On our Dad Day Weekend 2012, T and C and the other dads and kids all trekked out to The Living Desert, Palm Desert’s only area zoo and botanical gardens. We first visited here two years ago on our first trip to the area, and we were amazed at just how full of life that The Living Desert truly is. If you think that the desert is just a brown, dusty, sandy, cactus-filled wasteland, then you obviously haven’t seen the desert for all of its colorful flora and fauna; The Living Desert does a fantastic job at highlighting this ecosystem in all its glory.
Founded in 1970, The Living Desert’s mission is four-fold: to preserve the desert ecosystem in its native, natural state; to spread awareness of and appreciation for the variety of plants and animals in desert ecosystems worldwide; to conserve, protect, and assist in the proliferation of various and threatened species of desert animals and plants; and to foster biological studies that contribute to the protection and conservation of desert species in their wild state.
When we visited as a family back in June 2010, we didn’t pay too close attention to The Living Desert’s special “summer hours” that start on June 1 and run through September 30. That’s when they open at 8 a.m. and close at 1:30 p.m. (with last admission at 1 p.m.). There’s a reason for this, RMT’ers: It’s HOT. Plain and simple, while the animals and plants of The Living Desert might thrive on 100+-degree days, we non-desert dwelling humans simply do not, and thankfully those who operate the zoo acknowledge and recognize this with special early and abbreviated summer hours during the hottest months of the year.
Luckily, C remembered about the earlier hours and he, T, and the others took advantage of that feature during this year’s visit. They arrived well within the first hour of opening time and were all able to stay on through just before lunch. They all were appreciative of this schedule with its cooler weather window, and they still saw plenty of the zoo grounds and exhibits during their three-ish hour visit, which included participating in the giraffes’ morning snack and seeing some of the more elusive animals in their more active part of the day.
As for kid-friendly activities, there are plenty. Along with the usual petting zoo (included with general admission) and carousel (additional charge), the kids also enjoyed a fantastic reptile show (30 minutes in length) that captured the kids’ attention for the entire duration, along with one-on-one encounters afterward.
When the heat finally gets to be too much to bear, The Living Desert also has a lovely indoor kids’ area filled with art and other activity centers. T and his friends all made crayon rubbings of various plants and animal carvings and constructed different creatures from molded bones. As a parent, I’d recommend timing this one for just before your departure, or during the hottest part of your visit.
The Living Desert also has a G-scale model train exhibit on-site. Sadly, on both of T’s visits, the trains have not been operational due to the exceptionally hot weather. As both photos show above, we’ll just have to return sometime after October 1 to enjoy the railroad and all it has to offer.
On your next visit to the Palm Desert area, I encourage you to put pool time on hiatus for just one morning, gather up the family, and go see how the real natives pass their time out in The Living Desert.