For 30 years, Zoomars' fuzzy and feathered fleet has tickled the fancy of more than 3 million tykes and critter enthusiasts with 16 varieties of animals on hand, ready for petting, riding, and cavorting. The USDA–approved, clean farm facility houses a host of friendly species suited to affectionate coddling, such as sheep, bunnies, and guinea pigs. Zoo staffers supervise kids as they climb into goat pens, or drop snacks into the mouths of zedonks, zebus, and staff members working through lunch.
Additionally, a child-size miniature train chugs a whistling ride around a circular track, and gentle ponies trot along on hand-led trail rides as parents canter along behind. At a re-created Gold Rush–era mine, staffers help small visitors to pan and sift for gemstones, arrowheads, dinosaur fossils, fool’s gold, and long-lost arcade tokens.
Park staff can also connect visitors to the earth and American history through camps led by the camp director, a member of California’s Acjachemen tribe who grew up on the grounds. Campers explore the grounds and Pioneer Town through crafts, free creative play, storytelling, and special activities ranging from Native American dances to soapstone carving to reading excerpts from Lewis and Clark’s middle-school diaries.
• 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.
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.
At The Pumpkin Factory, festive gourds bring an orange glow to the atmosphere, setting the scene for an exciting fall carnival. At three locations, kids leap into the air in inflatable bounce houses, converse with the goats at the petting zoo, and trot around on gentle ponies. In Corona, a special EuroBobble attraction lets guests play buoy, rolling atop a pool in a clear, inflatable bubble. At the Westminster Pumpkin Factory, helicopters take flight for scenic tours of the fairgrounds. At the end of the day, families can take home a pumpkin of their own to create a gruesome jack 'o' lantern doppelganger of their neighbor.
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.
Under strings of lanterns and the night's canopy of stars, kids scamper through a field filled with thousands of pumpkins, each one searching for the biggest, roundest one. Finding it is one thing; lifting it is another. The bountiful Pumpkin City's Pumpkin Farm began a bit by happenstance—the owners originally began selling pumpkins out of the back of their pickup and steadily added on amusements as more people came each year. More than 30 years later, the one-month harvest festival sets up each October with attractions ranging from pony rides to puppet shows. As they explore the area amid bales of hay, teepees, character cutouts, and other props, kids can feed baby goats and sheep at the petting zoo or sit on an authentic tractor from 1932. Once guests have procured the perfect pumpkin to carve into the likeness of their favorite monster, they can get their picture taken with Pumpkin Jack, hop on rides such as the Goliath Slide or Pumpkin City Express Train, or visit Gone Fishing, Knock 'Em Down, and other game booths.
Montebello Barnyard Zoo's animals are like rock stars, touring local homes and meeting places for one-on-one encounters and shows. Pony rides headline this traveling attraction, which also incorporates a petting zoo with various farm animals: goats, sheep, chickens, and even a llama.
The animals still spend the most time at their home venue, however. Here, fenced off areas contain larger animals such as cows and zebras, who always show up to work wearing the same black-and-white outfits. Bales of hay, wooden barrels, and a large, red barn create a rustic setting for picnics and birthday parties. Nearby, a merry-go-round spins endlessly and a truck—decorated to resemble a locomotive—pulls train cars on a tour of the grounds.