The nonprofit Wildlife Learning Center populates its ancient olive grove with more than 50 species from across the globe, teaching visitors the value of conservation while raising funds for wildlife sanctuary and public education through its Wildlife Learning Foundation. Alongside a circular walking path, a menagerie of animals, including lynxes, arctic foxes, kinkajous, and college sports mascots, frolics within landscaped enclosures. Throughout the afternoon, friendly biologists give training talks on the hour and facilitate up-close interaction with various critters. The zoo also hosts children's camps and birthday parties for precocious naturalists to ensure a future generation of nature-savvy citizens.
• For $74, you get a one-year Family Deluxe membership (a $149 value). Benefits include unlimited admission for either three adults and their children (ages 2–17) or two adults and their children plus one adult guest. Other perks include six one-day guest passes, three one-day Safari Shuttle passes, two Choo-Choo Train passes, and one free stroller rental.
Thousands of captive-bred exotic animals face abandonment, abuse, and neglect every year. Since readily available homes with trained caretakers are few and far between, euthanasia remains a common recourse for many of these animals. Joel and Chemaine wanted to prevent these deaths, so they founded Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization that rescues and rehabilitates creatures with nowhere else to go. The staff members obtain?but never purchase?animals from private owners as well as facilities that are no longer capable of providing adequate care and attention. The sanctuary then supports these exotic animals for the rest of their natural lives while allowing them to behave as naturally as possible within a protected environment.
Although Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary's primary mission is to save and protect at-risk creatures, educating the public is also a major goal. When staff members lead guided tours throughout the grounds, they not only teach guests about the sanctuary's exotic reptiles, birds, and big cats, but also explain the importance of preserving these species for future generations. Over the course of a visit, groups may have the opportunity to see everything from an African lion and a Canadian lynx to an Egyptian cobra and an Eclectus parrot. Most of the animals are protected in private enclosures, although, under the supervision of the guides, some tour groups may get the opportunity to examine select reptiles and non-exotic creatures.
Spread across 10 acres of land in California's high desert, Hesperia Zoo is home to rare and endangered species from six continents. The charming, scaled-down zoo opened in 2001, and has since become a destination for families to learn more about tigers, lemurs, and more. In fact, the zoo's visitors can get up close and personal with the zoo's animals during Feeding Frenzy tours, which occur Saturday and Sunday every week.
While the rest of the natural world prepares to hibernate for the winter, Enchanted Country Trees & Pumpkins has been at its most active since 1983. Farmers pick the plumpest pumpkins from their patches, displaying them next to bounce houses and trundling John Deere tractors. Barnyard animals deign to be petted in exchange for palmfuls of feed, and ponies accept small riders for afternoon trots. Come winter, the lots fill with Christmas trees.
Pasadena Pumpkin Patch changes with the seasons. In the spring and summer, it sells fresh fruit. In the winter, families come to choose Christmas trees. But the highlight of its year is fall, when jack-o-lanterns grace every doorstep and pumpkin fills every pie. At this time of year, the pumpkin patch grows and bright orange gourds ripen on the vine, waiting for a pair of hands to pluck it from a bed of hay and decorate it with a spooky face. In addition to pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, the farm offers a variety of fall activities. Pony rides and a petting zoo introduce children to the many creatures that call a farm their home, while towering bouncing slides help mini thrill-seekers locate their lost puppy Waldo before they whiz to the ground.