To outsiders, the name “California” may conjure images of the Golden Gate Bridge, bustling tech hubs, or Hollywood movie stars, but locals will be the first to tell you about the state’s teeming wildlife population.
To raise awareness for animals and plants unique, endangered, or under-appreciated in the Golden State, legislators proclaimed the first day of the Spring Equinox “California Wildlife Day” earlier this month, making Monday the first annual celebration.
Here are just a few cheap and easy ways to celebrate in the Bay Area:
The Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek
In addition to being a museum and educational center, the Lindsay Wildlife Experience is also known for its rehabilitation center, which treats more than 5,500 injured and orphaned animals each year. Visitors can learn about a wide array of species at the museum — including owls — and also play interactive games, learn about the rehabilitation center and more. There are admission-free days. Check the website for details.
Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in Fairfield
When the weather permits, take advantage of the 8-mile driving tour with eight stopping stations to see wildlife. Tule elk are probably the most easy-to-spot animals on the tour, but surprises abound! Check out the website for more details.
Tilden Park Environmental Education Center in Orinda
Tilden Park has been a Bay Area favorite for hikes, bike rides and sightseeing for generations. Odds are, if you were raised and schooled in the East Bay, you probably visited the park on a class field trip once or twice. First-timers and returning visitors alike can enjoy the Wildcat Creek Watershed and The Little Farm, which houses sheep, goats, cows, rabbits, pigs and chickens. Check out the website for more details.
Rotary Nature Center and Wildlife Refuge in Oakland
Is there any better place for an afternoon picnic than Lake Merritt? You be the judge. While there, stop by the Rotary Nature Center, the first wildlife refuge in North America. The long-running interactive museum features several different habitats and freshwater viewing ponds. Bird-watchers and hikers might also enjoy the Bird Walk, courtesy of the Golden Gate Audubon Society. Check the website for details.
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Half-Moon Bay:
Perfect for the budding naturalist, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a must-see in Half-Moon Bay. Watch cute Harbor Seal Pups nestling with their moms in Spring, look out for the elusive red octopus, or just appreciate the amazing seaside view. If you visit, try and resist the urge to pick flowers or collect seashells. The site, which has been heralded as one of the best natural wonders on the California coast, is protected land. Check the website for more information.