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A visit to tinsel town can be exciting, but sometimes the glitz and glamour go right over kid’s heads. There are other activities and fun places to visit in the Los Angeles area that are specially geared towards kids, especially kids who love animals and enjoy interacting with them. These encounters are memories you will treasure for years to come.
Wildlife Learning Center
The Wildlife Learning Center is a zoological park that is dedicated to educating the public about the importance of wildlife conservation. This zoo has animals from six continents, many of whom are rescue animals. The facility has some truly rare and fun interactive experiences. Imagine meeting and feeding a porcupine, petting an armadillo, touching an alligator, wearing a trainer’s glove to hold an owl, holding a Burmese python, being introduced to three cuddly little animals—a rabbit, hedgehog, and a chinchilla—feeding a giraffe, and touching a sloth. Each of these experiences are educational and you will learn all about the animal featured in your encounter. Price for these encounters covers up to four people. There are eight encounters that are offered on a first come first serve basis. You will need to arrive early if you want to participate in one of these great animal encounters.
16027 Yarnell Street, Sylmar
This ranch is a sanctuary for animals who are unable to return to their natural habitat. Visits to the sanctuary must be made by reservation. There are several tours available that offer a variety of different animal encounters. The two-hour ranch tour (minimum age of eight years old) includes hands-on experiences with animals such as kangaroos, a fennec fox, cavies, a serval, an armadillo, and an opossum, as well as several reptiles. Ever wanted to hug a monkey? The ranch’s Monkey Experience gives guests the opportunity to hang out with several of the ranch’s resident monkeys such as a Capuchin monkey and a baboon. The animal adventure combo is the opportunity to experience both the Ranch Tour and the Monkey Experience. Young children aren’t excluded from the fun, the ranch offers a children’s tour that is completely safe and geared toward children of all ages. Visitors can also bring special treats for the animals, which they can feed them on their tour. There is a list of appropriate treats on their website. Address to the facility will be provided once a reservation is made.
Gibbon Conservation Center
Gibbons are incredible gymnasts and are able to swing from tree branch to tree branch with astonishing speed. The Gibbon Conservation Center is a wonderful chance to learn about these fascinating but endangered primates. This center focuses on the conservation of the many different species of gibbon. Currently, there are five different species of gibbon living at the center. These creatures are dwindling due to the rapid destruction of their habitat. The center offers an opportunity to be an assistant caregiver for a day. These spots are limited but volunteers will have safety training, learning about the animal’s care as they shadow a caregiver and even have an opportunity to feed the gibbons.
19100 Esguerra Road, Santa Clarita
Fellow Earthling's Wildlife Center in Morongo Valley
Meet some real movie stars, the meerkats from Meerkat Manor. This wildlife center and its meerkats has been featured on several National Geographic and Animal Planet documentaries. The center also consulted for Walt Disney Pictures when they were making The Lion King. The meerkats at Fellow Earthling’s were the inspiration for Timon in the movie. In order to visit and spend time with the meerkats, a $100 donation which covers four people (eight years and older) to visit, must be sent to the facility in advance. Once the facility receives your donation they will mail you a packet to plan your visit. Your visit is completely private, and you will have the center to yourself and get the opportunity to hold meerkats and have photos taken.
11427 West Drive, Morongo Valley
Shadowland is dedicated to teaching children about wolves and their importance to the environment. Shadowlands believes that children are the future and the fate of the environment and the wolves themselves, lay in their hands. With this in mind, they created a program with children at the heart of all they do. This organization gives families the chance to visit with their wolves with an up close and personal experience. Shadowlands has 10 wolves and visitors cannot only learn about the facility and about the wolves themselves, but they can also feed the wolves, pet them, and have their pictures taken with them. Just try not to let these wolves steal your heart.
18832 Pine Canyon Road, Lake Hughes
STAR Eco Station
The STAR Eco Station is an ecology museum and a home for animals that have been seized by authorities for being illegally smuggled into the US. The museum’s hope is to educate future generations in conservation, making a difference to the endangered animals in the world. The facility is home to over 200 rescue animals and visitors can embark on an approximately one-hour hands-on tour, where they can meet and interact with many of the rescued animals.
10101 Jefferson Boulevard, Culver City
Los Angeles Zoo
Imagine having an up-close encounter with a hippo. Guests can have the opportunity to go behind the scene and meet the zoos two hippos. These encounters are only available on the weekends and reservations are required as space is limited. Children must be at least four years old to participate in this encounter. The zoo also has a giraffe feeding encounter that occurs several times per day. The Los Angeles Zoo is home to 37 endangered or critically endangered animals. This zoological park is not only beautiful, but it's a great place to visit to see many animals that you might not have the opportunity to see at another zoo.
5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles
Aquarium of the Pacific
It is no secret that little people love aquariums and the Aquarium of the Pacific has some incredible animal encounters that will delight them. Imagine feeding adorable otters, play with penguins, meeting sharks or getting a kiss from a sea lion or a seal. Go behind the scenes of the aquarium and come face to face with some of the aquariums most fun and interesting residents. Guests can choose from larger VIP encounters, which feature multiple encounters such as the otters and octopus encounter, the sharks and rays encounter, and penguins, sea lions, and seals encounter—as well as less expensive experiences that only include one animal encounter. This aquarium has lots of interesting exhibits full of a wide variety of sea life and other exhibits such as the Frog Habitat and the Lorikeet Forest where guests can feed the lorikeets and take pictures with them.
100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach
Channel Islands Whale Watching
A trip to the Pacific Ocean would not be complete without a day on the ocean. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sail with this company on my last trip to LA. I have never seen so many dolphins (common dolphins) and sea lions in my entire life. There were easily 100 playing, chasing, and frolicking around our boat. This particular whale watch sails around the Channel Islands National Park, which is not only beautiful, but has a rich expanse of sea life. Food and drinks were available for purchase on the boat and if you’re anything like my family, you will appreciate the chance for a snack. The crew spotted and followed a pair of California Grey Whales and actually stayed out longer than our scheduled time. They were also kind enough to offer to take pictures of our family together, with our cameras, in front of the Channel Islands. Whale watches in southern California are not cheap, but this establishment offered a Groupon that made it less than half price. A huge bonus was the size of the whale watch (number of patrons) was very small in comparison to other whale watches, so we didn’t feel crowded at all. Our kids really loved it and it was seriously worth every penny.
4151 Victoria Avenue, Oxnard