The Living Desert in Palm Desert:
Each year I go down to Palm Desert to watch the BNP Paribas tennis tournament in March. We usually take 1 day off each week to get out and do some activity in the Palm Springs region. Last year we went to Joshua Tree National Park and this year we decided on the Living Desert which is located in Palm Desert. Our rental condo was at Rancho Las Palmas Country Club so getting to the desert zoo was easy - a 10 minute drive down Hwy 111 and then down Portola Avenue. The Living Desert is a combination zoo and botanical garden with plenty to do and see for several hours. The list of animals they have is quite extensive and there are plenty of species you have probably never encountered at other zoos. The weather is mostly sunny in Palm Desert and when it gets hot the animals tend to stay hidden in the shade - visiting in the morning will give you a better chance to see the animals before the heat kicks in.
Things to See:
The official website for the Living Desert is at http://www.livingdesert.org
. There is a PDF file which shows a map of the facility at http://www.livingdesert.org/thingstodo_map.html
. We arrived at roughly 10AM and decided that the temperatures were cool enough to walk the pathway - they do have a pay shuttle cart/bus that takes you to various stops if you want. Our group got started with the giraffe and ostrich exhibit. The baby giraffe was adorable and we were able to actually feed them (check for daily times on this). The Village WaTuTu was cool for our kids to visit. They have drums you can beat on and large clay/ceramic pots that you littler ones can hide in. We saw the warthogs, ankola cattle, leopard, hyenas, and dromedary camels. As you continue along the trail you can see things like a cheetah, zebra, African wild dogs, meerkats, fox, and more. As you enter the 'Africa' region (just past the model train exhibit), there is a camel ride area. The day we were there, I didn't see anyone at that exhibit, but friends of ours did it a while back and said it was a great experience. Eagle Canyon is where we headed next, it was a bit of a walk, but once there we saw the mountain lion, badger, bobcat, and serval. As we walked back to the front of the zoo, we passed through the area with the jaguar and saw many of the garden exhibits. All in all a great few hours spent seeing animals I'm not sure I could anywhere else (at least some of them). Our last stop was at the G-Scale model train exhibit which sits next to the main shuttle stop. The model trains were a highlight for our 6 year old son - he is a huge Thomas the Train fan. The trains go on their little tracks past facades of national parks (Mt Rushmore, Grand Canyon, etc.). He was amazed at all the little buildings, roadways, and miniature people that had been put into the exhibit. The trains run on an automatic cycle and repeat their motion. The Wildlife Wonders Show at the Tennity Amphitheater is something we didn't do, but they do interactive shows their with birds, mammals, and reptiles. Get to the Living Desert early - they are open every day of the year except for Christmas. Their hours are 9AM to 5PM from October to May and from 8AM to 1:30PM the rest of the year.
Discounted Living Desert Palm Desert Tickets:
Ticket prices are not bad, but there are several ways to save a few bucks on your entrance fee. Admissions rates are close to $15 for adults and kids are about $8. AAA members will get a slight discount, but we really saved by already being members of the Portland Zoo here in Oregon. They have reciprocal savings programs with other zoos around the United States and this was one of them. We got 50% off with our Portland Oregon Zoo membership card. Check out the reciprocal admissions program online at http://www.aza.org/reciprocity/
. You'll be able to see a complete list of those zoos or aquariums that offer special discount rates.