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.
• 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.
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.
A nonprofit organization, Shoestring City Ranch is run by instructors that dedicate their time to teach teamwork and leadership skills to city-slicker kids by having them work with rescued animals. The environmentally friendly ranch hosts clinics on communicating with pets and group horseback-riding classes that teach everyone from tots to adults how to groom and ride. They also host fun events in addition to classes, such as the 5K Gallop and 1-Mile Tot Trot and a Roping Clinic 101, where a professional rodeo cowboy teaches students how to use a lasso.
Rancho Los Alamitos enjoys a spot on the National Register of Historic Places for a couple reasons—the site is the birthplace of the native Tongva people, and it has also played an important role in local history since 1790. That’s the year Manuel Nieto took control of a 300,000-acre parcel of land as a reward for serving the Spanish crown on an expedition to California. Over the years, the land saw subdivision—in 1833, it was divvied up among Nieto’s heirs into five ranchos, some 25,500 acres becoming Rancho Los Alamitos. Around this time, the Nietos erected a still standing adobe house, most likely for ranch staff and horses. Fast-forward nearly a hundred years and Florence Bixby is cultivating a lush garden. From native plants and cacti to geraniums and roses, her garden incorporated aspects of ranch life without fully relinquishing a European vibe. Along with that garden, vestiges of the Tongva Village and the homestead’s former inhabitants live on today next to a renovated Rancho Center and Barns Area. The ranch is still home to barnyard animals—chickens, rabbits, horses—and thanks to Bixby’s heirs, the 7.5 remaining acres of Nieto’s once-colossal estate now welcome the public with exhibits about its history and that of the Tongva tribe.