8 Animal Encounter Experiences in San Diego that Aren’t the Zoo

    Everyone knows about the world-famous San Diego Zoo, the Safari Park and SeaWorld, but they don’t know about these 8 other amazing animal encounter experiences in San Diego. San Diego has so many hidden gems to discover, and these are amongst the most exciting. Steer clear of tourists at the Panda exhibit at the Zoo and take some time to come into close contact with bears, butterflies, and even mountain lions. Take a step into the wild with these San Diego animal experiences.

    Wild Wonders – Bonsall

    Wild Wonders

    Wild Wonders is located in Bonsall just north of Vista. Wild Wonders is an animal refuge of 10 acres that has over 120 animals. Started in 1991, Wild Wonders is home to confiscated, rescued, surrendered and non-releasable animals. The experience at Wild Wonders consists of educational and hands-on learning about animals from all over the globe. You can take up-close tours, meet and greet a cheetah, feed and meet a bearcat, eat breakfast with beasts and more. This is an exciting and intimate animal experience perfect for animal lovers.

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    Nurtured By Nature – Valley Center

    nurtured by nature

    Located in Valley Center, Nurtured By Nature is a non-profit organization that gives visitors once in a lifetime animal experiences. You can meet and interact with serval cats, two-toed sloths, lemurs, fennec foxes, armadillos, kangaroos, African crested porcupine and swimming and interactive experiences with small-clawed otters. Proceeds go towards caring for the animals and providing funding for visitors from organizations like the Make-A-Wish-Foundation.

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    Butterfly Farms – Vista

    Butterfly Farms

    Experience the magic of butterflies in a vivarium that is over 2,000 square feet. This is the largest butterfly free house in Southern California. You will see the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies, learn about different butterflies and get a close look at tons of beautiful butterflies.

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    Sky Falconry – Alpine

    Southern California’s premiere falconry school invites guests to experience free-flying birds of prey. You will see the art of falconry, learn about the biology of raptors, and find out why conservation is important for their lives and future. You have the opportunity to choose from several different classes where you will learn how to fly a raptor.

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    Children’s Nature Retreat – Alpine

    children's nature retreat

    This 20-acre ranch-style sanctuary is home to more than 80 domesticated animals from around the world. Amongst these include zebras, camels, miniature horses, alpacas, Scottish Galloway mini cows, mules and more. The retreat helps children develop a sense of wonder for nature and its inhabitants. Interactive encounters are available for all ages and will teach you about animals, nature, sustainable farming and more.

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    Oasis Camel Dairy – Ramona

    oasis camel dairy

    Enjoy an open farm tour where you will be able to take a camel ride, pet camels, take fun photos, enjoy an animal show, pet some furry friends at the petting zoo and even shop at the dairy store that sells camel milk lotions, chocolate, soaps and more. You can also take private guided tours. Enjoy this opportunity to get up-close and personal with camels.

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    Lions, Tigers & Bears – Descanso

    lions tigers & bears

    This non-profit rescue is a safe haven for abandoned and unwanted big cats and other exotic animals. This includes three lions, two tigers, 10 grizzly and black bears, a mountain lion, bobcats and a leopard. Reservations are required for tours and experiences. Get up close to some of your favorite wild animals while learning about them.

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    California Wolf Center – Julian

    california wolf center

    After eating your share of apple pie in Julian, head over to the California Wolf Center where you can learn about the history, behavior, and biology of the gray wolf which once roamed North America in high numbers. The center offers tours to view packs of gray wolves including the North America Gray Wolves and the highly endangered Mexican Gray Wolves. Reservations are required so plan ahead of time!

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    Discover San Diego’s Other Hidden Gems

    There are so many things to do in San Diego that many residents don’t know about. Continue reading our Ascent Real Estate San Diego insider weekly blog to discover new hidden gems in San Diego, events, and things to do.

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    2 Responses to “8 Animal Encounter Experiences in San Diego that Aren’t the Zoo”

    • antonella

      Written on

      Hi I just want to point out that Sky Falconry is listed with the wrong location on your piece. They are located in Alpine. Our company runs the La Jolla location (Total Raptor Experience) and it’s a bit frustrating seeing another group taking credit for our work.
      Thank you

      • Ascent Real Estate

        Written on

        I’m so sorry about that! We have updated our blog.


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