Put the words “petting zoo” on a birthday party invitation and you’ll be the cool mom on the block. Nothing screams fun like our little love-bugs touching furry, fuzzy or even scaly critters. We’ve scoured the county to find adorable animals for your sweet ones’ next birthday — bunnies, reptiles, ponies, and even some underwater creatures — or if you can’t decide, have a birthday party at the zoo (really)!

DSC_0623Photo: Michelle Berkowitz Photography

Radical Reptiles and Friends
These animal enthusiasts have been entertaining San Diego families and schools for 14 years. If your little one can’t get enough of snakes and lizards, Radical Reptiles and Friends will put on a birthday party that will have guests screaming in delight. Parties run for one hour and include approximately a dozen animals of various species, ages and sizes. Kids learn about each animal and have a hands-on experience. There are no group-size limits with Radical Reptiles.

Cost: Varies

Online: radicalreptilesandfriends.com


Wild Wonders
Wild Wonders has worked with Discovery Animal Planet and rescues and raises animal ambassadors for awareness and fun. Delight little party guests with six safari surprises that come to your house for an hour of education and entertainment (you can also have a party at their site). Feel the feet of a giant millipede or let a 12-foot python slither across your lap— all while learning the importance of these animals in their environment. Your little cutie gets to be Junior Zookeeper and do everything first.

Cost: $295 for basic party (mileage not included)

5712 Via Montellano
Bonsall, Ca
Online: wildwonders.org/birthdays

helen woodwardPhoto: Leah Singer

Helen Woodward Animal Center
Busy parents rejoice at Helen Woodward birthday parties. Choose four hands-on animal encounters—rabbits, turtles, miniature horse, sheep, snakes, and yes, hissing cockroaches (kids love them). Party in a private pavilion area and a special gift goes to the birthday star. Many activities, a playhouse, life-size fiberglass horse, hula-hoops, and basketball, keep little hands busy while they wait their turn to pet the animals. Party proceeds help the shelter.

Cost: $200-$375

6461 El Apajo Rd.
Rancho Santa Fe, Ca
Online: animalcenter.org

Pacific Animal Productions
A feel-good exotic animal petting zoo will come to your house in big wrapped birthday boxes (ventilated of course). Fun and educational your little super safari helper gets to be first to touch and see the animals. The little ones will ooh and aah over an exotic monkey, fox, alligator, and hissing cockroaches (you choose five per show) all while learning about the future conservation of the animals. Little ones get involved with clues and solving mysteries of what amazing animals are inside.

Cost: Starts at $275 for 1-hour packages (mileage not included)

3946 S. Mission Rd.
Fallbrook, Ca
Online: pacificanimalproductions.com


Photo Credit: Birch Aquarium at Scripps via Flickr

Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Getting to touch baby sharks for the brave or tide pool animals for the more timid toddlers. Birch aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla has age-themed birthday parties. The younger set will love to touch the bumpy, slippery underwater creatures. Older crowds (4 – 9-years-old) participate in a scavenger hunt that winds through the Aquarium unraveling clues about sea dragons, majestic sharks and swirling fish. All led by an experienced aquarium instructor, so come have a swimming good time.

Times: Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. – noon or 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $400 ($360 for members)

2300 Expedition Way
La Jolla, Ca
Online: birchaquarium.edu

The San Diego Zoo Koala Party
Party among the eucalyptus trees in the San Diego Zoo’s special birthday room. Enchant your little guests with up-close animal encounters (usually a bird and a reptile), zoo-themed decorations, cake, juice and more! Birthday includes a zoo-tastic visit by Dr. Zoolittle. Families will love that they get to prowl the zoo after the party—Zoo bus and Skyfari included. You get to feel good that your kids are learning while having fun and supporting the zoo.

Time: Saturday or Sunday
Cost: $69/person (birthday person free)

2920 Zoo Dr.
San Diego, Ca
Online: sandiegozoo.org/birthdays

bunnypartyPhoto: Bunny Birthdays

Bunny Birthdays
Hippity hop bunny experts bring cute and fluffy to your door. Six adorable bunnies, treats for hand feeding, pillows to sit on, face painting (for an additional fee) and one bunny expert will bring smiles to everyone’s faces. You can also add items like storybook time and bubble wands. Bunny Birthdays is collectively owned by urban farmers in San Diego, and all the party proceeds go toward projects in sustainable living and community building.

Cost: Varies

Online: bunnybirthdays.com

Living Coast Discovery Center
If you live in south San Diego and sea turtles, sharks and rays appeal to your little birthday sweetie a two-hour party at the Living Coast Discovery Center will bring an adventurous animal experience to your budding oceanographer. Scavenger hunt, chit chat animal encounter and a private decorated room all bring some educational fun. Birthday admission includes animal exhibits, native gardens and walking trails.

Cost: $350 ($300 for members)

1000 Gunpowder Point Dr.
Chula Vista, Ca
Online: livingcoast.org/birthdayparty

pony ridePhoto: Leah Singer

Nettie’s Pony Parties
Clippity-clop. Did somebody say ponies and petting zoo? Well, Nettie can make this happen at your house (or park or other birthday destination). Hand-held pony rides by an experienced party pal and fifteen petting zoo animals for the birthday bunch to touch, feed (and even hug). Parents love that the animals are miniature and a little unique—exotic looking rabbits, mini goats, mini sheep, ducks and a mini pig.

Cost: $399 for pony ride and petting zoo for two hours (mileage can add-on a $100 or more)

25496 Los Rancherias Rd.
Hemet, Ca
Online: nettiespartypals.com

The Lizard Wizard of San Diego
If creepy crawly creatures is what your little one craves the Lizard Wizard is your gal. Twenty-five scaly, slippery and interesting animals give an educational, hands-on experience that little tykes remember. Your cuties get to touch and hold snakes, lizards, frogs and bugs and even a large slithering python.

Cost: $200 per party ($25 added if takes over 50 minutes to drive)

Online: lizardwizardofsandiego.com

Have you invited furry friends to your kiddo’s birthday party? Tell us in the Comments what type of party your little one would love.

—Nikki Walsh