What do hippos, dinosaurs and family sing-a-longs have in common? They’re all part of an amazing line up of new events, activities and happenings at the LA Zoo and Botanical Gardens this summer. Time to grab your own little monkeys and head on down for a roaring good time with a summer full of family friendly activities.

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Hippo Encounter
Ever wonder what a hippo’s skin feels like or what they eat for lunch?  Now is your chance to find out at the LA Zoo’s new Hippo Encounter. Get up close and personal with these larger than life animals, the 15 month old baby Rosie and her mama Mara. With the help of a trusted zoologist, you’ll get the chance to pet and interact with them. Watch as they eat a smorgasbord of veggies plus whole melons for dessert. Groups are kept small so that you’ll have a chance to ask as many questions as you want (kids are the best at that!) and spend quality time with you’re new favorite animal. Find out why your new giant friends are on the endangered species list and what we can do to help.

Tickets: Regular Zoo admission ($20 for adults, $15 for kids and babies under 2 are free) plus $15 ticket; encounters only take place on the weekend and holidays. The encounters book up in advance, so make your reservations now.

Good to know: This exhibit is only available for kids 4 and older. But since the entrance to the exhibit is right next to the zoo’s Papiano Play Park, you can have one adult wait it out with the little ones while another visits the hippos with the older crowd.

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Family Jam at the Zoo
Food trucks, dancing and live music are summertime staples for this fun-tastic family event. But what really draws the crowds is the rare opportunity to experience after hours viewing of popular animal exhibits. No lines, no heat, no meltdowns. It’s said that some zoo animals are more active at dusk (as anyone who has taken kids to the zoo during the day to find all the animals napping in the shade), but we’ll let your little lions find out for themselves.

Later on in the evening kids will have the opportunity to get an up-close look at some of the zoo’s smaller residents. Think iguanas, tarantulas, and other creepy crawlies. The gross out factor is what makes it all the more fun.

Saturday July 9 at  6 p.m.
Tickets: $25 for adults and $20 for children with a discount for members.

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Dinosaurs Un-extinct at the LA Zoo
Jurassic Park has nothing on these guys. Come face-to-face with 17 animatronic dinosaurs and watch as they roar and move in a jungle-like setting.

And don’t forget to take a #SelfieSaurus—the ultimate in prehistoric social media. Post it on Facebook or Twitter and you might make it on the zoo website. Once you finish your dino adventure, partake in a fossil dig where you’ll experience what it’s like to discover and interpret clues about these long-gone giants. Find out how they relate to modern day animals and more. And if that wasn’t enough dino for you and your brood, you can take home the fun by downloading Dinosaurs: Un-extinct at the L.A. Zoo app, available free for iPhone and Android devices.

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Fun fact: This all takes place in a previously off-limits area of the zoo, so you’ll feel pretty stealth while walking around in spots that are just barely open to the public.

Tickets: $5 in addition to regular Zoo admission ($20 for adults, $15 for kids and babies under 2 are free).

The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
5333 Zoo Drive
Griffith Park
323-644-6001
Online: lazoo.org

What are your favorite things to do at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens? Tell us in the comments below.

—Christina Montoya Fiedler

All photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens.