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Best Places To View Wildlife Near Orange County

OC Zoo header 610x250
(credit: Orange County Parks And Recreation)

From zoos, centers and ocean institutes, there are plenty of exciting opportunities to see wildlife in Southern California. So, whether you're an adult who loves animals, or you want to gather the kids and family to enjoy a day, these facilities will let you interact and be educated about different animals and species.

(credit: OC Zoo)

Orange County Zoo
1 Irvine Park Road
Orange, CA
(714) 973-6835

Located inside the Irvine Park, the Orange County Zoo is a great addition to the many activities available in the area. It is a place where one can view black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, hawks, reptiles and get an up-close-and-personal view of select reptiles and birds. The park also has many other activities available to enjoy that include pony rides, hiking, paddle boating and bike rentals for everyone to enjoy while exploring the park after visiting the zoo.

ocean institute
(credit: Ocean Institute)

Ocean Institute
24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 496-2274

Dana Point is one of the most beautiful locations in Orange County, and the Ocean Institute is one of the best hands-on educational and maritime program facilities in the Southern California region. The institute is nationally recognized and welcomes more than 115,000 ocean-loving visitors every year. There are many activities available for those who enter the facility, especially for children who can enjoy camps and adventures during the summer. Be sure to also check out "Headlands and Beyond," a new exhibit that is open to the public to explore the mysteries of the Pacific Ocean.

santa ana zoo
(credit: Santa Ana Zoo)

Santa Ana Zoo
1801 E. Chestnut Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 647-6575

Founder Joseph Prentice made a unique request when the zoo was opened — for the zoo to have 50 monkeys on the grounds at all times. This zoo is one of the most visited facilities in the Orange County area and has over 80 species of animals, including the smallest monkeys in the world. It is a fantastic environment for both children and adults to learn more about animals, plants and the environment. There are many events held throughout the year at the facility; for example, the Sunset at the Zoo summer concert series is held on June 14 & 28 and July 12 & 26. Those who attend can enjoy an evening of live music, beer tasting and are free to bring their own picnic.

Related: Best Hiking Trails In Orange County

(credit: Zoomars)

Zoomars Petting Zoo
31791 Los Rios St.
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(949) 831-6550

Zoomars Petting Zoo creates a great environment for children and adults to enjoy friendly animals. For more than 30 years, the little local zoo has welcomed more than three million visitors. At Zoomars, you can meet animals ranging from kunekune pigs, sheep, llamas, cows, donkeys emu, rabbits and goats. Children can enjoy the mini-train in the facility, or saddle up for a pony ride. Other activities available include panning for treasure at the Miner's Gulch and a playground good for kids looking to take a break from all the other excitement.

(credit: Reptile Zoo)

The Reptile Zoo
18822 Brookhurst St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 500-0591

If you are looking for a unique experience, look no further than The Reptile Zoo. The indoor facility will open your eyes to the world of the scaly reptiles of all shapes and sizes. Feed the turtles with hands-on experience and enjoy the snakes and other reptiles on display. The facility opened in 1988 in order to provide quality pets and services for customers with a wide range of exotic reptiles. The 10,000-square-foot facility houses over 100 exotic species of reptiles, amphibians and arachnids from around the world.

Related: Best Extreme Sports In Orange County

Elle Toussi is a freelance journalist covering all things Southern California. She has traveled to the Middle East in 2013 and 2014 covering the Syrian refugee situation in Jordan. That experience inspired her to become the founder of which uses the power of mobile technology and philanthropy to meet specific needs of women around the world. Her previous work can also be found on and
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