If you're an animal lover, southern California is the place to be. The region is home to some of the best zoos and aquariums in the world. Visiting a zoo or an aquarium is a great way to spend a weekend while abroad, and seeing some of your favorite wild animals and marine life up close and personal can be an absolutely thrilling experience. Here are 5 of the best zoos and aquariums in southern California that are definitely worth a visit:
1. San Diego Zoo
With more than 3,500 animals, there’s something for everyone at the San Diego Zoo. A pioneer of cageless exhibit zoos in America, this zoo puts animal enrichment and safety first, so the animals remain perfectly happy and healthy. There’s plenty to see and plenty to learn, so many visitors recommend taking a Guided Bus Tour to see all the exhibits. People come from all over to see this world-famous zoo, so it’s easy to see why this is the most visited zoo in America! Plus, it’s located only 25 minutes from the University of California in San Diego, making it a popular, accessible spot for animal-loving college students.
2. SeaWorld San Diego
Also located in San Diego is SeaWorld. One of the most popular sea parks in the world, SeaWorld San Diego features an impressive collection of sea creatures. If fish aren't your thing, there are also plenty of water slides and roller coasters. The park features interactive exhibits and shows where visitors can touch sharks or let tiny fish nibble at their fingertips. For example, at Orca Encounter, you can see massive killer whales up close and personal while learning about the majestic mammals. Another favorite is SeaWorld’s Dolphin Days shows, where spectators get to watch dolphins do all sorts of crazy antics.
3. Los Angeles Zoo and Botantical Gardens
For anyone who loves plants as much as they love animals, visiting the Los Angeles Zoo and Botantical Gardens is an absolute must. Home to over 1,400 different animals, the zoo also includes a wide variety of beautiful plants. Located throughout the zoo are 15 different plant collections, for a total of over 7,400 individual plants! The Los Angeles Zoo is less than 30 minutes away from the University of California in Los Angeles, making it a perfect weekend destination for nearby students.
4. Aquarium of the Pacific
Aquarium of the Pacific is located in Long Beach, and it houses a wide variety of fish and marine creatures that are native to the Pacific Ocean. While viewing all the different animals housed at this aquarium, you also have the opportunity to learn a lot about marine life, as plenty of tours and other educational materials are offered there daily. Over 12,000 ocean animals are kept at the Aquarium of the Pacific, and the various exhibits include a shark lagoon, a forest aviary, and a colony of Magellanic penguins.
5. The Living Desert
Located in Palm Desert, The Living Desert’s mission is “desert conservation through preservation, education and appreciation.” This zoo provides a habitat for many exotic and endangered desert species native to North America and Africa, such as cheetahs, hyenas, and golden eagles. Many educational shows and activities are offered at the zoo, including a free-flight exotic birds show and a reptile show. However, the most popular by far is an exhibit where visitors are allowed to feed giraffes!
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