If heading to the “Happiest Place on Earth” isn’t in the cards this summer, then try something closer to home! Happy Hollow Park and Zoo in San Jose has been a local favorite for kids of all ages for over five decades. With rides, animals and tons of special events to offer, Happy Hollow is a great choice for families looking for a day of fun (with a little animal education thrown in too). Read on for some of our favorite features of this fun park!

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Hop Aboard the Keep-Around Carousel
As soon as you walk though the gates at Happy Hollow, you are greeted by one of the Bay Area’s best carousels. The Keep-Around Carousel features endangered species and whimsical characters like dragons that are sure to delight riders of all ages. (Insider tip: save the carousel for the end of the day as a bribe to get your wee-ones out of the park when you are ready to head home!)

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Feed Some Goats at the Zoo on the Hill
To the left of the carousel as you enter the park is the Zoo on the Hill. Here you can get up-close-and-personal with all sorts of animals. Bring some quarters to feed the greedy goats or head to the barn to check out the miniature horse and dwarf donkey. Just past the barn are two of the zoo’s newest additions – Xander and Xena, the anteaters. Kids will delight to know that their tongues can grow as much as two feet long! Check out the daily schedule to see when they offer animal meet-n-greets to learn some amazing animal facts.

Happy Hollow

Climb to the Sky at the Redwood Lookout
Looking to tire out the kids? Then head to the Redwood Lookout where even the littlest guests can find some rocks to climb. This area has two structures – a big climbing area perfect for the 4+ crew and a smaller climber for the little ones. This area is pretty well shaded which is great for keeping cool while you watch your little monkeys on the rope bridge. (Insider tip: have your little one sport a bright-colored shirt for easy spotting on this big climbing structure!)

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Up, Down and Around and Around!
In the back of the park past the Redwood Lookout you will find the big draw for most kids—the rides! These are not the big rides that you will find at Great America—they are geared more towards kids under 10. Thrill seekers will enjoy the park’s roller coaster, The Pacific Fruit Express, or the ever-favorite, Frog Hopper. Danny the Dragon will take you on a leisurely ride through familiar storybook tales. Or hop aboard the Mini Putt-Putts and Granny Bugs for some round-and-round good fun!

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Zip on Over to the Zoo in the Hollow
Jaguars, meerkats, lemurs and more make their home at the Zoo in the Hollow. Kids love walking inside the aviary to watch all sorts of feathered friends fly overhead. Parrots are often the focus of the animal meet-n-greets that take place throughout the day. Little explorers will enjoy digging around in the Dino Dig to find bones and other treasures!

Happy Hollow

Extra! Extra!
Happy Hollow has all sorts of special programs for kids (and adults, too!). Every afternoon crowds delight in the miniature antics at the puppet theatre. Summer camps, fall camps and school break camps are great way to explore the park when school is out and get inside information on the animals there.

On October 24 the park will host the Howl-o-ween Family Sleepover. Bring your tent to camp in the Crooked House Meadow or sleep indoors in the Learning LODGE. Check the special events page for information on these events and more!

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Good to Know
Admission into Happy Hollow gets you unlimited rides as well as access to all of the animals. Weekdays are less crowded than weekends. Parking is $10 in the two lots—on Senter Road by Kelley Park (lots of shady spots here) and a bigger lot on Story Road (no shade but you get to enter the park via a very cool bridge).  Pick up a daily schedule when you enter as there are times when the rides will close for an hour for maintenance.

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo
1300 Senter Road
San Jose, Ca
Online: hhpz.org
Hours: through the end of August, the hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. After that, the weekday hours vary so check the schedule before heading over.
Cost: $12.95 for guests aged 2-69; guests 70+ are $9.95 and under 2 are free

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What attraction do you kids run to when you go to Happy Hollow? Let us know in the comments below!

—Kate Loweth

All photos credit the author unless otherwise noted