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.
Kiska the wolf was the first wild animal to roam the grounds at Moorpark College. She soon became part of the Exotic Animal Training and Management (EATM) Program. With the addition of landscaping and enclosures that mimic natural habitats, the program transformed into a 5-acre zoo with primates, coyotes, emus, and an African lioness. The zoo currently houses almost 135 animals and caters to students in the EATM. In addition to class work, they visit the zoo daily, learning how to train and care for exotic animals. Patrons can witness these interactions with the animals at the shows or during the animal demonstrations where student trainers present animals performing behaviors they have trained.
Zoomars calls itself a place for "innocent, old-fashioned fun"—and it's not kidding about the "old-fashioned" part. Although the petting zoo itself opened three decades ago, it stands on the site of a farm built around 1890. Other exceedingly quaint buildings sprang up around it in the years that followed, and now its fuzzy and feathered fleet frolics in the center of San Juan Capistrano's historic district, including two Zoomars facilities listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The tidy, USDA-approved farm houses 16 friendly species ready for 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.
A pumpkin can pep up a pie, transform into a jack-o'-lantern, or fill in for you at work, and each fall, Toluca Lake Pumpkin Patch stocks an ample supply of this versatile squash. The staff also celebrates the harvest season with a maze in which monsters and spooky displays chill visitors' spines. Once fall transforms into winter, the patch turns its attention to selling Christmas trees such as douglas firs and custom wreaths to hang on doors. Regardless of the season, visitors can meet goats, rabbits, and sheep at an onsite petting zoo or pick up a bouquet from Toluca Lake Florist, which has supplied cut flowers for more than 60 years.
iFLY Hollywood’s state-of-the-art indoor wind tunnel lets acrophobic and aerophobic adrenaline junkies experience the sensations of skydiving under safe conditions. iFLY Hollywood will suit you up with a helmet, goggles, flight suit, earplugs, and a can of gravity repellent, before an instructor teaches you the basic maneuvers and hand signals. Once you've learned a lesson, you'll be unleashed into the vertical tunnel’s artificial wind current for some air time at terminal velocity. The entire process lasts about an hour, including waiver signing (flyers under 18 must have a parent or guardian sign), a 15-minute class, and a flight slot during which your group takes turns flying. In addition to the flight experience, the multimedia package includes a DVD with a recording of your flight.
Indoor skydiving is accessible to a wide, family-friendly age range, meaning that Grandma and Grandpa can celebrate their 60th anniversary with more than the traditional cake shaped like Andy Griffith. iFLY Hollywood’s free observation deck allows for maximum show-offiness, so invite along an audience of hard-to-impress friends, lovers, and butlers to marvel at your simulated plummet through the heavens.