Honestly, I didn’t go to Santa Barbara to hang out with giraffes; I was only thinking about reading my book on the beach. But since my kid rarely shares my vision of a perfect weekend getaway, I added a few stops to our itinerary that would satisfy his vision as well. So we spent one morning at the Santa Barbara Zoo because kids love zoos (and my kid is crazy about them). Besides, the zoo is only a few blocks away from the beach, so I knew we could just head down for some afternoon napping in the sun afterwards.
The zoo had plenty to see and do to keep us busy for over two hours, but you could certainly spend more time if you have younger kids. The exhibits were all well maintained and accessible for kids. Here are some of of our favorites:
1. The Eeeww Exhibit (Insects and Reptiles)
I have grown to love hissing cockroaches and salamanders because I have a boy who makes me touch all the creepy crawlies, so we enjoyed our stroll through this indoor exhibit to check out some of the world’s most unappreciated creatures.
2. The Penguins
Kids really enjoyed trying to read the name tags on the wings of the warm-weather Humboldt penguins as they swam around their exhibit. There was plenty of room to see the penguins from lots of different viewpoints.
3. African Veldt
The giraffes in this exhibit have the best view of the sparkly Pacific Ocean, and they seem pretty happy about it. Or maybe, it was because we visited while people were lining up for the giraffe feedings.
4. Tropical Aviaries
We walked through indoor and outdoor aviary exhibits and got a close-up view of many birds.
5. Asian Small-Clawed Otters
The energetic otters draw a large crowd. The exhibit has new otter pups, so there’s the extra cute factor as well.
When you go:
The zoo is open 10-5 everyday except Christmas. Current admission is $12 for adults and $10 for children. Check website for updated information. Parking is $5, but there plenty of the Santa Barbara visitor trolleys that stop right in front of the zoo.
‘Tis the season to take the family to enjoy the Christmas lights, catch a matinee of the Nutcracker, and get that picture with Santa at the mall (unless you have a kid that refuses to get within a foot of the mall Santa). If you’re looking for ways to keep the kids busy this holiday season, you will find plenty of options in California. Here are two of my favorite family-friendly events in California this month. They’re educational too, just don’t tell the kids.
Snow and Reindeer at the California Academy of Sciences from November 23 to January 2.
Kids love to listen for reindeer hooves on their roofs on Christmas Eve, so take them to the east garden of the Academy to meet the reindeer at the Reindeer Rendezvous special exhibit. Then step inside the igloo presentation dome to watch the five-minute video about the North Pole. There are plenty of daily science, animal, and cultural presentations to choose from, but if you go on Wednesdays, you’ll get to meet the scientists that explore the Earth’s coldest regions. Don’t forget to get a picture with Santa Claude, the Academy’s alligator character, and catch the indoor snow flurries.
These special holiday activities are all included with general admission tickets. Check the website for more information and schedules.
The Science of Gingerbread at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana from November 23 to January 3.
Kids know how darn cute (and yummy) houses can be, so take them to the Discovery Science Center this month, so they can see the entries of the gingerbread house competition displayed throughout the center. On weekends, kids get to check out the gingerbread decorating demonstrations, and try their hand at baking at the measure-and-mix learning station. There are also daily shows and presentations, such as the “Matter of Taste” show. If you want to participate in a special gingerbread house workshop, check out their website for more information.
Linking up to Trekaroo Spotlight Thursday, where other bloggers are sharing their lists of favorite holiday events.
The San Diego Zoo is our favorite place to hang out with some wild things. We live 8 hours away from the zoo, but have still managed to visit it over five times since my son was born. He’s seven. Needless to say, he’s a bit of an expert on the matter.
So of course, I asked him to help me write this post by sharing a list of his favorite San Diego Zoo activities.
1. Get some quiet time with the pandas. There are very few places you can see pandas in captivity, so it’s easy to see why this topped the list. The Panda Research Center is the quietest place in the zoo-making it one of my favorite exhibits. To help the pandas feel at ease in their bamboo-filled enclosures, a limited amount of people at a time are allowed to view them. The line may seem a bit long when you first see it, but it moves pretty quickly. Still, it’s always better to head over to this exhibit early or later in the day.
2. Feel the primate connection with the gorillas. I secretly wanted to put these furry guys at the top of the list because they’re my absolute favorite part of this zoo. I could sit for hours watching the gorillas go on with their very busy, gorilla days. I’m a bit jealous of the security guard stationed at the exhibit, because he gets to hang out with these primates all day. You can get a close-up view of the gorillas through large viewing windows, and, luckily, they spend most of their time right in front. I won’t forget getting such a close-up view of the the baby gorillas when they were first born. They’re a bit bigger now, and love to play around in front of visitors.
3. Take a trip through time at Elephant Odyssey. The zoo’s newest addition helps kids learn about how the prehistoric animals of southern California share a connection with their present-day animal relatives at the zoo. My son checked out the replica of the La Brea tar pits and played around with the life-size sculptures of the mammoth elephants and Sabertooth tiger. The stars of the exhibit, the elephants, hang around in huge enclosures but are really easy to see. Have you ever seen a dung beetle roll around a ball of dung? Well, you will at this exhibit. I had to peel my son away from the little window, he was engrossed by the busy beetles. I was just grossed out.
4. Soar over the zoo with Skyfari. This is the sky tram that takes you from the Children’s Zoo to near Polar Bear Plunge, so take this up to give your throbbing feet a break. I was so happy to have a moment of rest, that I forgot about my fear of heights and of dangling in little boxes from wires in the sky.
5. Bug out at the Children’s Zoo. There are many reasons to visit the Children’s Zoo, but my son spends most of his time in the insect building. There are over a dozen displays of insects-lots of cockroaches but no dung beetles.
Family Travel Tips
Son, let me introduce you to the whole, wide world.
This is my little guy, of course, getting the best view of the San Francisco Bay. That’s the Golden Gate in the center, while San Francisco and the Bay Bridge are on the left. Where can you find such a view? From the outdoor exhibit area of the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. I could’ve lazed around up there all day, waiting for my son as he played. This is what every kid’s museum needs as far as I’m concerned. Now if there had been an expresso cart out there, it would’ve been sheer perfection.
To actually see photos from the whole, wide world, go to Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday.
I wanted to take my son to see some dinosaur fossils, since he’s studying all about them at school this month. But were? The new California Academy of sciences has a section devoted to dinosaurs and fossils, but I wasn’t ready to brave the crowds.
So I found the perfect alternative for our day trip: the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley. This museum is housed in the Life Sciences building on the university campus. It’s not a typical museum, as the exhibits are spread out in the halls of this building of research and study. We spent about half an hour and saw all of the displays.
These are some of the fossils we enjoyed viewing the most:
- There is a freestanding mount of T-rex in the atrium, and a Pteranodon hanging over his head. Next to the big guy, is a computer exhibit where kids can find out more about the life and times of the Tyrannosaurus.
- Climb the stairwell past the T-rex and head through the doors of the natural sciences library to find where the Triceratops hang out. There you can view the smallest Triceratops skull ever found, and plenty of studious college kids. My son was just as much in awe of the big kids at the library, as he was of the fossil displays.
- Among some of the other fossils you’ll find on the second floor, is the Archaeopteryx, the world’s earliest known feathered bird.
Useful tidbits: The UCMP website has details on what fossils you will find on display, as well as some cool links on other dino-related information. You can view the displays as long as the Natural Sciences building and library is open. The museum is free of charge.
The university has plenty of other museums and areas to explore after your visit. I would definitely add a visit to the Lawrence Hall of Science.
For my family, a trip to Monterey wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Archie’s American Diner.
What you’ll find: Grab yourself a window table so you can gaze at Monterey Bay as you sip your Cherry Coke. The kiddos will be busy coloring on the paper tablecloths, so you might get at least a minute of peace. Here are some of our favorite menu items: fish and chips, fried marinated artichoke hearts (straight from nearby Castroville), and the sourdough patty melt.
The Big Fuss: Get fried food with an ocean view, about a block away from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. If you want to walk off that hearty lunch, you’re right across the street from the ocean bike/pedestrian path to Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove.
Useful Information: 125 Ocean View Blvd. #103, Pacific Grove, CA, 93950 831-375-6939
They also serve breakfast..mmm.