We’re Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo
(Originally posted May 25, 2013)
Straying entirely away from the topics of Disney and Christmas, you will all remember how much Tracy and I love the zoo. By mid-December, we were missing the annual passes we had held to the New York zoos for so long and hadn’t yet discovered a good zoo by us. Yes, of course, the San Diego Zoo is RELATIVELY close by, but it’s still almost a 2 hour drive. It’s also almost as expensive as a day at Disneyland, and if we weren’t spending that kind of money on Disney, we weren’t about to spend it on the zoo either. The Santa Ana Zoo is also close, but we found pretty mixed reviews of it on Yelp. While browsing Yelp, however, we found reviews of another zoo we didn’t know existed—right here in Orange!
It turns out the Orange County Zoo is located in Irvine Regional Park, which is about 15 minutes away from us on the eastern edge of Orange. To make this zoo more appealing, the admission fee is only $2, and there was a 2-for-1 coupon on Yelp! We decided to hop in the car and start driving to this zoo. After all, even if it was ridiculous, we figured it would at least be both fun and cheap.
When we found Irvine Regional Park, it was completely unlike anything else we had experienced here in Orange County. Here we were suddenly in a quiet and natural setting. We couldn’t hear traffic noise (however faintly) for the first time in a month. After paying for parking—they make you pay for parking EVERYWHERE here—we wound our way through the park following the signs toward the zoo. On the way, we passed by several enclosures filled with horses and a little holiday village.
Parking the car, we got out and headed into the zoo.
It was already about 2:00 and the zoo closed and 3:00, but we were pretty sure this wasn’t going to be the kind of zoo where you need to linger for hours to see everything. We bought our tickets and the gal at the window scowled at us as we used the buy one get one free deal. Yes, we understood that admission only cost $2. We weren’t trying to stiff the zoo, but every dollar we could save at that point counted. Don’t offer the coupon if you don’t want people to use it!
There was a nice little holiday setup at the entrance to the zoo.
Going in, we were excited. We had read in the reviews that this zoo only housed animals that were native to California. This seemed to turn off some of the reviewers, but it’s not like you see bears and mountain lions walking around all the time just because they live here. We were still excited to see all this wildlife! Our anticipation multiplied when we saw this sign and noticed a picture of a raccoon among the inhabitants.
Upon entering the zoo, we turned right and saw our first animals. There were coyotes as well as some bobcats and ocelots.
We continued down that first corridor and came to the petting zoo.
We went into the enclosure and they had all kinds of little goats running around. They even had brushes you could use on them.
The goats were all very friendly and we made fast friends by petting their beards.
After the petting zoo, we went back to the main pathway and passed by several owls who were all looking quite adorable. Unfortunately, the fences on the cages made it almost impossible to get good pictures of most of the animals as my camera focused on the fence rather than the animals…
While this next picture isn’t great, I felt like I needed to share it. We passed by the mountain lions next, and one of them was giving us some serious stink eye.
We decided she looked like none other than our old pal, McKayla Maroney.
We continued around past some possums and some boars before finally getting to the real stars of the zoo—the black bears.
The bears were pacing and being generally more interesting than most of the animals. I think they knew it was getting close to closing time.
They seemed like a pretty playful sort who I think just wanted a small smackerel of honey.
Across from the bears was this burro. He reminded us so much of our best donkey friend from Disneyland, Pancho.
Okay. The bears may have been the biggest, most interesting animals at the zoo, but the real STARS were none other than the raccoons!
Except these raccoons were CRAZY. If we weren’t in a zoo, I honestly would have thought they were rabid. They kept fighting with each other and scrambling all over their enclosure. We still liked them though.
We had almost finished the rounds of the zoo—yes it was that small—but saw a few more fun animals including the Mule Deer.
Before leaving (since we had finished the whole zoo loop so quickly) we went for another trip around and grabbed some better pictures of some of our favorite friends.
We exited out and explored the surrounding part of the park a little.
It seems like it would be a great place to actually plan on walking around some time, but we weren’t really up for that today.
After going back to our car, we stopped once more on the way out of the park to explore the little Santa’s Village that was set up.
There was a cool train that went all around the park, and its loop was all decorated for the holidays, so we tried to figure out how much that would cost. We were a little floored to find out it would run us $20 per person for the little train ride. Way too rich for our blood!
Instead, we just walked around a little more and enjoyed seeing all the horses at the stables.
On the whole, it was a great little outing. We learned about a very cheap zoo option right nearby and had a lot of fun doing it!