southwestern United States. Animals on exhibit include black bears, mountain lions, bald eagles, island foxes, ocelots, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, porcupines, coyotes, turkey vultures, coati and more. The zoo also features a barnyard with domestic goats, Jacob sheep, pot-bellied pigs, doves, and pheasants.

2920 Zoo Dr.

San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 231-1515

This 100-acre Zoo is home to more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals representing more than 650 species and subspecies and a prominent botanical collection with more than 700,000 exotic plants. Exhibits range from an African rainforest featuring gorillas to the Arctic taiga and tundra. The San Diego Zoo is a pioneer in the concept of open-air, cageless exhibits that re-create natural animal habitats. The Zoo offers a guided tour bus that traverses 75% of the park. There is also an overhead gondola lift called the Skyfari, providing an aerial view of the zoo.

500 Ninos Dr.

Santa Barbara, CA 93103

(805) 962-5339

Santa Barbara Zoo is one of the most beautiful and friendly zoos in Southern California. It is a small zoo where you get to see all the animals in one day. There is also a small carousel and a train ride. You can have a private tour group (Behind-the-Scenes Tour) as you see animal exhibits in a way the general public never sees. (extra charge for the tour with reservation).

Zoo-tastic: 🦁 14 Must-Visit Animal Attractions in California!


15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd.

Escondido, CA 92027

(619) 231-1515

The Safari Park is an expansive wildlife sanctuary that is home to more than 3,000 animals representing more than 300 species. Its renowned botanical collection represents 3,500 species and 1.75 million specimens. Entertainment and activities include Frequent Flyer show, Robert the Zebra, Cheetah Run, Animal Tales, Animal Presentations, Kids Activity Station, Keeper Talks, Animal Movement Moments, and more. You can also add different Safari Experiences to your day (extra charge for each safari). See our blog for more information about this Zoo.

47900 Portola Ave.

Palm Desert, CA 92260


Explore the 1200 Acre zoo on hiking trails and extensive tram lines that cross ecosystems from Africa, the Americas and the Australian Outback. Watch for the park’s 450 animals as you learn how they adapt to life in earth’s most arid places, and enjoy live shows, animal feedings and family-friendly activities aimed at education and conservation. Observe more than 1,400 species and desert plants that grow in California’s Mojave and Sonoran Deserts, as well as other deserts around the world.

15825 Sierra Highway,

Santa Clarita, CA 91390

(661) 252-2440

A visit to The Gentle Barn provides children with a great opportunity to learn about farm animals and their unique features and personalities. Here, you can hug the cows, give the pig's tummy rubs, cuddle the turkeys, feed horses, meet llamas and emu, and enjoy a beautiful day at the Gentle Barn!

7075 Campus Rd.,

Moorpark, CA 93021 (805) 378-1441

This zoo is an educational zoo that prepares students for a variety of positions in public and private animal parks, zoos, and oceanariums for careers in animal handling and training. The zoo is only open to the public on Saturday & Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:30 pm. There are different educational programs that feature a variety of animals. Here, you can learn how students feed, train, and safely care for different animals.

18818 Brookhurst St.

Fountain Valley, CA 92708 (714) 500-0591

The Reptile Zoo provides a unique educational entertainment facility that houses over 100 exotic species of reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids from around the world. Every animal has their own story. Some are rescues, many were born at The Reptile Zoo, and others are part of private collections, but the best part of the zoo has to be your opportunity to learn about these rare animals firsthand with interactive displays and presentations. If you're brave, you can even hold one!

There are also once-in-a-lifetime private experiences available with the reptiles. You can have photo and feeding opportunities with one of the signature GIANT creatures at this zoo.

8436 Keokuk Ave.

Winnetka, CA 91306


This place is basically a real-life petting zoo wonderland, filled with rescued animal buddies like goats, chatty parrots, laid-back tortoises, and a whole bunch more. The cool twist here is that they only do advance reservations, which means you get the whole farm to yourselves – perfect for a private animal rendezvous with your family or crew. Limor, the farm's boss lady, is a total animal whisperer, and she'll charm you with her knowledge and animal magnetism. Just ring 'em up or hit 'em up on Facebook to book your spot.

600 Rea Drive

Montebello, CA 90640

(213) 718-5442

The Montebello Barnyard Zoo is a quintessential petting zoo experience, boasting a delightful array of animal stars, including goats, ponies, pigs, tortoises, and even a llama – they've got it all! While they offer the classic animal feed pellets for interactive fun, be sure to follow the signs and toss them into the pens rather than feeding the animals directly, especially with the enthusiastic goats around.

Located within a charming park, the zoo offers not only a memorable animal encounter but also additional attractions like cool playgrounds and a refreshing splash pad, making it a worthwhile destination for the whole family. Operated with a cozy mom 'n' pop vibe, you can explore it in under an hour, but if your little ones are feeling adventurous, they can enjoy pony rides.

30116 Bouquet Canyon Rd.

Santa Clarita, CA 91390

Gilchrist Farms in Santa Clarita is an absolute treasure trove of family-friendly fun. From exciting pony rides to charming wagon rides, a delightful farm train, goat milking adventures, and even archery, there's no shortage of entertainment to be found here. However, one of the farm's biggest crowd-pleasers is undoubtedly the farm visit experience.

Here, you and your little adventurers can forge connections with a delightful menagerie of animals, from quacking ducks, clucking chickens, and fluffy sheep to cheerful pigs, adorable bunnies, and an abundance of friendly goats. These enchanting farm visits are on offer every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year, and while reservations are available, they're not mandatory, ensuring you have the flexibility to enjoy a spontaneous day of farmyard fun with your family.

26401 Crenshaw Blvd.

Rolling Hills Estates, CA 90274

The Peter Weber Equestrian Center offers a delightful array of equestrian adventures for riders of all levels. Whether you're seeking a leisurely trail ride through scenic landscapes or looking to celebrate a special occasion like a birthday, this center has you covered. For those looking to add an extra dose of fun to their celebrations, the Equestrian Center even offers the option of hosting petting zoo birthday parties, available by appointment. So saddle up and get ready for an unforgettable horse-driven experience in the South Bay!

610 E Hwy 246,

Solvang, CA 93463

(805) 686-9696

Considered a Central Coast landmark, OstrichLand USA, near Solvang, California, is a popular destination for families. Even though this is not a Zoo and is more like an Ostrich farm, it is a must-visit before your kids grow up. Watch, feed, and get to know amazing ostriches and emus. The highlight of a visit is feeding the ostriches and emus. You can get close and personal with these big birds and be safe at the same time. The best time for viewing ostrich chicks is during the summer months. They grow quickly and will be juveniles by the time winter arrives. Emu chicks typically hatch in late winter and early spring.

10500 Alfred Harrell Hwy

Bakersfield, CA 93306

(661) 872-2256

CALM’s Wildlife Rehab Center exists to aid in the rehabilitation and release of sick, injured, or abandoned California native wildlife. Here, you can take a ride on the Central California Children’s Railroad, which weaves its way around the CALM grounds, with the scenic Kern County foothills as its backdrop. The Children’s Park allows you to touch and interact with domestic and farm animals. The train runs most weekends, at special events, and nightly during the annual holiday lights show.

Stop by CALM’s reptile house, just down the main walkway from CALM’s gift store, to find a nice collection of snakes, lizards, frogs, and invertebrates. Animal Keeper chats take place at 1:15 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

At the Children's Pak, you can find domestic and farm animals like a rooster, a turkey, rabbits, a burro, and a pony. Children are encouraged to observe the domestic animals as they come up to the fence and may touch and feel the lamb’s wool and the goat’s hair. Animal Keeper chats take place at 11 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

26757 CA-78

Ramona, CA 92065

A trip to the Oasis Camel Dairy in San Diego is an adventure well worth the drive. They offer private tours that can accommodate up to 10 guests, and if your group is larger, fret not – you can easily add more friends for just $15 per person. While the star attraction is undoubtedly camel riding, you can also have a blast feeding the camels and adorable mini-sheeps with the treats thoughtfully provided by the dairy. But that's not all! The farm is also home to a colorful array of cockatoos, parrots, turkeys, and, yes, even giant goldfish, adding a touch of whimsy to this unique and unforgettable experience.

4036 Foothill Rd.

Carpinteria, CA 93013​​

A quick jaunt up the picturesque coast will lead you to Canzelle Alpacas in Carpinteria, a veritable haven for alpaca enthusiasts. To make the most of your visit, be sure to secure a reservation in advance, as they don't accommodate walk-ins. Once you're there, prepare to be charmed as you embark on a tour of the lush pastures, where you'll encounter and even get to feed over 40 of these cuddly giants.

But the fun doesn't stop there; sharing the pastures are an assortment of other furry and feathered friends, including sheep, horses, dogs, llamas, and chickens. As if that weren't enough, the farm boasts an impressive collection of over 250 avocado trees and offers breathtaking vistas of the ocean and the Channel Islands, making your visit a truly unforgettable experience.

Sloat Blvd & Upper Great Hwy

San Francisco, CA 94132

The San Francisco Zoo and Gardens is a zoo located in the southwestern corner of San Francisco, California. It is the largest zoological park in San Francisco and one of the few zoos in the world located in an urban area. The zoo covers an area of 100 acres and is home to more than 2,000 animals representing over 250 species. The zoo is divided into several different areas, including the African Savanna, Primate Discovery Center, Lion House, and the Children's Zoo.

The San Francisco Zoo also features a number of gardens and exhibits, including the Helen Diller Family Playground, the Pachyderm Forest, and the Australian Walkabout. The Helen Diller Family Playground is a large playground that offers children the opportunity to explore and climb, and the Pachyderm Forest is home to elephants, rhinos, and other large animals. The Australian Walkabout is an exhibit that features a variety of Australian animals, such as kangaroos, wallabies, and emus.

747 Club View Dr,

Big Bear Lake, CA 92314

(909) 584-1299

The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is a rehabilitation facility offering injured, orphaned, and imprinted wild animals a safe haven, temporarily while they heal or permanently as they are unable to survive on their own. At this zoo, your kids will learn how to help conserve animals in the wild. The zoo is open daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, with the last entry at 3:30 pm. On snowy days, they may open later or not at all for snow removal. Please call before you visit.

Zoos and Petting Zoos



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