There are plenty of places to visit animals in Orange County, but did you know that there are special events and classes offered as well? You can really add to your experience by spending time after hours or getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse at some of Orange County’s favorite animal hot spots. From concerts to special tours to camps and festivals, you are sure to find something to make your animal experience complete.
Santa Ana Zoo Concert Series & Beer Tasting
1801 E. Chestnut Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Kick off your summer at Santa Ana Zoo’s after-hours concert series and tasting events. Featuring live music, art by local artisans, zoo animals and train and carousel rides, guests are encouraged to bring a picnic dinner and blanket and join the fun. Adults 21 and over can linger in the exclusive beer garden for a tasting experience that also raises funds to help the zoo. Sample specialties from some of Orange County’s finest brewers including The Bruery, Old Orange Brewing Co, Valiant, Stone Brewing and Tustin Brewing Co. The Santa Ana Zoo is home to several endangered species and houses more than 150 animals.
Zoomars “Journeys to the Past”
31791 Los Rios St.
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Join California Indian and storyteller “Educator of the Year” Jacque Nunez for a week of fun, fascination and friendship. Campers will learn about the animals at Zoomars and all around the world. They will learn about the amazing world of animals through crafts, games, songs and storytelling. Working side by side with zookeepers, campers will learn to care for the animals. Campers will also get to polish up their saddles for a special ride around Zoomars trail. Daily surprises include feeding the llamas and grooming the goats. Each day there is a craft to take home. Campers will enjoy guest speakers and their connection to animals all around.
Toshiba Tall Ships Festival
24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629
The Ocean Institute celebrates its annual Toshiba Tall Ships Festival, a fun learning experience for the whole family. Participating tall ships include The Brig Pilgrim, Spirit of Dana Point, American Pride, Californian and the Irving Johnson. Children and adults alike will enjoy exploring the majesty and wonder of real working tall ships. With entertainers including the infamous Port Royal Privateers and interactive living-history encampments, including blacksmiths and scrimshaw artists, everyone is sure to go home with something to treasure.
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Junior Zookeeper at Orange County Zoo
1 Irvine Park Road
Orange, CA 92869
Specifically for children ages 8 to 16 years old, this three-hour experience will give students a hands-on, behind-the-scenes view of what’s involved with caring for the OC Zoo animals. “Students will have the opportunity to help prepare food, feed the animals, assist in cleaning the exhibits and help create enrichment ‘toys’ for the animals.” Lots of “take-homes” included in the price are an animal-related souvenir, photo on a USB drive and a certificate. One parent or caregiver is included in the price.
Shark Lagoon Nights at Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
On Shark Lagoon nights at the Aquarium of the Pacific, admission is free. Get up close and personal with bamboo sharks and rays. You can also see large sharks such as sand tigers in the lagoon. Drinks, snacks and desserts are available for purchase, including beer and wine. The weekly event occurs on Friday; however some Fridays are excluded. Please check the website for availability. Only Shark Lagoon is open for guests during these free nights and is subject to cancellation due to inclement weather.
Erin Johnson is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.