Living Desert Zoo
Palm Desert, CA
Reciprocal: AZA 50% off
Full Price Admission Cost: $19.95 adults, $9.95 kids 3–12, under 3 free
WWWW Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Recently, we had the pleasure of visiting the Living Desert Zoo. This is a pretty awesome little zoo with a unique focus on desert animals.
When we entered, we found ourselves in a typical zoo entry area with restrooms, maps, and some employees to help point people in the right direction. We learned that there are two sides to the park: an Africa side and a North America side. It didn’t take our family long to decide to begin on the Africa side of the park and set out on our way.
The first attraction we came to was an enormous model train setup. This thing is huge and rivals any of the train sets I’ve ever seen. It includes numerous trains of all sizes (including an engine from Thomas the Tank Engine), “real” waterfalls, buildings, tiny people, buttons that make things go, and even a hot air balloon. Honestly, I think this train area would’ve held Brendon’s attention for an hour or more, and could likely be an attraction all on its own.
After several minutes, we pulled our kid away from the trains and continued on our way. The Africa side of the park was very, very neat. We saw meerkats, which were absolutely adorable and easily my favorite animals in the park. The giraffes, camels, and zebras were also quite cool, of course, and Brendon loved watching the hyenas pace.
Probably the best part of our day was when we happened upon the reptile show in the “Village WaTuTu” in the Africa part of the park. This show included some storytelling, viewing of several reptiles (and an amphibian), and even touching a snake.
After seeing all of Africa we headed to the North America side of the park. This place was equally as fascinating, and included animals such as coyotes, bobcats, several desert birds, and more. There were also several cacti on this side of the park, meaning we got an up-close look at these interesting plants.
We loved this zoo, and especially appreciated the fact that it was focused on one type of animal habitat, something we haven’t seen elsewhere. Definitely visit if you happen to be in the area!
- The zoo has water bottle refill stations throughout the park. Take advantage of these. The water is quite good!
- There are optional add-ons such as a shuttle ride, carousel ride, and giraffe and lorikeet feedings. They cost extra, so be sure to budget for them if desired.
- There is plenty of free parking available.
- As usual, we recommend taking a lunch in if possible. There are food options here, but they are very overpriced.
- Bring a camera and let the kids take photos. Brendon thought this was a lot of fun and actually got some pretty good shots.
Books to Read
- A Walk in the Desert by Rebecca Johnson
- Why Oh Why Are Deserts So Dry? by Tish Rabe
- The Magic School Bus Gets All Dried Up by Joanna Cole
- Desert Night Desert Day by Anthony D. Fredericks
- Animals of the Sahara: Animals of the Desert by Baby Professor
- I Wonder Why the Sahara is Cold at Night by Jackie Gaff
Videos to Watch
- Kids Do Science — Cactus
- Amazing Ways to Live in the Desert
- A Day in the Desert: Saguaro Wilderness
- Bill Nye the Science Guy: “Deserts” (also available on Netflix and Amazon Prime Streaming)
Activities to Do
- Build a desert biome.
- Try this cactus simulation experiment.
- Keep it simple with this sand dune activity.
Things to Discuss
- Why are some animals better suited for life in the desert?
- If you could give an animal tools to survive in the desert, what would they be?
- What kinds of homes do you think desert animals have and why?
Other Area Attractions
Below are some of the other great attractions in this area. We try to keep things affordable, sticking to free and cheap attractions and/or museums and zoos on reciprocal lists. If an attraction is affiliated with a reciprocal program or offers free admission, I have noted that beside the attraction listing. To learn more about saving money using reciprocal programs, see this post.
- Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
- Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert — ACM 50% off
- Joshua Tree National Park — “America the Beautiful” Pass
- Palm Springs Art Museum — NARM
- San Andres Oasis Trail — Free
Closest Places to Stay on a Budget
- State, County, and City Parks: Mount San Jacinto State Park — 41 mi
- Thousand Trails: Palm Springs RV Resort — 9.3 mi
- Passport America: Indian Wells RV Resort — 8.4 mi
- Passport America and Trails Collection: Palm Springs Oasis RV Resort — 9.9 mi
- Free BLM Land Dispersed Camping: Outside of Joshua Tree National Park — 39.8 mi
Related Attractions in Other Areas
- Oklahoma City Zoo (Oklahoma City, OK) — AZA 50% off — [WWWW Roadschool Guide]
- Cape May County Park and Zoo (Cape May, NJ) — Free
- St. Louis Zoo (St. Louis, MO) — Free
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