I've been looking for safe but fun places to take my kids in the Los Angeles area for years. Since Covid-19 eliminated a number of our go-to activities this summer, I did a little more research and we explored some new and exciting places. The Wildlife Learning Center is one of those.
The Wildlife Learning Center is like a small zoo with animals significantly more visible and close up and with a lot fewer people. The charming center is located largely outdoors and is organized in a big loop (you can't get lost like the Los Angeles Zoo). Parrots roam free and walk across ropes over your head, a crocodile is so close that if there weren't (hopefully very strong) glass, you could reach out and touch it, and porcupines nibble carrots right by your feet.
I very much dislike trekking to the Los Angeles Zoo, parking miles away from the entrance, and craning past hundreds of people to get a glimpse of the head of an elephant. Luckily, the Wildlife Learning Center in Sylmar is quite the opposite. Practically every animal can be viewed at a close proximity. I counted no more than 50 people (total) at the establishment, and our entry fee was a very reasonable $13 for adults and $11 for kids.
The children in our party oohed and aahed over the huge python right by their feet, the giggled over the prairie dogs and squirrel monkeys, and they had a whole lot of questions about the two-toed sloth. "Mama, why's he not moving?" The space is enclosed and safe for kids to walk from cage to cage, and the entire habitat is lushly surrounded by beautifully groomed bespoke landscape. It feels like a private behind-the-scenes zoo tour (without the price tag).
The beautiful thing about this homey-feeling establishment is that each of the animals have a story. The crocodile was rescued after some idiot purchased it to live in his bathtub. One of the hawks was nursed back to health after an injury forced it to lose a wing. And the Wildlife Learning Center, according to the mission of the company on the website, provides, "public education that inspires people to care for our wildlife, to care for our environment, to develop a deep interest in the life sciences, and to give loving care and sanctuary to animals in need."
What a beautiful sentiment from a truly beautiful place. The self-led tour takes about an hour, but visitors can also buy more interactive experiences where they can feed a porcupine, hang out with a sloth, or hold a boa constrictor. All in all, this is a truly fantastic experience for children and adults alike.
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