Are you an animal lover but don’t have the time, space or sympathetic landlord that might otherwise allow you to own a pet? Boasting year-round attractions, regular volunteer opportunities and annual expos, Orange County is an excellent place to get out and spend some time among furry, hoofed and winged friends, without breaking the bank or the terms of a lease.
America’s Family Pet Expo
OC Fair & Event Center
88 Fair Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Price: $13 adults/$8 children ages 6-12/free children 5 and younger
Hours: April 19 through 21, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
This gigantic expo is returning to Orange County. Animal enthusiasts from every walk of life and in any stage of pet ownership can come marvel at this grand, furry spectacle. See canine endurance exhibitions, witness a police dog demonstration, take a class about cats, rub elbows with reptiles and mingle within the “menagerie of birds.” Observe, interact and become part of the fun. Petting zoo, pony rides and animal experts of every breed will be on hand. Pet adoption available and encouraged.
Related: Best Reptile Shops In Orange County
ZOOMARS Petting Zoo
31791 Los Rios St.
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Price: $8 adults/$7 seniors and children ages 1 to 12/free infants
Have you ever wanted to pet a llama? Of course you have. Haven’t you also been dying to feed a pheasant, eat with an emu and see a real live alpaca? Well, here’s your chance. ZOOMARS Petting Zoo, conveniently located in the heart of San Juan Capistrano, lets you get close to interesting, exotic, and, yes, well-behaved animals of every sort. Much more than a petting pen, this clean, safe, family-fun facility offers pony rides, a gold mine adventure and a train attraction for toddlers.
OC Animal Care
61 The City Drive S.
Orange, CA 92868
If you love and want to spend time around some wonderful, loving animals, while performing a much-needed service, OC Animal Care wants you. OC Animal Care volunteers walk, foster and tend to dogs and cats and provide temporary care for young, abused, injured and neglected animals. Interact with under-socialized animals while they are prepared for adoption. Make a new best friend while you help local, needy animals find a new home.
Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park
30952 Oso Parkway
Coto De Caza, CA 92679
Price: $3 daily for parking
Hours: 7 a.m. to sunset.
Perhaps you prefer animals that are slightly less domesticated. OC Parks offer the opportunity to commune with nature, without any of the inconvenience of vet visits and cleanup. A 540-acre wildlife refuge, Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park features a vast array of native animal, bird and plant life. Tour the Ranger Station to get a sense for the area’s inhabitants and history, then explore the five miles trail system where you can encounter deer, horses, bountiful birds and surely a squirrel or two.
All God’s Creatures Petting Zoo
Does your full-time schedule make it difficult to own your own pet? Well, who says you can’t have an entire zoo in your own front yard? All God’s Creatures traveling zoo and pony ride service says you can. Choose a particular theme to suit your occasion and mood: Ponies, goats an sheep, miniature animals, bunnies, birds, bugs and reptiles. Carriage rides and educational classroom visits a specialty. Located in Chino Hills, All God’s Creatures proudly serves Orange County and Southern California. Professional, responsible, licensed with USDA to meet all the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act and is an active, compassionate California Department Of Fish and Game Licensed Rehabilitation facility.
Christopher Schmidt is a freelance writer experiencing and espousing the glory that is Orange County. Driven to travel, drawn to sports, spirits and celebrity, Chris’ work can be found on