By Maria del Cisne Vital
June means summer break, time with family and friends, and the chance to have some fun in the sun. Ring in the summer with a visit to Southern California’s zoos and aquariums to celebrate National Zoo and Aquarium Month!
Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium has over 100 local species on exhibit. You can see baby sharks, seahorses, moon jellyfish and many more ocean friends. You can look, and you can touch! The aquarium’s touch tanks are filled with colorful starfish, hermit crabs and sea urchins. And don’t forget to get a look at the rotating weekly catch— the dive team goes out and collects local critters from right near the pier. Once you’ve indulged in the beauty of marine life, enjoy the rest of what the pier has to offer with everything from Dippin’ Dots to roller coaster rides.
1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90401
The Ocean Institute
The Ocean Institute is located in the Dana Point Harbor, and is open seven days a week for family fun with an educational twist. Over 250,000 guests visit each year, and they leave with a newfound knowledge on the ocean’s underwater world and California’s maritime history. On weekends, the campus is open for an immersive journey into the mysteries of the Pacific Ocean. Here you can encounter live animals in the Discovery Pool touch-tank, join in animal feedings, and even conduct squid dissections. The Institute also offers whale-watching cruises to get a true sense of the ocean’s ecosystem.
24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Dana Point, CA 92629
Pacific Marine Mammal Center
Since 1971, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach has rescued, rehabilitated and released marine mammals back into their natural habitats. With an opportunity for the public to get a view of true conservation, the Center inspires its visitors through its research, education and collaboration. The most commonly treated animals are Northern elephant seals, California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals. Come visit the patients!
20612 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
The Birch Aquarium in San Diego boasts over 60 habitats of habitats of fishes and invertebrates from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Mexico and beyond. On June 29, 2018, they are launching Oddities: Hidden Heroes of the Scripps Collections, a comic book-inspired exhibit that highlights the adaptations of ocean species. Don’t miss out on feeding time where aquarists will feed sharks, lobsters or fish each day!
2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037
Aquarium of the Pacific
The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach is the fourth most-attended aquarium in the nation. There’s much to see with over 50 exhibits of more than 11,000 ocean creatures! Celebrate the aquarium’s 20th anniversary with its new cephalopod (squid, octopuses, and cuttlefish) exhibit and a newborn harbor seal pup. A shark lagoon is available for curious kids and adults alike to feel what some sharks feel like. If sharks are too scary for you, visit the sea jellies exhibit where you’ll be mesmerized by the beauty of a floating sea jelly.
100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802
Santa Barbara Zoo
Open seven days a week, the Santa Barbara Zoo is home to 146 species of mammals, reptiles, birds and insects, and they exhibit over 500 animals in open, naturalistic habitats. Hang out with two cuddly koalas while they chomp on some eucalyptus leaves. Or check out the giraffes— seven have been born at the zoo since 2012! Are you in the mood to see something more ferocious? Visit Chadwick the African lion in the Cats of Africa exhibit.
500 Ninos Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Santa Ana Zoo
The Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park is unique because since 1952, they have always had precisely 50 monkeys onsite at all times. They host the smallest monkeys in the world, the Pygmy Marmosets. In addition to the 50 monkeys, the zoo has 80 species of animals on exhibit. Farm animals are onsite too, with a petting and feeding zoo available for whoever wants to get close to these animals. Food, a train ride, a carousel and a souvenir shop are also a part of the fun of the Santa Ana Zoo.
1801 East Chestnut Avenue, Santa Ana, CA 92701
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
From the depths of the ocean to the plains of Africa, the L.A. Zoo has so much to offer— housing more than 1,100 mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles representing more than 250 different species of which more than 60 are endangered or critically endangered. Open every day of the year, except Christmas, the L.A. Zoo has many things to see and do. They host different events so be sure to keep up with their calendar for fun events this month! Their Roaring Nights Series (fun for those 21+) is back on June 29th.
5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
The Living Desert’s mission is desert conservation through preservation, education and appreciation. The structure of the zoo takes you through the world’s different deserts. Each desert comes with different animals, which range from bearded dragons to hyenas. Come out on June 21st for National Giraffe Day where free giraffe feedings will be offered.
47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert, CA 92260
Orange County Zoo
Located inside of Irvine Park’s 477 acres of wilderness, the Orange County Zoo is a smaller-scale zoo with a lot of personality. Spend a day in the park with a picnic or a hike, and then pay a visit to the animals on exhibit. From rare birds, like a Bald Eagle, to black bears to pot-bellied pigs, the zoo has much to see! June 5th is Bear Awareness Day, and the Orange County Zoo is hosting an event that will include crafts for kids, special keeper chats about bears and a learning station where you can find out about bear conservation and research, how to “bear proof” camping sites and what to do if you see a bear. Outside of the zoo, you might get lucky and see a wild peacock roaming the park grounds!
1 Irvine Park Road, Orange, CA 92869