Even with the latest shutdown orders halting a number of indoor activities, many of our favorite outdoor family destinations can stay open—with safety measures in place, of course. From LA to San Diego, these zoos, aquariums, gardens and more are still welcoming guests. If you could use a change of scenery, then grab your masks and visit (or revisit!) one of these beloved SoCal spots.
San Diego Zoo
Two words: baby hippo! Waddle straight to see the 2 month-old pigmy hippo calf when you get to the San Diego Zoo! You'll also want to be sure to see the precious koala joey, Omeo and the Andean bear cub, Agapito. Don't miss the sweet little flamingo chicks on Front Street and then see if you can spy new mountain lion cubs Sierra and Tahoe having a nap. Next, meander to the Northern Frontier to visit four too-cute-for-words young peccaries hopping around their habitat. Then go enjoy the gorgeous and fluffy endangered Amur leopard cubs at the Africa Rocks exhibit! These are just a few of the epic animals you can behold on a trip to the San Diego Zoo.
San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Dr.
San Diego, CA
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
There are so many new and beloved animals to visit at the San Diego Zoo––including the adorable black-footed cat kittens: female Skyler (top) and male Ryder (bottom) that are growing fast. Don't let their sweet looks fool you. Even though they are one of the smallest cat's one earth they are referred to as
“the world’s deadliest cat.” While these kittens and their mother will remain off public view for now, two adult black-footed cats—male Sawyer and female Yuna—can be seen in their habitat at the Safari Park’s Nairobi Village. With their keen sense of hearing and smell, these cats' predation success rate of 60 percent is the highest of any feline. In a single night, one black-footed cat can consume up to 14 rodents and birds!
Platypuses also now call the Safari Park home, so be sure to visit them at their habitat in Walkabout Australia. Countless additional extraordinary animals await your visit too! Tigers, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, cheetahs, gorillas and more!
Psst: see if you can 'spot' 4-month-old giraffe calf Zahara while you're at the Safari Park!
15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd.
Escondido, CA 92027
Aquarium of the Pacific - Long Beach
Take a deep dive into the outdoor exhibits at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, which is open through July 24. Although the indoor exhibits remain closed, there's still plenty to see outside. Kids can touch a moon jellyfish—the delicate translucent sea creatures drift in a pool near the entrance—along with a variety or rays and maybe even a shark. Another must-see? The Lorikeet Forest, where you can purchase a cup of nectar for $4 and make your way through the aviary as the colorful birds land on your for a sip. In addition to these interactive exhibits, kids can also see penguins, seals and sea lions diving through the water and splashing around.
Tickets with a timed entry are $12 (children 2 and under are free), and must be purchased in advance. We recommend booking an early time as the touch pools can get crowded even with social distancing markers displayed on the grounds.
100 Aquarium Way
The Huntington Botanical Gardens
Located just outside Pasadena in San Marino, the lush and sprawling Huntington Botanical Gardens reopened on July 1 and is definitely worth a visit. Spread across 120 acres, The Huntington is home to 16 themed gardens, including the tropical Jungle Garden with its canopy of trees, giant leaves and climbing vines, and the Chinese Garden with its magical waterfall. To help with social distancing, the gardens are allowing a third of the normal amount of visitors and tickets must be purchases in advance. Also, indoor spaces and high-touch areas (like the Children's Garden) remain closed for now.
1151 Oxford Rd.
San Diego Botanic Garden
Take your budding botanists to soak up the stunning surroundings of the San Diego Botanic Garden. Seeing all of the amazing flowers, plants, trees, succulents and more will enable you to experience the Garden's slogan, "where plants grow people." Although the two children's gardens are not open at this time, kids will love visiting the turtles and the big bullfrog in the Bamboo Pond located in the Bamboo Garden. They'll also enjoy seeing 'real' bananas and other fruit growing on trees in the Subtropical Fruit Garden that is right next door to the Bamboo Garden. Being able to get outside, get some exercise and explore this serene and beautiful 37 acre property is a highlight for families. Little ones will definitely be ready for nap time once home. Make your reservation to visit the Garden today.
Bonus! The SDBG's Education Manager just made this cool, new Scavenger Hunt that kids and parents can enjoy while they're at the Garden!
Here's the link: sdbgarden.org/kids.htm
San Diego Botanic Garden
230 Quail Gardens Dr.
Catalina Island Campgrounds
Trade cabin fever for camping and get back to nature at to one of the five campgrounds open on Catalina Island. Plan your escape via the Catalina Express, operating out of Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point, and arriving at either Avalon or Two Harbors. (The boat service now requires masks and physical distancing on board.) Some of the campsites require a bit of moderate hiking to reach them, so best to avoid those if you have little ones. Instead, check out more accessible spots like Hermit Gulch (located just a short distance from Avalon) or Two Harbors Campground, just a 1/4 mile from Two Harbors.
For more details, plus availability and booking info, go to Reserve America.
––Beth Shea & Shannan Rouss