Go Wild on a Day Out With the Kids at L.A.’s Best Animal Encounters


Los Angeles may be a big city, but it’s teeming with wild animals. From the LA Zoo to exotic animal rescue organizations, any one of these unique animal encounters makes for a memorable day out with the kids.

The LA Zoo

The 133-acre Los Angeles Zoo is home to over 1,100 different animals and 800 plant species. It’s an amazing place to visit in itself, but you can take your day out with the kids to a new level with a private mini-safari. A zoo specialist will meet you at the entrance and welcome you on an up-close and personal guided tour. Your kids will love hopping aboard the five-person tram and zipping around the enclosures of the massive park. Your guide will give you exciting, in-depth knowledge as you spot animals like koalas, elephants, and orangutans. Afterward, you’ll head to Reggie’s Bistro, where a reserved table will be waiting for you. Enjoy gourmet salads and burgers across from Reggie the Alligator’s enclosure, while you recount all the animals you met.

Aquarium of the Pacific

As you enter the Aquarium of the Pacific, stop for a photo-op under the giant blue whale hanging over the main hall entrance. Explore both levels of the aquarium, where you’ll see hundreds of different species of native California coastal sea life. Pass through the aquarium tunnel and watch the sea lions playfully swimming around you as you make your way to the outdoor exhibits featuring penguins, sea lions, and sharks. Don’t miss the touch pools, where you’ll get your hands wet reaching in to gently pat the sleek, soft bat rays as they glide by.

STAR Eco Station

This indoor science museum dedicated to animal education may be small, but it packs in a ton for an amazing day out with the kids. Knowledgeable tour guides will lead you through the STAR Eco Station, designed to look like a tropical rainforest with brightly painted murals. You’ll meet colorful birds, lizards, snakes of all sizes, spiders, and even alligators among dozens of different species of rescued birds, fish, reptiles, and insects. Your guide will tell you all about the exotic animals’ stories as you get hands-on experiences with many of them. Your kids will be wide-eyed as they hold a live tarantula, and they’ll reminisce for days about the giant boa that wrapped herself around their arms.

Wildlife Learning Center

The Wildlife Learning Center offers a unique experience to get close to some very rare and exotic animals. Entering the lush garden grounds feels like an escape to another world. When you arrive you’ll be greeted by the experienced animal handlers, who are more than happy to answer all your questions and invite you to animal presentations throughout your visit. Take a tour of the animals along the dirt path that winds its way through the tranquil, tree-lined sanctuary. Opt for one of the Animal Experience packages for a one-of-a-kind opportunity to handle and care for the animals, along with an amazing family photo op. Your little animal explorers will be amazed as they get to pet a fennec fox or hold an owl. Even you won’t be able to resist the chance to play with the sloth named Lola.

Lakewood Equestrian Center

Throw on your boots and jeans and take your little cowpokes on a pony adventure at the Lakewood Equestrian Center. Your little ones will love saddling up on a pony and feeling the breeze in their hair as they go for a trot around the large track. After they ride, hit the farmyard. Grab a cup of feed, and some carrots for the horses, and spend some time in the petting zoo feeding the animals. You’ll all giggle with delight as the excited goats nibble at the food in your hands.

  • Aquarium of the Pacific

    100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802

    (562) 590-3100

  • STAR Eco Station

    10101 Jefferson Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

    (310) 842-8060

  • Wildlife Learning Center

    16027 Yarnell St, Sylmar, CA 91342

    (818) 362-8711

  • Lakewood Equestrian Center

    11369 Carson St, Lakewood, CA 90715


Our writers' favorites

- Enter Your Location -
- or -