Who knew there was a zoo in the middle of the desert?!
I had no idea until I did a google search for “L.A. Day Trips” and the Living Desert Zoo came up. Because le kid LOVES animals and we hadn’t really been anywhere in a few weekends, it seemed like a no-brainer to take a drive out to the desert to see what the hype was all about.
Last Saturday we got up fairly early (for a weekend!) and hopped in our car headed toward Palm Desert. Despite being about 135 miles away, we were able to make pretty good time and ended up reaching the zoo in about 2 hours.
The desert is beautiful!
The Living Desert Zoo was established back in 1970 by several local residents who foresaw the impact the growth of resorts in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area would have on local wildlife. To counteract some of the development, they set aside several acres of land as a nature preserve and hiking trails. Today, the zoo is home to animals and plants from all over the world (and specifically Africa) that are native to desert climates.
I have no idea what kind of flower this is, but it reminded us of a spider.
What would a desert be without camels?
The zoo is broken into two sections: North America and Africa, and features animals, plants, and reptiles native to each region. Because it’s a zoo of desert animals it features many of the usual suspects: camels, zebras, wild dogs, hyenas, and giraffes, as well as some endangered species such as gazelles, and servals.
Giraffes...showing a little love.
Because the zoo is in the middle of the desert, you can imagine it was HOT. Although it was only about 75 degrees, the sun was definitely shining brightly. I wouldn’t even THINK of visiting the zoo in the summer when temperatures can easily top 110. Luckily, the zoo closes early in the summer (1:00pm). Also, some of the animal shows–Animal Wonders and the reptile show–are also subject to the weather, so check the weather report to make sure it isn’t too hot before you head out.
If you’re like me and have been to your fair share of zoos, you’ll notice that the Living Desert Zoo is quite a bit smaller and has less exhibits than your “regular” zoo. However, because the weather can make a full-day here almost impossible, for us, it was the perfect size. I can get impatient with kid attractions (sorry, blame my father for passing on his short attention span), so for me, this was perfect. We spent a good four hours checking out the exhibits, watching the shows, and seeing the zoo at our own pace. There are several hiking trails on the zoo grounds, so if you want to bring along a picnic and go for a hike before seeing the animals, you can easily turn this into an all-day affair. Otherwise, set aside a few hours and tour at your own pace.
He's in LOVE with trains!
Although le kid had a wonderful time looking at each animal exhibit, what he REALLY loved was the model train set. The zoo has an AMAZING train set that’s takes up an expansive 1/3 acres. The train set includes replicas of local shops, restaurants, and hotels as well as all sorts of trains. He was IN LOVE. Le kid must have looked at the train, studied it, and ran around the set for the better part of an hour. I literally had to pry him away.
Overall we enjoyed our day at the zoo. Not only did we see lots of interesting plants, animals, and reptiles, but it was CHEAP! Two tickets cost us just $22. How can you beat that?
*Check out more pictures from our zoo adventure on my Facebook page.
Have you been to the zoo lately? What’s your favorite thing about zoos?