HomeEntertainmentAmazing California zoos to check out this summer

Amazing California zoos to check out this summer

Published June 5, 2024


Zoos have always brought me great enchantment and wonder. My parents have been taking my brother and me to zoos and aquariums since we were small children, and the enthusiasm for animals that we had as kids has never left us. A perfect summer day for me is spent at a zoo. California is home to many amazing zoos that strive to provide outstanding entertainment and education for guests and are committed to conserving Earth’s extraordinary animals. 

Tortoises can be found happily munching on vegetables at the children’s zoo in Oakland. (photo by MELISSA MITCHELL)

Oakland Zoo

Bringing more than 850 exotic species to the Bay Area from around the globe, as well as housing many native animals, the Oakland Zoo has no shortage of awesome things to see. Oakland Zoo has an African savanna section, complete with giraffes, lions, elephants and zebras, as well as a rainforest and a train that carries guests through a recreation of the Australian wilderness–with wallabies, wallaroos and emus.

The most outstanding part of this zoo is the California Trail. A ride in a gondola through the air takes visitors to a scenic zone overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Visitors then follow a trail that takes them past exhibits of local California wildlife, including grizzly bears and California condors.

Massive coral reef environments fill aquariums at the California Academy of Sciences. (photo by JBYLUND.WEBP)

California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco

This San Francisco museum boasts a massive aquarium, as well as an impressive indoor rainforest. Visitors can amble their way through the four-story rainforest, where tropical butterflies and birds fill the air, golden silk orb-weaver spiders weave delicate webs and forest-inhabiting amphibians and reptiles are on display. After arriving at the apex of the rainforest dome, elevators rapidly ferry visitors under the surface of the pool located at the bottom of the rainforest exhibit to the extensive aquarium below.

The aquarium section of the museum hosts a twilight zone with bioluminescent and deep sea fish, large coral reef exhibits and native Californian and Pacific Ocean tanks. The museum is also home to the infamous albino alligator Claude, who can be found lounging in the swamp exhibit. 

The Academy of Sciences certainly requires a day-long visit. Along with the rainforest dome, there is a planetarium dome that presents multiple shows a day and can transport viewers via advanced technology to the darkest depths of the ocean or the farthest reaches of the universe. There is also a natural history section, an earthquake simulator, a geology collection and other exhibits that change seasonally.  

Many different species of jellyfish live at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (photo by JIM G)

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Situated on historic Cannery Row overlooking the scenic Monterey Bay, this Aquarium boasts a wide variety of fabulous habitats and creatures. The aquarium is home to many different species of fish, sharks, octopi and jellyfish, as well as penguins and sea otters. Recently, their Into the Deep exhibit opened, which showcases the diverse and vibrant creatures that call the deepest parts of the ocean their home. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is also strongly dedicated to the conservation and preservation of marine life and habitats, as evidenced by its advocacy and education programs.


The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert

The Living Desert Zoo is home to two Rhinoceroses. (photo by ANDREW PRESCOTT)

Located in sunny Palm Desert, this zoo features animals that call desert environments their home, such as tortoises and camels. The trails and pathways throughout the zoo showcase a plethora of desert plants and cactuses from local and nearby regions. 

The Living Desert Zoo also has a large savanna exhibit with rhinos and other savanna species, but the most outstanding feature of this zoo is the Australian Adventures exhibit. The Living Desert has a unique aviary where parakeets fly and Bennet’s wallabies and echidnas walk freely among the visitors. Don’t worry, though, the emus are kept safely in a separate enclosure nearby.

Komodo dragons bask in the extensive reptile house at San Diego Zoo. (photo by ANDREW PRESCOTT)

San Diego Zoo

Housing over 680 different species, this expansive wildlife park is the cream of the crop when it comes to California zoos. With clouded leopards, caecilians, and almost everything in between, each visit to this zoo proves a day-long quest to see every animal that calls this 100-acre park their home. 

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, the nonprofit behind the gargantuan zoo, is strongly focused on conservation efforts globally. The zoo is home to many endangered species, such as the Panamanian golden frog, which is extinct in the wild.

Another awe-inspiring feature of this wildlife park are the large aviaries, as well as the various small ponds and pools where bird species from across the world can be found. Live presentations and animal feedings are also scheduled throughout the day at this zoo and can prove an entertaining way to learn about and better connect with the varied animals that inhabit the park. 


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