Having lived in Southern California my entire life, I often overlook the beauty that surrounds me. Just a few miles to the south lies the Pacific Ocean and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Drive approximately 2 hours northeast and you’ll find a slew of ski resorts. And directly east? Pure desert bliss! Our recent ventures took us to beautiful Palm Springs for a desert staycation. The desert city is home to a number of luxury resorts and offers everything from golf and tennis to swimming, horseback riding, and hiking. And whether you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing vacation for two or an adventure-trip for the whole family, the area does not disappoint. Along with making a splash at Wet ‘n Wild Palm Springs Water Park, we had some incredible animal encounters at The Living Desert Zoo.
The Living Desert Zoo
Spanning over 1000 acres, The Living Desert is home to desert animals native to North America, Africa, Asia, and Australia including giraffes, mountain lions, zebras, cheetahs, and Kudu. The botanical gardens houses more than 1400 different species of plants from the arid regions of North America and Africa. The Living Desert also features an interactive Discovery Center, one of the largest G-scale model train displays, a Wildlife Wonders animal presentation, a Petting Kraal and more. The AZA-accredited zoo and gardens is dedicated to desert conservation through preservation, education, and appreciation.
Things to Do and See at The Living Desert Zoo
With so many things to do and see at The Living Desert Zoo, my best advice is to visit early in the morning, particularly if you plan to visit during the summer months. Here are my top 5 things to do and see at The Living Desert Zoo. This is of course, in addition to all of the incredible animals that call The Living Desert their home.
- G-Scale Model Train Display: As one of the largest G-scale model train displays, it is a must-see when visiting The Living Desert. There are over 3,300 feet of track through scenes that include Mount Rushmore, a California Logging and mining town, the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and Old Indio.
- Plein Air Art Collection: Looking for some reprieve from the summer heat? Visit the Stephen B. Chase Administration Building for displays of 49 paintings from 22 artists. The collection spans 1900 through the late 1930s with many of the paintings depicting Coachella Valley scenes.
- Village WaTuTu: Don’t miss this authentic replica of a village found in northeast Africa. Listen to the sounds of Africa as you walk amongst mud-walled huts with grass-thatched roofs. Storytellers talk of African and Native American folklore. Don’t miss the camels, hyenas, leopards, and tortoises in this village.
- The Ant Lab: See a colony of long-legged desert ants in their natural environment as they build tunnels, care for their eggs, clean house, and take out the trash. The exhibit features more than 10,000 ants!
- The Miriam U. Hoover Discovery Center: Take a break from the heat inside the new Discovery Center. This indoor space teaches children how sun, wind, sand, and water work together to form the Coachella Valley desert. Highlights include a craft counter, interactive areas to discover the elements, a carpeted “dune” where children can crawl and play, and replica bones and skulls of animals that once inhabited the Coachella Valley.
The Living Desert Tickets, Location, and Hours
Tickets to The Living Desert can be purchased online or on-site. Prices are as follows:
- Adults: $19.95
- Seniors (62+): 17.95
- Children (3-12): $9.95
- Children under 3: Free
Additional experiences can be purchased including Camel Rides, Giraffe Feedings, the Carousel, and the Shuttle (which is a great way to explore The Living Desert).
The Living Desert is located at the following address:
47900 Portola Ave
Palm Desert, CA
Hours are as follows:
Open every day October 1 to May 31
9:00am to 5:00pm
Last admission at 4:00pm.
Closed December 25
Open every day June 1 to September 30
8:00am to 1:30pm
Last admission at 1:00pm
Tips for Visiting The Living Desert
- The ideal time to visit The Living Desert is in the Fall when temperatures have cooled. Not only will you enjoy longer hours, most of the animals will be out for viewing.
- Pack plenty of water, sunscreen, hats, and light clothing.
- Download The Living Desert App and Audio Tour. It includes Fun Audio Tour Stops, Behind-the-Scenes video, Step Tracker, Location-aware map, and Augmented Reality experiences.
- View the daily schedule before your visit for showtimes, animal meet and greets, and giraffe feedings.
- Consider a private tour.
- Opt for the Total Adventure Package and enjoy unlimited camel rides, carousel rides, giraffe feedings, and Lorikeets nectar and feedings.
Looking for family-friendly activities in Palm Springs? Book a jeep tour with Desert Adventures, visit the Palm Springs Air Museum which houses one of the nation’s largest collection of World War II flying aircraft, ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway which is the World’s Largest Rotating Tramcar offering spectacular views of the area, or visit Indian Canyons for hiking and views of Native sites.