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.