Inspired by Blue Star Families, #bluestarsummer bingo cards we headed up to Orange County in August to check out the OC Zoo. This zoo is located within the large Irvine Regional Park.
How to Get There
From the Northside of Camp Pendleton, both the San Diego Zoo and the OC Zoo are equidistant. The OC Zoo is located north on the 5, exiting on Jamboree Rd. You follow Jamboree Road to the park entrance. There are well marked signs along the road.
Parking in the regional park is $3 on weekdays and $5 on weekends, or you can purchase an option of an annual pass if you anticipate multiple visits.
After entering the park, turn right and follow the signs to the OC Zoo. Drive slowly and carefully as the signs are small and easy to miss. Once you turn into a parking lot with the Nature Center in front of you, the OC Zoo is on the right (Parking Area 19). Once you find a parking spot in this lot – park in it. While there are closer spots, having any spot is ideal to driving around the lot.
The Orange County Public Library Summer Reading Program gave out free admission bookmarks to the Zoo, so we utilized these. Admission is reasonable at $2 a person over 2. (Ages 2 and under are free).
This Zoo is small but packs a lot of educational punch. From the native plants with history on its uses through time to how to keep wildlife safe and wild, and who to call if you encounter wildlife – it covers a lot of ground, without the large footprint. On the right when you first enter the park, there is a petting zoo. This separate area makes it easy to contain your children while interacting with the goats. There is food for purchase, but they will close the pens for petting during the mealtime (understandably). Coming out of the petting zoo area, turn right and you can either turn left or go straight. Either of those options will put you on the circle path around the exhibits.
For school age children, pick up a scavenger hunt questionnaire. They will have to read each sign (including the plants) to learn about the native California plants and wildlife to answer each question. It was educational for both the kiddos and adults. Once completed, you turn in the questionnaire to the front entrance, where they check your answers. If correct, choose a prize!
Within Irvine Regional Park
There was so much activity within the park over the weekend. Multiple birthday parties and company functions. There are large pathways for talking walks, bikes and paddle boats for rentals and snack centers to purchase hot and cold items. We brought a picnic lunch with us and ate there – there are numerous picnic tables scattered throughout the park. It would be easy to spend the day here, checking out the Nature Center, seeing the Zoo, going to the Irvine Railroad and playing frisbee or catch. This getaway within the busy Orange County is a wonderful way to connect with your family without screens or lots of noise. It is well worth the trip.
September is here, and pumpkin season is not far behind. The OC Zoo will be hosting pumpkin-themed Preschool Programs, Animal Art and a Halloween Zoo-Tacular! Here is a picture of their flyer if you want to plan a visit! The Preschool Program lists dates from September through November and require registration. The Halloween Animal Art for children ages 5-10 will be held on October 13th per the flyer and also requires registration. The registration phone number is listed as 714-973-6846.
The Halloween Zoo-tacular does not require registration, and has a date of October 27th.
Also – check out the other happenings around Irvine Regional Park: