OC Zoo a Perfect Diversion-Excursion for the Preschool Set

Perfectly geared toward the toddler and preschooler set, the OC Zoo offers a quick tour of mostly native Southern California wildlife.

While racking our brains thinking of something new and fun to do last weekend, we happened across a free family pass for the Orange County Zoo. The zoo’s home is inside of Irvine Regional Park, and though we’d been to the Irvine Park Railroad several times over the years, we’d never made it over to the zoo despite it being pretty much right next door.

"Red to black, friend to Jack." Though the OC Zoo reminds us of the differences between the two, I still remember learning that phrase to tell the difference between the California Mountain Kingsnake (this species) and the poisonous Coral Snake (which isn't found locally in the wild at all).

Some hawks keeping watch at the OC Zoo.

A Collared Peccary clan having lunch at the OC Zoo.

A Golden Pheasant at the OC Zoo poses for a photo opp.

The best way to describe the OC Zoo is that it’s a cozy collection of regional animals, and it is an absolutely perfect outing for toddlers and preschoolers. Walking the entire grounds of the zoo takes about 15 to 20 minutes tops, though having said that I’m sure your kiddos will find something to focus on for a tad longer just like T did.

We had the cutest tour guide during our visit to the OC Zoo!

T gets into the grooming game at the OC Zoo's petting coral.

The zoo also offers up a couple of hands-on activities for the kiddos, including a small petting zoo. However, this isn’t your typical petting zoo but more like a grooming zoo. Visitors can grab a hairbrush and help groom the animals rather than just plain-old pet them.

This goat jumped right up to be brushed at the OC Zoo's petting coral.

"Brush me! Brush me!" said this goat at the OC Zoo. Their petting zoo is about as much fun for the goats as it is for the visitors.

Boy, did the kids love this… well at least T did, and so much so, T forced a brush into each of our hands so we could brush a goat or two, too. And the goats loved the attention just as much if not more than the kids loved giving attention to them.

T struts toward a peacock at the OC Zoo.

These bobcats, along with several coyote, foxes, raccoons, and other local fauna, call the OC Zoo their permanent home.

T flaps goodbye from the OC Zoo!

While our free passes saved us a handful of cash, admission to the OC Zoo is negligible at just $2 per person three-and-up (two-and-unders are free), plus the general parking fee per vehicle inside the park ($3 weekdays, $5 weekends; major holidays: $7 to $10 per entry as posted). We’re happy we finally ventured over to the OC Zoo and most likely will again, free passes or not.

We always hear about this historical cannon on our Irvine Park Railroad rides, but we'd never walked over to take a look at it. This cannon was originally a World War I field cannon but now it guards the Spanish-American War Memorial inside of Irvine Regional Park as of Veterans' Day 1926.

A lovely view of the fishing and duck ponds at Irvine Regional Park.

I'll call this photo "Smiling Conductor" - though it's always a happy go-lucky good time out at the Irvine Park Railroad at Irvine Regional Park.

And since we were already inside Irvine Regional Park, we explored more than just the zoo. We walked the grounds of the park where we checked out the historical cannon and the duck and fishing ponds. Oh and of course, we made time for a ride on the Irvine Park Railroad, one of T’s favorites.

T looks like he's hatching from a tree stump out at Irvine Regional Park. Speaking of hatching, the park opens their annual "Easter Eggstravaganza" in a few weeks, which runs from Saturday March 17 through Saturday April 17. While the festival closes the day before Easter Sunday, the park itself will be open on the holiday.

Take note, RMT’ers… this year’s Easter Eggstravaganza at Irvine Regional Park and Irvine Park Railroad runs from Saturday March 17 through Saturday April 17. We attended this event last year and had a blast! However, do be prepared that the costs associated with this outing are similar to attending a small county fair or carnival (read: not a negligible cost), so if you do go take advantage of their bulk ticket buy. Entrance to the event itself is free (parking aside), but almost all of the activities require tickets, which cost $4 a piece or $50 for a 15-count ticket booklet (a $10 savings). Rides and activities vary in price from one to two tickets, and a visit with the Easter Bunny is $10 per visit. There’s a selection of moon bounces, cookie decorating station, face painting booth, ride on the train, and many more fun things to do during this festival.

See you next time, Irvine Regional Park!

Happy Spring a few weeks early, RMT’ers!