California is home to some of the best zoos and parks in the world. From the iconic San Diego Zoo to the stunning Oakland Zoo, zoo-goers of all ages can find something to marvel at.
Whether looking for a place to take your family or a fun day trip, you’ll love southern and northern California’s most popular zoos and wildlife parks.
Sounds great? Let’s start traveling with family 🙂
11 Popular Wildlife Parks and Zoos in California
These wildlife safari parks in California offer a variety of educational and conservation activities and are dedicated to protecting the animals they house.
1/ San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is a world-renowned zoological park in San Diego, California. It covers 100 acres and houses over 3,700 rare animals of more than 650 species and subspecies. Also, this wildlife park has a prominent botanical collection of 700,000 plants.
San Diego Safari Park is home to some of the world’s most exotic creatures from all regions of the planet. It has 880 acres and features African savanna teeming with giraffes, rhinos, and more.
You can take self-guided or guided safaris through the park either by car or foot and observe wildlife up close while learning all about them at various stations set up throughout the park.
Apart from animals, the San Diego Zoo offers many attractions:
With its vast array of exhibits and activities available year-round, the San Diego Zoo is undoubtedly one of California’s top attractions and worth checking out if you visit this part of the world.
Immerse yourself in the wonders of nature year-round at California’s San Diego Zoo. Enjoy extended hours during certain seasons, with doors opening from 9:00 am and closing promptly at 5:00 pm daily.
2/ Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a world-renowned zoo in the heart of Los Angeles. It’s one of the most popular zoos in California.
Boasting more than 2,000 inhabitants of 270 species, some endangered and highly vulnerable to extinction, this is a haven for wildlife diversity.
The LA Zoo is known for its beautiful environment and lush gardens featuring California native plants and exotic species worldwide. This property with 133 acres offers you plenty of space for whatever your needs.
You can check out the renowned koala habitat or visit the Rainforest Adventure, which houses jaguars, sloths, poison dart frogs, and other rainforest animals.
Other popular attractions include:
With its vast range of animals, activities, and educational opportunities – it’s no wonder why millions of people visit the Los Angeles Zoo each year.
The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm, except Christmas Day.
3/ The Living Desert
The Living Desert is a unique wildlife and botanical park in Palm Desert, California. The zoo is home to more than 500 animals from over 150 species.
It spans 1,200 acres and features various plants and animals from Arizona, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, and California deserts.
The park offers visitors the chance to experience desert life up close with activities such as guided jeep tours and self-guided nature walks.
You can do a lot of things in the Living Desert:
There are also interactive exhibits where you can get hands-on with live scorpions, tarantulas, and millipedes. The Living Desert zoo opens every day of the week from 8 am to 5 pm.
4/ Oakland Zoo
The Oakland Zoo is a beautiful and vibrant wildlife experience home to over 850 native and exotic animals of different species. It’s one of California’s most beautiful wildlife parks covering more than 100 acres.
You can enjoy multiple interactive exhibits, such as:
This zoo in California also offers educational programs like zookeeper talks, animal encounters, and volunteer opportunities.
Plus, they have several annual special events that feature live music, food trucks, kid-friendly activities, and even late-night parties.
Don’t forget to check the Oakland Zoo’s website for seasonal and event hours; otherwise, you can find them open every day from 10 am to 4 pm.
5/ Safari West
Safari West is one of the best safari parks and zoos in California’s hills of Sonoma County. Spanning 400 acres, it features natural habitats and carefully curated gardens that bring together beautiful and diverse wildlife.
At Safari West, you can:
And if you’re feeling adventurous – they even offer overnight camping trips where guests can view night sky constellations, listen to native nocturnal animals or watch animals roam around under the stars.
The Safari West experience is truly an unforgettable journey. This zoo is open to the public for 24 hours daily, providing ample time to explore and appreciate its amazing animals!
6/ San Francisco Zoo
The San Francisco Zoo is a beautiful wildlife park in San Francisco’s heart. Home to a staggering 2,000 animals from over 250 species spread across 100 lush acres, this conservation park will amaze!
Enjoy the interactive exhibits such as:
The zoo also hosts several special events throughout the year – such as Conservation Day, featuring conservationist speakers, art activities, and storytellers, and Zoo Music, which offers live music concerts in the summertime.
From 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, come and explore the fantastic habitats of the San Francisco Zoo. Get an opportunity to observe wildlife in its natural environment.
7/ Charles Paddock Zoo
The Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, California, is a 5-acre facility that showcases hundreds of animals worldwide.
Take your family on an exciting day trip to explore this small-town zoo and get up close with exotic creatures while learning more about their environment.
These are some of the most loved animals in this Californian wildlife park:
You can attend interactive programs such as daily animal shows or keeper talks for an even more immersive experience.
Visit Charles Paddock Zoo for a memorable day learning about wildlife conservation in a fun environment, open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Check out their website for hours and admission fees.
8/ Fresno Chaffee Zoo
The Fresno Chaffee Zoo is a world-renowned zoological park in California’s Fresno. Spanning 39 acres, it houses more than 190 species of animals.
The zoo offers exciting exhibits such as:
But wait, there’s more!
The Fresno Chaffee Zoo offers many educational programs, from animal keeper talks to interactive classroom sessions and behind-the-scenes experiences.
You and your kids would love to explore the plains of Africa and discover fascinating creatures at the Reptile House. So, daily, ignite your curiosity with a trip to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
9/ Santa Barbara Zoo
The Santa Barbara Zoo is one of the best zoos in California’s Santa Barbara. It houses over 500 animals across 150 species and subspecies in a 30-acre area.
The zoo offers:
The Santa Barbara Zoo is also famous for its beautiful setting. Located within the enchanting Santa Barbara foothills, you can enjoy gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean while exploring the grounds.
Come visit for a day filled with education, entertainment, and natural beauty.
Open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, plan your visit soon and experience all that the Santa Barbara Zoo has to offer!
10/ Sacramento Zoo
The Sacramento Zoo is a zoological park located in Sacramento, California, that spans 14 acres and houses more than 140 species of animals.
The zoo’s exhibits are designed to mimic their natural habitats and include a South American rainforest and an African Savannah.
The zoo also offers a variety of interactive programs for children and adults, such as animal demonstrations, keeper talks, and behind-the-scenes experiences.
The Sacramento Zoo is also known for its conservation efforts, including helping endangered wild species by supporting research and breeding programs.
Come visit this unique zoological park for a day filled with fun and educational activities. Open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, plan your visit soon and explore all the Sacramento Zoo offers.
11/ Applegate Park Zoo
Applegate Park Zoo is one of the unique zoos in California’s Redding, with 7 acres of area housing over 100 species of animals worldwide, including lions, tigers, monkeys, and birds.
The zoo offers fun and educational activities such as animal shows, keeper talks, and interactive programs that give visitors an up-close experience with wildlife.
In addition to the exhibits, visitors can explore the Safari Garden Trail for relaxing nature walks or head to the playground for fun.
Applegate Park Zoo is also known for its wide variety of family-friendly events throughout the year, such as Halloween Monster Mash and Zootastic Zoofari.
Open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, don’t miss your chance to explore all Applegate Park Zoo offers!
So which of these wildlife safari parks and zoos in California will you visit first? Any other information I should share about them? Let me know in the comments below because I always reply to them.
Other Zoos to Witness the Mighty Wildlife
I’ve dedicated “Parks & Zoos” section of TravelingRauf to help you learn about the best zoos in the world, especially in the US.