If you’ve ever watched a little kid tenderly pet a baby animal of any kind, then you know how special that moment can be. Well, think about a whole bunch of young children being encouraged to pet a whole bunch of friendly beasts all in the same session. That’s the beauty of the plethora of petting zoos found in and around Los Angeles. The following are five of the best.
Winnick Family Foundation Children’s Zoo
Los Angeles Zoo
5333 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Taking up a two-acre section of the Los Angeles Zoo, The Winnick Family Foundation Children’s Zoo is called the animal contact area, or Muriel’s Ranch. It brings kids and barn yard animals together to get to know each other on a very personal basis. International signage and a 15-minute video called “Animals & You” acclimate younger guests who also take part in age-appropriate storytelling and other child-friendly activities. Meanwhile, a huge highlight at this petting zoo is the chance to brush a baby Nigerian Dwarf goat, a species that only grows to about two feet tall. Brushes are provided.
Giddy Up Ranch
8707 Mesquite St.
Phelan, CA 92371
If Polish crested chickens, miniature pot belly pigs and baby zebras strike your fancy, round up the kids and head for Giddy Up Ranch for one of the Southland’s most diverse petting zoos. Open since 1989, this San Bernardino outlet, located a little more than an hour from downtown Los Angeles, is well worth the drive if only to get to know exotic animals usually encountered in other places around the world.
North Hollywood, CA 91615
Jennifer Portillo and Lauren Cheney, lifelong friends, love all kinds of animals and now the pair have a ranch where hundreds of their furry friends hang out. A visit to their thriving animal-infested abode lets you see and experience all kinds of pets. Tours go way behind petting the locals (although that’s on hand too). There is also the chance to go into the tortoise pens, to check out the reptile and bunny rooms and to even have the chance to wear a tarantula on your head.
Wildlife Learning Center
16027 Yarnell St.
Sylmar, CA 91342
Moms and dads who have taken their little ones to this Valley outpost rave about the Wildlife Learning Center. Hidden inside an olive grove, some 50 different species of animals, all rescued or born in zoos, thrive in this wonderland for furry and feathery creatures. Animal interaction is highly supervised and about as memorable as it gets, especially if you’ve never met a legless lizard or a redfoot tortoise before this trip. Check out both in the reptile room but don’t forget to roam to other areas of this pleasurable place for critters kids will thrill to meet and then visit again as soon as their parents can get them there.
Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
Although a world class aquarium may not be your first thought when considering where to go to experience a petting zoo with your kids, this legendary Long Beach outpost delivers. Sharks and stingrays are just some of the creatures you’ll get to know and even touch once certain strict instructions are handed out. Sound fishy? Get your gang to the Aquarium of the Pacific and find out.