Day Tripping

Unique excursions to enjoy and bond with your little ones this summer.

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    Heather David

It’s that wonderful time of year … the weather is perfect, the days are long, and the kiddos are on summer break. Ruminate on that thought for a few minutes—and then the inevitable follow-up: How in the world are we going to keep them busy?

With that in mind, here are a couple off-the-beaten path adventures aimed at entertaining and sparking creativity. From crafting your own magical universe to getting up close and personal with a baby lion—along with a host of other exotic creatures. Break out your GPS and come along for the ride!



Set on five acres at Ventura County’s Moorpark College is America’s Teaching Zoo, a unique exotic animal training and management program. But the public can also get in on the action. $7 grants access to a wide range of primates, an extensive collection of reptiles and a 95-year-old giant Galapagos tortoise. Unlike a zoo, it is an intimate, close-up experience. Even though he is behind two fences, visitors can actually see the little tufts of fur sprouting on the mane of Ira, the 1-year-old male lion cub.

Zookeepers here are highly knowledgeable college students who are studying for veterinary school or other animal-oriented careers. They clearly delight in answering questions and providing facts.

When the very vocal Siamang monkey shook her cage, we were informed, “She’s politely asking you to step back.” Fantastic experience for all ages, but particularly the smaller set (ages 2 to 6 or so) who can easily navigate the flat path and actually get a good look at the critters.



For imaginative kids who like being hands-on, Harmony Hollows in Santa Clarita is a terrific place to spend an afternoon. From their own home, husband-and-wife team Kathy and Steve Lockhart design, create and sell handmade miniature fairy and gnome homes. Upon discovering how much their grandaughter loved to get in on the act, they were inspired to offer classes a few times each month. They welcome all ages to come and create their own idea of an enchanting garden scene, set in a portable container.

The $10 workshop fee includes a myriad of raw materials, including deep blue pebbles (for my kids this inspired a meandering stream), small paving stones, as well as various plants and small trees. They also sell hundreds of figurines, furniture pieces and structures to add whimsy, like trolls and dragons.
The real magic here happens when parents get a chance to work right alongside their kids, bringing the miniature vision to life. July classes will be held on the 7th, 12th and 30th.