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“Niche Zoo & Gardens are a Gem”

Living Desert Zoo & Gardens
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Palm Springs General Admission to The Living Desert
Ranked #1 of 57 things to do in Palm Desert
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: The botanical gardens of this park offer great opportunities to see desert vegetation.
Level Contributor
115 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 79 helpful votes
“Niche Zoo & Gardens are a Gem”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 9, 2013

I just purchased a membership to this zoo & garden. This is a smaller, niche zoo & garden - it specializes in desert flora and fauna, hence the name, "Living Desert Zoo & Gardens". There is a fabulous desert garden here, very natural, and tremendous inspiration for anyone who loves gardening.

I was here with my older children 17 & 20 years, who thoroughly enjoyed our walk through the Christmas lights display - they even rode the carousel ($2). The lights display isn't nearly as large as the Van Dusen display in Vancouver, but it was still lovely and the overall ambience was great. I would say the real lights display was the natural one - the stars in the Coachella Valley can't be beat. The animals were either sleeping or not included in the evening's display. The focus for the evening was the lights exhibit, including amazing model train - not animals.

I'm surprised at some of the negative comments regarding this zoo - freezing cold at night, too small, too expensive, etc. The desert can be very cold at night in the winter and it can be very hot during the day in the summer, important to dress appropriately. Admission rates are typical of what similar facilities charge. This is a vast area, over 1000 acres & most in its natural state,you will see a fantastic natural garden and some very impressive desert dwellers. After a visit to this zoo and garden, especially if you come in the summer when the temperature is well over 100 degrees, you will come away with tremendous respect for desert life - how do they thrive, let alone survive in this place of extremes.

The best time to visit the animal exhibits is first thing in the morning, the animals are more active in the mornings. This is true in most zoos. During the afternoon, when it is hot in the summer, the animals are conserving themselves and are not active. Just as in the winter, when it is cold at night, the animals are mainly hunkered down to stay warm and are sleeping.

If you are looking for a large zoo experience, similar to what you may have at home, then you will probably be disappointed. If you are looking to see a unique exhibit of desert animals and plants up close and personal, learn something about a very special part of the country, then give yourself enough time to properly visit and appreciate because The Living Desert is gem.

Visited December 2012
Thank Wet_Coast1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
North Kingstown, Rhode Island
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“The Living Desert”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 9, 2013

My partner and I visited the Living Desert and I loved it! We watched a predator (birds and I think a couple cats) show which was very cute, and a fun show for the kids who were there on field trips. It was cool seeing these birds up close. I usually dislike zoos because of potentially unfriendly enclosures etc. but aside from a handful of smaller enclosures that I would've preferred to see larger, the rest of them were quite large and felt like it was a part of the desert. I really liked that it was all dirt trails that gave you the feel of actually being in the "wilderness" and I loved the amazing plant life. Visiting from New England, I hadn't been exposed to much desert life, so I could be bias, but seeing huge cacti and other desert plants was very interesting for me. I thought overall it was a great experience, and I like that fact that they promote conservation/preservation of various species---and is not promoted as a place just to gawk at the animals. I would NOT suggest going during the high afternoon as it obviously gets pretty hot later in the day. Morning was best.

Visited March 2012
Thank mgags
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Madison, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
6 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Felt like a tourist trap”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 7, 2013

I visited the zoo on 1/5/13 with my husband because it was recommended by our hotel concierge. It is a self guided tour of the grounds and they provide you with a map at the front enterance. They do have a tram option for a fee if needed but we walked through. I must admit I was a little disappointed, it was small and most of the animals were out of view or sleeping. I don't know if it was the time of the day we went (around noon) or the time of year but staring at seemingly empty enclosures was far from what we were hoping. The zoo is seperated into two sections, Africa and North America. We enjoyed the walk through the gardens and seeing the desert plants that we don't have where we're from. The model train was cool, it it huge and it maintained well. Since we don't have kids, we didn't do any activities pertaining to animal rides or tours. The optional trails looked nice but we didn't bring proper clothing/shoes for a good hike. In all, it was average.

Visited January 2013
1 Thank Kim D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Palm Desert
Level Contributor
33 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
“Enjoy nature at its best”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 7, 2013

World class facility of desert plants, animals and train exhibit. A great place to take the family for a stroll, see and feed the giraffes, attend a jazz concert and enjoy the outdoors. Christmas light show is a delight for kids.

Visited December 2012
Thank Earl C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
75 reviews
37 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 110 helpful votes
“Disappointing and overpriced”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 6, 2013

Anita and our family should have found another way to burn $60-75. We were there on New Year's Eve also, it was the last night of the Zoo Lights and I was too cheap to pay $18 per person to see this during the day. I figured it would be similar to the Point Defiance Zoo Lights or Woodland Park Zoo Lights experience at home. I was sadly mistaken. The daytime entrance cost for this tourist trap is $18A/$9C. For $10 it sounded like you might see some animals and the lights too, and that seemed like a decent compromise.

This is a small place, certainly not worthy of the name "zoo", 'gardens' or 'model train display' seems a better descriptor. There were some plants around the area, and some animal pens/areas but no creatures out on display during the evening experience. You walked in and saw an impressive model train set up outfitted with some lights and cute little miniature towns. Past that was an area selling hot cocoa and some limited food with outdoor tables and fires. We went past that and saw a few measly holiday lights, a tree with lighted butterflies, a snowman, etc. The camel rides were $6 and were unavailable for 30 minutes after opening for no apparent reason. We wandered around the corner to see some areas where animals are on display during the day. One cage held a sleepy owl, that was the only animal life. A few more measly light displays, the back side of the model train display, and then we were back where we started. We took the other loop and found the carousel ($2 for 9 times around), some more lights, and the animal show. Figured we had a few minutes to kill and get our money's worth out of the drive and entrance fees. Sat in the freezing cold to wait and watched the 'zookeepers' do an odd version of the How the Grinch Stole Christmas, with the Whos of Whoville being an owl and a couple of other small birds of prey. The dog was played by either a pet or a well trained wild dog of some type. The zookeepers didn't say much, it would have been better if they just brought out some animals and taught us something about them.

After that we wandered back toward the fires/cocoa area because it was time for the "meet and greet the animals" session. 25 minutes after the posted start time some zookeepers showed up with some animals for people to see and touch. I don't know what they were because all of a sudden the people mobbed the area and I had to pull the 5 year old out of the crowd to avoid being trampled to death. I thought they were giving out hot packs or something the way people mobbed the area.

In the meantime, a decently talented artist was performing on the guitar in the courtyard and a few people were waiting, enjoying the fire, and listening until time for the animal show. There wasn't much going on at this place, nothing else to see or do, so everyone who paid to get in was in the same boat as our family. The kids wanted to see animals and lights, but there wasn't much to see of either of those. Parents figured this might at least appease them and make up for the miserable cold, but we just ended up disgruntled, cold, and miserable.

I am so glad that we didn't pay twice as much to visit during the day. My advice to other travelers: skip it. Visit your local zoo or just don't bother. As far as the Christmas lights go, it isn't even worth getting out of the car for, you can see more on display in your neighbor's yard.

Visited December 2012
1 Thank Sarina E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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