Orange County Zoo & Irvine Regional Park

Jocelyn Murray March 19, 2014 No Comments



The Orange County Zoo is a cozy 8-acres with over 30 kinds of animals

Nestled within the verdant woodland of Irvine Regional Park, the Orange County Zoo is home to over 30 kinds of animals, most of which are native to the Southwestern United States.  



A ewe and her newborn lamb bond together

This is a small 8-acre zoo that is perfect for families with young children, and includes animals like black bears, deer, peccaries, mountain lions, coyotes, raccoons, beavers, bobcats, owls, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, burros, reptiles and more. The children’s zoo has goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens and pot-bellied pigs. Kids can get right up close and touch the animals in the petting zoo. There are brushes for stroking their fur, and even food pellets available for purchase to feed the adorable animals who come right up to visitors with their wistful expectant eyes searching for a treat.



  • Did you know that barn owls have a drawn-out scream that almost sounds human? It’s really frightening! At one time people believed their barns were haunted when they heard the gargling scream sound out of the darkness. It would make you shiver as well. Barn owls swallow their prey whole and then regurgitate indigestible pellets made of fur and bone. They have quite an efficient digestive system. 
  • Mountain lions go by many names including cougars, pumas and panthers. They live in foothills and canyons, as well as deserts, forests and swamps. 
  • Porcupines are members of the rodent family. Their quills are made of keratin, the same way human nails and hair are made of keratin.  These creatures use their quills to defend themselves against would-be predators. 
  • Burros are descended from African donkeys brought to North America in the 1500s. These pack animals have been used as beasts of burden for well over 5,000 years! 



One of the resident peacocks of the zoo perched on an oak tree

Stately Sycamore trees and heritage Oaks with their thick trunks and branches reaching in all directions provide an abundance of shade here. A wide paved path meanders along the exhibits which are all within a close walking distance from each other. Guests can take an audio tour or just roam on their own and read about the animals on the informative displays located by the exhibits. One can tour the whole zoo very comfortably within the course of about an hour or two.



A small railroad tours the wooded grounds

Irvine Regional Park offers many other activities besides the zoo. There are horseback tours, pony rides for children, playgrounds with swings and slides, scenic railroad tours, and plenty of hiking along the trails. Guests can also rent bikes to ride on the paved trials, and not just the two-wheeled variety either. There are tandem bikes for two riders, three-wheeled cruisers, and four-wheeled surreys for cruising around in style.  



Visitors can rent paddle boats on the lake

The park grounds are a delightful sanctuary with tree groves, leaf-strewn turf, wandering trails, gentle breezes, and rolling foothills. There is a small lake with moss-green water just beyond the zoo, fringed with trees and a few scattered boulders. The feeling is tranquil and almost euphoric, it’s that peaceful. Rustic stonework frames part of the lake, with a few comfortable benches strategically placed under trees so one can sit and stare out over the water. It smells of moss and leaves and a cool earthy dampness with hints of sweet and sultry decay that is part of the continuous cycle of life.  


The grounds are beautiful

Birdsong fills the air, and the distant call of peacocks echo from the nearby zoo, while butterflies flit and flutter by the lush plant life. Guests can rent colorful paddle boats and explore the lake’s perimeter where ducks swim by the mossy banks, or simply stroll under those magnificent trees whose leaves filter out the sun. The ground is moist, and fallen leaves crunch softly underfoot where grasses spring up and velvety moss carpets the soil between exposed tree roots and boulders edging the water. One can almost blend in with the stillness that seems to stretch to eternity.  



Children can pet and brush the animals in the petting zoo

The best time to visit is during the week. But if weekends are an only option, then come early before it gets too crowded. While the park and zoo grounds are always beautiful, they are best enjoyed on weekdays when it feels like no one is there, and you have this exquisite piece of wilderness all to yourself. That is the time to pause and inhale deeply of the sweet oxygenated serenity, to let the stillness reign in all its natural splendor, to study the variegated hues of the lake, and the trees surrounding it protectively like a hidden refuge within a forest. It is sublime.  


Large sycamore and oak trees dominate the expansive grounds with their quiet beauty

Lots of grassy areas abound, perfect for letting little children expend their energy, while a concession stand serves hungry visitors food like burgers, hot dogs, fries, soda, ice cream and candy, but you can bring your own snacks also.   

There is nothing quite like the great outdoors, and this zoo and park make for a wonderful daytrip any time of the year.

avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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