My family and I enjoyed the day exploring the Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park. The kids loved walking through the aviary, watching the playful monkeys, and seeing the giant anteaters.
This post, however, is about the amazing Santa Ana Zoo playgrounds and rides found within the zoo!
Directions to Santa Ana Zoo: The Santa Ana Zoo playground is directly off Interstate 5 at the First St/Fourth Street exits. The parking lot is off Chestnut Avenue. I’ve mapped the zoo on my playground map, but the zoo website has excellent location/directions information.
Right next to Bean Sprouts (the zoo’s healthy food cafe) sits a playground with two sets of play equipment. There is a backdrop of lush bamboo and you can see the ferris wheel peeking out.
It was a nice treat for me to sit, rest my feet, and relax while watching the kids play.
The main playground is right inside the entrance plaza. Your kids will spot it right away.
The trees are beautiful in Prentice Park. They provide shade along with the shade sails designed to look like animal patterns.
The monkey bars are set up like the “rings” we used to play on as kids on a winding track.
Crean Family Farm and Rides
Right behind the main playground is a path leading to the farm. There is so much to explore here! Barnyard animals, beautiful peacocks and pea hens, owls, and more.
However, your kids will probably be drawn to the rides. You can save money on the rides by becoming a Zoo Member. This allows you to buy books of tickets that save you anywhere from $5 to $10 on tickets.
Children 2 and under are free with a paid adults (max 2 children per adult).
There are 3 rides on this side with proceeds directly benefitting the zoo (so you can feel really good about your investment!).
- Zoofari Express Train Ride ($6)
- Conservation Carousel featuring endangered animals ($3)
- Fifty Monkey’s Ferris Wheel ($6)
Ride tickets are sold at the railroad crossing booth on your way to the barnyard.
The rides have limited hours and run mostly on the weekends.
- 11am-2pm Fridays
- 11am-4pm Saturdays & Sundays
Of course, that’s always subject to change based on the weather and the seasons.
The Ferris Wheel is super impressive at 64 feet tall. Enjoy the graphics while you wait in line: “Educational graphics telling the story of Joseph Prentice and the Zoo’s requirement to house fifty monkeys at all times in order to maintain the land are found along the loading queue-line walkway.”
Turtle Life Cycle Play Area Inside the Farm
There is a little climb on area near the peacock enclosure where you can learn about the life cycle of turtles.
Dung Beetle Roll — Play Area
Live the life of a dung beetle in this life-sized play area.
Can you find the talking frog? Press buttons on the sign to hear them and kids can play with the bright yellow amphibian.
Little Free Libraries
Thanks to the Dynamite Book Club, there are two Little Free Libraries at the zoo. One is at the back of the farm at the Education Station.
And the other one is at the far side of the zoo exhibits by the bald eagle enclosure.
The Santa Ana Zoo is an amazing place to appreciate the animals and also play & learn while supporting the zoo.
Need to Know
- You have to pay admission to enter the zoo and have access to the playground.
- Train ride and carousel costs extra and doesn’t necessarily run all the hours that the zoo is open.
- There is a Bean Sprouts Cafe and Treetop Toys Gift Shop next to the playground.
- The playground can get very crowded.
- No swings.
- There are Santa Ana Residents FREE days on the 3rd Sunday of each month. So plan to go there if you are a resident and would like free entrance. For those not living in Santa Ana, I recommend picking another day because it can be crowded!
- Parking is free and can fill up fast.
- Zoo Admission ranges from FREE-$12. (They used to only accept cash/checks – but they now accept Visa/Mastercard. Zoo membership makes sense if you go often!
- Only open 10am-5pm with the last admission sold at 4pm.
- Recycled rubber and sand play surface on the playground
- Restrooms in the snack bar building
- Drinking fountain
- Shade from playground shade cover and trees
- There are plenty of places to sit while keeping an eye on the children.
- Click here to find official information on zoo admission and hours
Originally published in October 2009.