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Best Zoo Exhibits In Orange County

cheetah cub
(credit: Tania Thomson/shutterstock)

Orange County is home to some great zoos that allow visitors to watch and sometimes interact with various animal species. For grown-ups as well as children, a visit to the zoo is typically very hands-on and educational. The upcoming summer months are a good time to take the family out to see the animals. The following list highlights some new, ongoing and permanent zoo exhibits in the OC.

cheetah cubs
(credit: Francois van Heerden/shutterstock)

Ocelot Exhibit & Education Center
Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park
1801 E. Chestnut Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 836-4000

After much preparation and fundraising, the Ocelot Exhibit & Education Center opened on March 21, 2015. Described as "miniature cheetahs," two members of this endangered species, Revy and Diego, took up residence at the Santa Ana Zoo. In December of last year, a new kitten named Neto was born to this couple. The Ocelot Exhibit offers plenty of opportunities to observe these creatures and learn more about their history. Adult admission to the zoo is $10 while seniors and children ages 3-12 pay $7.

Meller's Chameleons
(credit: Juan Aunion/shutterstock)

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

Entering its second year this summer, Meller Manor, a permanent exhibit at the Reptile Zoo, hosts a collection Meller's Chameleons. These giant yet gentle reptiles come from Central Africa ,where their habits were being destroyed. This exhibit is designed to educate as well as create a viable breeding population of chameleons. Adult admission to the Reptile Zoo currently is $5 for adults and children ages 3-11; toddlers under the age of 3 are admitted free of charge.

gold panning
(credit: Jeffrey B. Banke/shutterstock)

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

In addition to lovable animals, Zoomars Petting Zoo offers a look back at California history with its Miner's Gulch exhibit. The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought thousands of people to the territory in search of yellow wealth. This exhibit gives visitors a chance to actually search for gold. With a $20 panning kit, you might come away with gems, bones, shark teeth or something yellow and shiny. Zoomars also is a great place to pet and visit with some friendly animals as well.

(credit: Christopher Robin Smith Photography/shutterstock)

Tierra de las Pampas
Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park
1801 E. Chestnut Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 836-4000

As the SAZOO website points out, the PAMPAS Grasslands of South America are in real danger of beings destroyed. This exhibit preserves the flora and fauna of that region, in particular anteaters, guanacos and rheas. This stunning and educational exhibit contains plenty of information and great views of the animals inside the habitat.

Related: Best Volunteer Opportunities for Animal Lovers in OC

santa ana zoo train
(credit: Sarah G./yelp)

Tierra de las Pampas
Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park
1801 E. Chestnut Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 836-4000

The Zoofari Express has been a staple on the Zoo grounds since the spring of 1999. After a 43 year run at Santa's Village, this train is in great condition and is now a more environmentally friendly train for people to ride through the park. The 6.5 minute is definitely worth it.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Steven Bryan calls Irvine, California his home. A freelance writer for more than 20 years, he has interviewed a wide range of notable celebrities, including a variety of up-and-coming musicians and artists as well. Passionate about movies and comic books, he also makes an annual pilgrimage to the San Diego Comic-Con.

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