The San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park aren’t the only places you’ll find wild animals in San Diego. We know plenty of secret zoos where you can see pigs, goats, peacocks, sea lions, flamingos and more. The best part is––all of these places are free of charge and free to roam! Read on to learn where beautiful animals are hiding in plain sight all over the city.

Editor’s note: Some of these locations may be open with a limited schedule, so always check before you go.

Peacocks at the Leo Carrillo Ranch House

Peacocks roam freely around this historic homestead where actor Leo Carrillo used to live. If you find a peacock feather on the ground you can take one home for free, but if you find more they ask you to give them to the visitors center so they can sell them in their gift shop to help fund ranch restorations.

Leo Carrillo Ranch
6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Lane, Carlsbad
858-638-0672
Online: carrillo-ranch.org/visit

Rescued Harbor Seals at The Bahia

Billy and Gracie are the resident harbor seals at the Bahia Hotel. They were rescued and now live the high life at the resort. Their swimming pool is right next to the cute Airstream trailer that offers grab n go drinks and snacks.

Bahia Resort Hotel
998 West Mission Bay Dr., Mission Bay
858-488-0551
Online: bahiahotel.com

Flamingos at the Coronado Marriott Resort & Spa

Drive over to this island oasis and look for the pink flamingos at the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa. You’ll find them between the hotel and tennis courts with views looking out towards the Coronado Bridge. Plan for extra time to walk along the beautiful bay for a scenic walk and views of the San Diego skyline.

Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa
2000 2nd St., Coronado
619-435-3000
Online: marriott.com/hotels

Bunnies, Goats, a Cow & More at City Farmers Nursery

Discover this farm in the middle of the city at City Farmers Nursery. You’ll find all kinds of animals like goats, bunnies, donkeys and even a cow! Next door is Nate’s Garden Grill where you can grab a bite to eat after exploring the farm.

City Farmers Nursery
3110 Euclid Ave., City Heights
619-284-6358
Online: cityfarmersnursery.com

Blue Herons & Birds at Paradise Point Resort

Fly over to this hidden gem at Paradise Point Resort & Spa on Mission Bay. Walk the grounds to feel like you’re in a jungle with birds flying all around you. There are 2 lagoons filled with ducks, turtles, geese, koi fish and even great blue herons. The gift shop sells duck food and the proceeds benefit a local charity. If you’re brave enough, climb to the top of the lookout tower to come face to beak with the birds in the treetops!

Paradise Point Resort & Spa
1404 Vacation Rd., Mission Bay
858-240-4913
Online: paradisepoint.com

Chickens & Cats at Mission Hills Nursery

Walk into the past where Kate Sessions used to sell plants out of her house in 1910, now turned into Mission Hills Nursery. In the back is where you’ll find the chickens in the coop, unless they’re clucking around the gardens. A couple of friendly cats can be found lazing around in the sunny spots too.

What’s Nearby: One block west is Kettle & Stone coffee shop and one block south is Pioneer Park with a playground and bathrooms.

Mission Hills Nursery
1525 Fort Stockton Dr., Mission Hills
619-295-2808
Online: missionhillsnursery.com

Miniature Horse, Goats, Tortoise & More at Sunshine Gardens

Giddy-up to Sunshine Gardens where you’ll find this adorable miniature horse sharing paddocks with his goat friends. Time your visit right and you’ll even get to feed them! They’re located across the parking lot away from the rest of the grounds, but you must wander over to the gardens and you’ll find plenty more. In the back are pigs, more goats and chickens; in the succulent garden is a bird aviary enclosure; and to the left you can’t miss the hydroponics with tanks full of koi fish big and small.

What’s Nearby: San Diego Botanic Gardens are just down the street and Cottonwood Creek Park with bathrooms and an epic playground is 1 mile west, also near Cali Cream Ice Cream and Leucadia Pizza.

Sunshine Gardens
155 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas
760-436-3244
Online: facebook.com/sunshinegardensencinitas

Goats & Chickens at the Rancho Penasquitos Adobe Ranch House

Bring your own carrots to feed Holly and Base, Nubian goats who live at this historic ranch house. They also like celery, romaine and iceberg lettuce. Take in some history from 1823 at this second oldest residence in San Diego County. Miles of trails start here to explore the Los Penasquitos Canyon (and waterfall!) by bike, hike or even horseback. You’ll see a playground as you enter the long driveway, but it’s quite a distance from there to the goats at the ranch house, so plan to drive between them for little legs.

Parking: Even though park entry gates are locked at 5 p.m., there are plenty of other lower parking lots that you can walk up from.

Rancho Penasquitos Adobe Ranch House
12122 Canyonside Park Dr., Rancho Penasquitos
858-484-7504
Online: sdparks.org/RanchoLosPenasquitos

Aquarium at the Plaza Bonita Mall

Be part of their world as you make friends with the fish inside this pop-up bubble aquarium. You’ll find this large aquarium inside the kids play area at the Plaza Bonita Mall. This is one of the few indoor malls in San Diego, so check to make sure the mall is open before you go, and ask if the kids play area is open.

Westfield Plaza Bonita Mall
3030 Plaza Bonita Rd., National City
619-267-2850
Online: westfield.com/plazabonita

–Bonnie Taylor

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