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.
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.
When animals are rescued from dangerous living situations or seized from the hands of smugglers, STAR Eco Station provides second chances at peaceful lives. The facility offers a haven for more than 200 rescued animals and educates the public as an environmental science museum. During public tours, guides lead guests through exhibits of rescued exotic animals, such as parrots, pythons, and wildcats, while explaining the habits, history, and New Year's resolutions of each creature.
The recipient of multiple awards from media and government agencies, STAR Eco Station also provides educational outreach programs to more than 40 California school districts and works in concert with conservation organizations such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Paw Project, and Heal the Bay.
In continual operation since 1965, the Hollywood Wax Museum captures the storied history of Tinseltown by recreating its most memorable faces and moments in lifelike detail. All rendered via intricate, multi-week processes, classic entertainers such as Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin pose alongside modern A-list stars such as Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and Morgan Freeman. Visitors can step up to each figure for interactive photo ops with their favorite stars. For its efforts, the museum has received a 2012 Heroes of Hollywood award and a 2008 Charlie Award in Entertainment Arts. The museum was also awarded a civic scroll in the 1970s for helping to restore “glamour and gaiety” to the city of Los Angeles—a mission it continues today even with Hollywood’s ever-changing celebrity landscape.
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.
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.