Santa Ana Zoo

Count the monkeys at this charming little zoo that promises at least 50 primates are always present.

Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park has been a part of the cityscape since 1952 and continues to uphold the promise made to its benefactor. In 1949, J.E. Prentice donated some of his land for a park, with the proviso that the city keeps at least 50 monkeys at all times.

Today the zoo has more than 80 species of animals, with a focus on the wildlife of Central and South America. Among the obligatory primates are rare and endangered species, including the crested capuchin and golden-headed lion tamarin, and the world’s smallest monkey, the pygmy marmoset.

This relatively small facility is ideal for young children. You can cover the 20-acre (eight-hectare) site in two to three hours.

A walk through the 9,000-square-foot (840-square-meter) aviary seems almost magical. You’ll be in awe of the brilliant plumage of South American birds like the emerald toucanet and scarlet ibis. Watch anteaters, guanacos and rheas in the Tierra de las Pampas (Pampas Grasslands) exhibit, which simulates this highly endangered South American habitat.

Amazon’s Edge replicates the exotic jungles of Brazil. It’s home to creatures like the black-necked swan, centipede, goliath bird-eating tarantula and black howler monkey.

Little ones will love the fenced petting area in the Crean Family Farm. Here you can touch and feed common barnyard animals.

Another magical feature of the zoo is the Conservation Carousel ride, with large, brightly coloured replicas of 33 endangered animals. Children can take a seat on a giant panda, giraffe, cheetah, or perhaps a hummingbird or sea otter. The ride has a small fee, as does a journey on the Zoofari, a six-car train that takes you around the park. An on-site café serves food and drinks and there’s a small gift shop selling souvenirs.

The Santa Ana Zoo is located about five minutes by car from central Santa Ana. The admission fee is reasonable and there’s free parking. The zoo is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.