Travelers, solo backpackers, and adventurers are like are innately drawn into the glitz and glamour of The Golden State, California. Aside from its pristine beaches and bustling nightlife, California is also home to quite a few attractions that are a perfect fit for families and kids. If you look hard enough, you’ll discover that there are countless hidden gems in California that is just begging to be explored. If you are the type that loves to go on nature walks and being at one with the wild, then chances are you are going to be allured by the Santa Ana Zoo. More than just a habitat for animals, this zoo is a must visit for those at one with nature.

The Santa Ana Zoo is located at Prentice Park in Santa Ana, California. It is a 20-acre zoo that houses wildlife and plant life that are native to parts of Central and South America. As of this writing, the zoo is the home is home to thousands of animals that over 200,000 visitors check out annually. While it may not be the biggest and grandest zoo in the world, the Santa Ana Zoo is most certainly one of the liveliest.

A Peek at Santa Ana Zoo’s Past

The zoo was first made open to the public in 1952. However, the property where the zoo stands now has been owned by several people during the early 1900s. From 1929 to 1931, the property was foreclosed but it was once again bought. This time, it was bought by Joseph Edward Prentice who bought the 19.23 acre site.

In 1949, Prentice donated 16 acres of the land to the City of Sta. Ana. That was the early beginnings of the zoo as at the same time, Prentice helped bring in at least 50 monkeys to the area. He also stipulated that there should be that amount of primates at all time. Later that year, the construction of the zoo officially began.

From humble beginnings, the zoo was developed time and time again. One of the first upgrades it received was a children’s zoo. Then in 1962, the Flight Aviary also known as the Jack Lynch Aviary was officially opened. The next upgrade was in 1983 with an amphitheater. That same year, the zoo officially received the accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). In 1996, the Amazon Aviary opened and it remained as one of the top attractions in the zoo. Other upgrades include the Zoofari Express Train Ride in 2000, the Crean Family Farm in 2004 and the Tierra de las Pampas in 2010.

Although it has not been around for longer than most zoos,the Sta. Ana Zoo has a special place in the heart of those that visit it. If you want to see this amazing attraction for yourself, then you must take the time to read through some of the important things you should know before going here.

How To Get To The Sta. Ana Zoo?

First off, if you want to get to the Sta. Ana Zoo, then you must first visit Sta. Ana. It is the county seat and second most populous city in Orange County. It is around the Los Angeles metropolitan area so it is not easy to miss. It is easy to get to Sta. Ana if you are coming from other parts of California. If you are coming from somewhere far off, then make sure to book a flight that lands in the John Wayne Airport at Orange County.

There are buses that pass by the park so you can easily ask the locals what routes and schedules you should be watching out for. Alternatively, you can hire a cab once you are in Orange County.

Santa Ana Zoo Rates

Admission to the zoo isn’t free but it isn’t too heavy on the budget as well. For adults aged 13 and above, the fee is $12. Seniors aged 60 and over and children between 3-12 will pay a discounted price of $9. Children under the age of 3 can come inside without having to pay anything. The zoo also holds Resident Free Day during the third Sunday of each month. These entitle Sta. Ana resident to a free visit. Do take note that the zoo accepts Visa and Mastercard for admission.

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Ticket prices that are not included in general admission (Source)

Additionally, there are also tickets for some of the zoo’s attractions. You and other visitors will need to pay $1.50 for a ticket which could be used to try out the rides. The Zoofari Express Train Ride requires 3 tickets, the Conservation Carrousel costs 2 tickets and the 50 Monkey Ferris Wheel costs 4 tickets.

If you are a local and are planning to visit regularly, then you should get the FOSAZ membership. These include a few amazing perks including: unlimited free admission for 1 year, discounts on the Treetop Toys Gift Shop and Snack Bar, and free or discounted tickets for over 100 other zoos in the U.S.

While your there, you can make the trip more comfortable by renting vehicles for the kids or the elderly. Single strollers are $7.95, double strollers and wheelchairs are $9.95 while electric scooters are $25.95.

Santa Ana Zoo Hours

Lucky for you, the Sta. Ana Zoo is open almost everyday except during a few holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. It is open from 10AM to 4PM but the grounds close at exactly 5PM. There are animal presentations during weekends but these vary depending on the availability. As such, it would be wise to call the zoo operators before paying a visit.

Your best bet for avoiding heavy crowds is by visiting during the zoo’s opening hours. Visitors tend to flock during the afternoon. You might also want to avoid visiting during the Resident Free Day.

These are all that you need to know about the Sta. Ana Zoo. Now it is time to check out the attractions that make the zoo standout.

Unique Santa Ana Zoo Attractions

Zoos are one of the common attractions in a lot of cities around the world. Hence, a lot of people usually skip visiting it. However, Santa Ana Zoo is a cut above the rest as it has a lot more things to offer that we’re sure everyone will love and will make you visit time and again. If you’re wondering if this zoo is worth the visit, here are some Santa Ana Zoo attractions that will make you love the place even more.

1Habitat exhibit (Tierra de las Pampas)

The exhibit’s signage (Source)

Usually, zoos put animals in bleak cages. While this is for the animals and visitors’ safety, it can, however, affect the animals negatively. The Santa Ana Zoo is different, though. Here, they make sure that animals are placed in an exhibit that has an environment that encourages natural activity and behavior – something that is way different than the usual zoo cages that we’ve gotten used to seeing.

One of the notable exhibits is that you can find in this zoo is the Tierra de las Pampas. This exhibit aims to preserve South America’s Pampas Grasslands, one of the most endangered habitats in the world. Aside from that, it is designed to make you, as well as other visitors, feel, appreciate, and celebrate this endangered habitat by allowing you to use visitor walkways and viewing areas. With this, you’ll surely experience the pampas.

Here, you can get to see multiple species. Some of which are Anteaters and Guanacos. You can get to see Rheas being showcased as well.

2Farm (The Crean Family Farm)

The entrance to The Crean Family Farm (Source)

Wild animals aren’t the only highlight in this zoo. Rather, there are barn animals to see as well. Not all zoos let you take a look at barn animals. But you can get to see it at Santa Ana Zoo as it is one of Santa Ana Zoo attractions.

Here, you can get a closer look at barn animals such as turkeys, pigs, donkeys, goats, etc. But it’s not just an ordinary barn attraction that only lets you peek into its doors. Rather, you can also get to feed them. The best part is that as you tour the area, you will get to know more about the farm animals – their roles in the farm, their breeds, and even how to properly take care of them. You can also get to experience milking a cow – via replica only, though. Still, it’s one experience that’s not to be missed, especially if you have kids with you. It’s going to be a fun and educational experience.

However, do take note that feeding and milking activities are not always available every day. If you’re eyeing to try this activity, it would be better to give them a call first before you visit the zoo to be sure. You can contact them here.

3Conservation Education Theater

A concert held at Santa Ana Zoo as part of the zoo’s special event (Source)

Speaking of learning about animals, if you want to know more about the environment, conservation, as well as animals, the Conservation Education Theater is one of Santa Ana Zoo attractions that you should visit too. This education theater is solely dedicated to teaching the importance of preserving our natural world. You can get to meet Santa Ana Zoo’s resident master recyclers and also get to interact with other animals during animal presentations that are held during weekends.

There are also special programs and events. However, note that each program has different schedules. Also, you may pay extra dollars for admission to this and ticket prices vary. Still, you can rest assured that every penny spent is worth it as each program will not just be filled with fun activities but you will also get to learn a lot. What’s even better is that it is great for people of all ages.

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If you want to try this activity out, check out the zoo’s calendar of events here. There are also ticket prices posted.

4Unique rides

A look at Zoofari Express’ train (Source)

Santa Ana Zoo isn’t all about animals. It can also double as a mini amusement park as it has a number of rides for you to enjoy, especially if you have kids with you. Here three of them that will surely make you and your kids come back time and again.

Train Ride (Zoofari Express Train Ride)

This may not be a thrilling ride like roller coasters but it sure is still fun. This train ride will tour you around the zoo for about 6 minutes. You’ll travel throughout the Crean Family Farm and up to the Santa Ana Zoo’s northern part. There will be friendly guides who will give you tips and some more facts about the different areas that the zoo has and make the tour all the more fun. Of course, the train’s aesthetics is also worth talking about. It’s something that kids will surely love.

Carousel (Conservation Carrousel)

When we think of carousels we often imagine a roundabout that features horses painted with different colors. But Santa Ana Zoo’s carousel is different. It’s still your regular merry-go-round, though. However, its layout is much different than the usual ones we’ve gotten used to. This is because, instead of the usual colorful horses, Santa Ana Zoo’s carousel features endangered animals like Bengal tiger, zebra, cheetah, African elephant, giant panda, giraffe, jaguar, panther, sea dragon, etc.

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A closer look at Santa Ana Zoo’s unique carousel (Source)

And like the other Santa Ana Zoo attractions, this ride isn’t just all about fun and games. Each rider is given an educational collector’s card that describes an animal and why it has become endangered. In this way, they will learn more about the value of environmental conservation by means of preserving these endangered animals that are being featured on the ride.

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Ferris Wheel

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Santa Ana Zoo’s ferris wheel (Source)

Also one of the favorite Santa Ana Zoo attractions is the ferris wheel. This 64-foot ride is also one of the unique rides in the zoo. This is because, like the zoo’s conservation carousel, Santa Ana Zoo’s ferris wheel also has a unique design. Its gondolas feature unique endangered monkeys, further promoting the zoo’s dedication to the education of environmental conservation by preserving endangered species. Like Santa Ana Zoo’s carousel, this ride is not just fun but is educational too as you will find graphics about the zoo’s requirements to house fifty monkeys at all times to maintain the land along the loading queue line walkway.

5Amazon’s Edge

A part of Santa Ana Zoo’s Amazon’s Edge (Source)

Amazon’s Edge is one of the top Santa Ana Zoo attractions too. This features a lake and a waterfall; plus, it has a lush island setting. The best part is that several wonderful animals complete the Amazonian setting as it also serves as a home to mallards, howler monkeys, crested screamers, and black-necked swans. With that, you’ll definitely feel as if you’ve transported into Brazil’s jungles. On top of that, you’ll also feel as if you’re in a Disney movie. This is because this exhibit was used as a filming location in the 2009 Disney movie, “Old Dogs,” where John Travolta and the late Robin Williams starred.

6Rainforest Adventure Maze

The entrance to Santa Ana Zoo’s Ranforest Maze (Source)

If you’re in for more fun activities, the Rainforest Adventure Maze is one of Santa Ana Zoo attractions that you shouldn’t miss too. As the name suggests, it has twisting passages in a rainforest type of setting, waiting for adventurous explorers. What makes it even more fun is that it has several interactive learning stations where you’ll face rainforest-themed questions. The more correct answers you get, the more you’ll be lead deeper into the maze. You’ll also find games and other challenging activities along the way too. You’ll definitely have so much fun regardless of your age.

7Bauer Jaguar Exploration Outpost

Some Jesus’ Hands Montessori School students with their guardians accompanying them as they tour Santa Ana Zoo’s Bauer Jaguar Exploration Outpost (Source)

If you want to really learn more about animals, conservation, and whatnot, visit Bauer Jaguar Exploration Outpost, also one of the top Santa Ana Zoo attractions that is also perfect for children. Here, hands-on experiments and learning experience are being offered. Through this, you can learn research techniques about weather patterns, Amazon Basin animals, and conservation efforts. In addition to that, this attraction also have insects and bird-eating tarantulas on display.

These are just some of the Santa Ana Zoo attractions that make this zoo so unique. The zoo still has a lot more to offer and it would be better if you’ll try it yourself. Young or young at heart, you’ll definitely have a lot of fun here regardless of your age as Santa Ana Zoo has a lot of attractions to offer that is perfect for people of all ages. So if you’re planning to visit California or if you’re already in California, don’t miss out on this family-friendly zoo. You’ll definitely enjoy your visit.

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