Although known to locals, I just found out about the Santa Ana Zoo a year ago thanks to my Whittier Parent and Me class. I was so happy I came to visit during their Boo at the Zoo event. I wish I brought my kids sooner when I was living closer because it is a perfect size zoo for toddlers with a lot of hands on learning opportunities. I’ll talk about the specifics of the zoo, followed by the actual Boo at the Zoo experience so if you know the zoo already, just scroll down! 🙂
Santa Ana Zoo – This zoo is smaller than larger city zoos, but perfect for toddlers! There is a nice selection of animals to view up close such as the primates, aviary and farm animals! I love that there is a farm area because we actually went into the barn and pretended to be farmers. We got to milk a pretend cow which, of course, was the highlight of my 1 year old! There are rides (additional purchase) such as a train, carousel and Ferris wheel. I love how the zoo is mapped out – it doesn’t matter if you decide one path or another because you end up back in the same spot after so you can continue on without feeling like you missed anything. There is an awesome playground (with sand) at the beginning of the zoo, near Bean Sprouts and picnic benches, which is really nice for the kids to play in. If you are interested in planning a party, there are several private picnic areas that are available! I can see why so many people visit this zoo with their little ones! I felt at ease because it is doable to navigate, there are prompts available to teach kids about the animals, and there’s plenty of benches to relax with your family besides being super affordable!
Boo at the Zoo – I loved everything about this Boo at the Zoo! They honored the Teal Pumpkin Project by providing alternative options besides candy! My little one has severe nut allergies so I felt like they were being so inclusive to our children with allergies. Some of the alternatives included free books (YES, FREE BOOKS!!!), pencils, rulers, coloring books, pick and choose your candy, and arts and crafts! I liked that local companies and non-profits were the ones who were participating at the stations because it also felt like a resource fair. There were Halloween themed character stands throughout the zoo which added to the festivities. There are also additional activities that include: the theatre offering a spooky animal show, music and dance for toddlers, complimentary finger printing and IDs for all children, and storytelling! We were also able to still see animals throughout our trick-or-treat path. I loved how the zoo made connections to animals and their crafts. For example, there was a bat station; while the kids create a bat with a toilet paper roll and construction paper, there’s another table displaying a bat and its facts! Although they begin at 5:30pm, they allow participants to enter at 5pm which is nice because we got to start fingerprinting sooner, allowed the kids to play and eat dinner, and get a head start on the farm and rides while the other half of the zoo was closed off until 5:30pm. I suggest doing this first because we got to relax and felt like we maximized our time getting a bit of a head start. Also, don’t forget to bring your own trick-or-treat bag!
Ticket pricing: Regular priced tickets are $12 Adults, $9 for children and seniors, there is membership opportunities. Boo at the Zoo prices are $19.95 and $9.95 for members, children under 3 are free!
Parking: There is a parking lot and it’s FREE!!!
Hangry Toddler: Bean Sprouts is so delicious! I’ve seen it at Discovery Cube, but finally tried it here. There are so many healthy options and I got some ideas on how to present food to my kids. There are also tables and benches spread out throughout the zoo so it is easy to stop mid-way or at the end to have lunch or a snack.
Potty training? Restrooms are easily accessible throughout the zoo.
Traveling a distance? The Irvine Spectrum is about 15 minutes away and such an amazing place to explore and dine in. So if you want to maximize your day, go there first and then visit Boo at the Zoo!
P is for Pig – learning through exposure: I loved that the farm has these signs that read, S is for Sheep, F is for Farm because it is a nice visual reminder that learning can happen anywhere. I love exploring zoos and farms because we observe animals and talk about their descriptions, habitats, classifications, and their location in the world. I love collecting maps so when we get home the kids can continue to learn about maps while getting their animal collections and make their own zoos or farms. My 4 year old likes creating his own maps, while my 1 year old is starting to group animals by habitats. I then follow up by reading some of our zoo and farm books, and I leave a couple around them while they play so they can glance at them.
I love maximizing events, so celebrating Halloween by participating in Boo at the Zoo while engaging in learning was my cup of tea!