A rustic Spanish-style farm in the heart of San Juan Capistrano that's been standing since 1890 promises more creatures than just the area's famous swallows. The picturesque estate is part of Zoomars?an all-ages petting zoo that's USDA-approved for cleanliness and the place where more than 200 animals call home. The residents range from the familiar to the exotic: goats, sheep, and kunekune pigs mingle alongside exotic emus, zebus, and zebras that greet visitors for pets and feeding. One of the zoo's most popular areas is the guinea-pig patch, where some of the farm's fuzziest and friendliest creatures reside. Zoomars also features family-friendly attractions ranging from a miniature train and pony rides to the newly installed playground with four slides to the rustic Miner's Gulch, where panning the water reveals rare treasures such as gemstones.
Owner Carolyn Franks started down the path to animal care in college when she created her own line of dog toys. She soon moved from New Jersey to California where her passion snowballed: developing a full line of pet products, hosting an animal show for kids, running a chain of exotic bird stores, and even traveling to Brazil to learn about animal conservation. In 2005, she used her knowledge to take over the Jones Farm petting zoo, expanding its pens and transforming its brand into Zoomars.
Franks is joined by a well-trained staff of zookeepers and wranglers who share her vision in entertaining kids?and teaching them how to interact with the animals?as they are in caring for and shepherding mammals and birds.
When Father Lasuen founded Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1775, he created the 7th of modern California's 21 missions, which were intended to serve as epicenters of Christianity and Spanish culture in the New World. The mission system fell into disarray and disrepair during the war for Mexican independence and the Mexican-American War, but San Juan Capistrano remains, standing as a relic of that era and a testament to California's historical mélange of European and Native American cultures.
The mission invites visitors to learn more about the region’s history by exploring 10 acres of preserved adobe architecture, fountains, and gardens. Audio tours give groups a unique insight into the site's stories, and rotating exhibits feature artwork as well as historical and religious artifacts from San Juan Capistrano. Hands-on activities allow guests to recreate the experience of centuries-old mission life by making adobe bricks, panning for gold, or connecting computers to dial-up modems.
The Laguna Art Museum began in 1918 as a small gallery in a converted cottage, where local artists would display and sell their pieces to the public. As the exhibits and collections grew larger over the next several decades, the founders moved the gallery into a larger, custom space, and eventually transformed it into a museum celebrating the development of Californian art from the 19th century to the present. The museum currently boasts a permanent collection of more than 3,500 works, as well as rotating exhibits that track the evolution of artistic expression.
To further its mission of spreading public appreciation for local art, the museum hosts informative lectures and open-house receptions. The museum’s Carole Reynolds Art Research Library also intrigues readers with more than 5,000 books, many of which chronicle the history of Californian art.
The Pacific Marine Mammal Center offers its visitors the chance to add a sea lion to their family trees. Through symbolic adoptions, the non-profit organization funds its mission to locate, rehabilitate, and release injured marine mammals?including seals, sea lions, and dolphins?back home in the wild. After admitting one of these animal patients, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center's animal-care director and a veterinary medical director can administer antibiotics, nurse mammals back to health or go through treatment plans for various diseases and illnesses. Aside from adoptions, the center educates the public about these efforts through programs such as field trips and day camps for kids.
Flavors of Laguna's tasting tours meander to well-known Laguna Beach restaurants as well as eateries kept quiet by locals, with tastings of a wide variety of cuisines along the way. Though stops can vary, past trips have seen tour-goers dig spoons into Dolce Gelato's creamy handcrafted treats, sample sizzling dishes at La Sirena Grill, or cozy up to the horseshoe island bar at Lumberyard. (Wine or beer tastings are available for an extra fee.) Between bites, guides point out major sights during casual strolls around Laguna's streets, ensuring that tours, like city maps made of chocolate, are informative as well as delicious.
Founded in the mid-1980s, The California Women's Conference boasts a long and proud tradition of lectures and discussion panels aimed especially at women in business. Some highlights from past years include a panel and sack race featuring Michelle Obama, Ann Romney, Cindy McCain, and Elizabeth Edwards in 2007 and a historic address from the Dalai Lama and Maria Shriver in 2006. Beyond annual conventions, The California Women’s Conference offers news and resources with a lively online community.