Our beloved Orange County Zoo is a local favorite. It is located within Irvine Regional Park so you can make a day out of it by enjoying one of the many activities within Irvine Regional Park without overwhelming the family with a total zoo adventure. There are also toddler programs and junior zookeeper events to add to your experience. With Tustin Marketplace just down the road, there are plenty of eating options if you choose not to “do-it-yourself” with a picnic lunch. Read on for an all-inclusive guide to a day at the Orange County Zoo.
The Price Is Right
Children age 2 and under are free and everyone else is only $2. That’s less than a cup of joe at Starbucks. You have to pay an entry fee for Irvine Regional Park of $3 per car on weekdays and $5 on weekends ($7 on holidays), but it’s still a great deal – especially if you carpool.
There are special toddler programs at the zoo for little ones ages 3 to 4. The price includes zoo admission for one child participant and one adult. Check the zoo calendar for details on programs like Animals in My Backyard and Feathery Friends. Scout and school programs are also available. The zoo now offers an audio tour on your cell phone narrated by the zoo’s animal keepers, curator and veterinarian, among others. Ever wonder where the animals came from or how old the bald eagles are? Discover the answer to these questions and additional interesting animal facts by tuning in at (714) 481-0355. Put it on speaker phone and your little ones can listen in too.
The zoo is just right for little ones to enjoy animals they don’t normally see. With a focus on animals and plants native to the Southwest United States, you can visit a porcupine, coyote, ocelot, island fox, mountain lion, turkey vulture and even a bald eagle. You can also check out farm animals like sheep, goats and pigs and get up close to the pheasants and doves in the zoo barnyard.
Great Food Nearby
Irvine Regional Park is a great place for a picnic. With a beautiful lake and peaceful surroundings, picnicking is a wonderful option before or after your visit to the zoo. Bring a blanket and watch the kids play at one of the four fun playgrounds at the park. If you don’t feel like packing a lunch, head over to Tustin Marketplace, only 10 minutes from the zoo, where your eating options are endless with restaurants ranging from casual eateries like Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell to finer establishments like OPAH and WaSa Sushi.
Since the zoo is located in Irvine Regional Park, you will surely want to make a day out of it and ride the train at the locally famous Irvine Park Railroad. Or if you’d rather travel the old-fashioned way, you can take a pony ride (not available on Mondays). If water is your thing, you can rent a paddle boat from Wheel Fun Rentals and cruise the lake while you get some exercise. Wheel Fun also offers bike rentals with cool names like the quad sport, deuce coupe and double surrey. If you’re in the mood for walking, there are miles of hiking trails within the park with ratings from easy to difficult. Seasonal activities like the pumpkin patch, Christmas train and Easter Eggstravaganza are always a huge hit with the kids and can make your holiday extra special.
Erin Johnson is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.