The Living Desert Zoo: Tips for a Successful, Socially-Distanced Visit! - Beach Cities Moms


I know what you’re thinking… the desert? In the middle of the summer?  No thank you! However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and I do think that these times are some of the most desperate we will experience in our lifetime.  We recently visited The Living Desert Zoo in Palm Desert with Sailor, our 14-month-old. We had a blast and beat the 109° heat!

The park is located in Palm Desert, which is a 20-30 minute drive from Palm Springs or just over 2 hours from the South Bay. I am so obsessed with this zoo- not only is it great for kids, but it is such a beautiful setting with lush landscaping, palms, and a gorgeous mountain backdrop.  If you have never been to the Living Desert before and you are like me and want all the details before you do something, I broke down some important tips for exploring this gem in the desert!

  • Covid Policies: You can read their complete reopening plan here, but the gist of it is that face coverings are required 100% of the time (over age 3) and you must make a timed reservation so they can control capacity.  Many of the exhibits are closed, such as the butterflies, carousel, petting kraal, and all indoor exhibits.  Kind of a bummer but beggars can’t be choosers, right?


  • Covid Safety: The face covering policy was strictly enforced.  People practiced social distancing and would take turns at the attractions if there was not enough space for multiple groups in one area.  Most of the time there wasn’t anyone around us, and there was so much space for little ones to run around and burn off energy!  We felt completely safe during our entire visit to the zoo.


  • Beat the Heat: I highly recommend arriving when they open at 8am.  (You can reserve a ticket entrance time for 7am, but that is only when the gates and garden are open.  The actual zoo doesn’t open until 8am.)  We were able to walk through and see every exhibit in the park and were back to our car before 10am, and before it had gotten much over 90°.  There was plenty of shade and even misters to stay cool.  Definitely come prepared with plenty of water to stay hydrated!


  • Eating at the Zoo: Brings snacks if needed because concessions are not open.  There were plenty of empty benches and tables in the shade if you need a place to “park” and take a break and have a snack or some water.


  • Dress Code: I highly recommend wearing tennis shoes if you are going to be walking the grounds as they are dusty and uneven!


  • Strollers: There are several exhibits where they ask you to leave your stroller in designated “Stroller Parking” areas outside of the exhibit.  Otherwise strollers are great and easy to maneuver throughout the park!


  • Feeding the Giraffe: One of the most unique features of The Living Desert is their giraffes!  You can purchase a ticket to feed them, which is very cool, and the kids will freak out! Arrive right when the gates to the zoo open and head straight for the giraffe exhibit.  The line gets very long very fast!  It is $7 per person to feed the giraffe, but the romaine lettuce leaf can be torn into pieces easily be shared between your kids if you only want to purchase 1 or 2 feedings.  However, you only get one “I Fed a Giraffe” sticker per ticket, which is a pretty cute memento for the kids to wear on their shirt the rest of the day. The feeding tickets are located at the entrance to the giraffe exhibit.

Sailor wearing her “I Fed a Giraffe” sticker

  • Private Safari: We chose to walk the park, but you can also arrange for a private “Safari Tour” where a guide escorts you through the park in a golf cart.  ($69/person ages 13+, $39/person ages 3-12).


  • Highlights: The giraffes were definitely a highlight and always my favorite and so fun for Sailor to get up close and personal with an animal.  Other highlights of our day were the camels, zebras, and wallaby exhibit.

Sailor getting up close and personal with a wallaby!

  • Cost:  General Admission 24.95, Seniors (62+) 22.95, Children (3-12) 14.95, Children Under 3 FREE, Parking FREE.  Memberships also available. Reserve your tickets online up to two weeks in advance!

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