Living Desert Zoo Botanical Garden Palm Springs

Ever wonder what animals and plants can survive in the desert’s harsh conditions? If you’re passing through Palm Springs, you’ll want to stop to check out THE LIVING DESERT Zoo & Botanical Garden. We were pleasantly surprised how nice the Zoo is there. The Zoo is broken up into two regions – Northern America and Africa. We only had time to visit one of the region so we picked Africa. We saw animals like zebras, cheetahs, gazelles, warthogs, camels, hyenas, leopards, and ostriches. The Giraffe Habitat is breathtaking. Certain times of the day you can help feed a herd of giraffe, ride a camel (returns in the fall), chat with zookeepers about jaguars, giraffes, cheetahs, leopards, or have meet-and-greets with animals. (Check the daily schedule).


One of the first thing you will want to do is spend time walking around the Model Train Exhibit. It is hard to miss, and we were very impressed. Model trains became a part of The Living Desert in 1998 during the annual WildLights holiday program. It was suppose to be temporary, but it was so popular, it became a permanent exhibit. Currently there are more than 3,300 feet of track laid. With six different loops of track, each varying from 150 feet to over 900 feet long, the railroad has grown to 3/4 acre. The mainline train travels on 940 feet of track and runs through Old Indio, past the Grand Canyon and along side the mining and logging areas.

Train displays that are currently running are historic scenes such as Mount Rushmore, a California logging and mining town, the south rim of the Grand Canyon with a scale model of the El Tovar Hotel and Southwest US cliff dwellings. The Old Indio train station depicts the early days of railroading here in the Coachella Valley from about 1875 to the mid 1950’s.  Enthusiasts can learn more on their website.


The trains are driven into a workshop each night, measuring approximately 12 x 42 feet. They are checked for any necessary repairs, cleaned, and made ready for the next day. The trains are designed to be operational during wet and windy conditions but are generally kept in storage until better weather. From June 1 to October 1, the trains exhibit is shut down for maintenance, construction and cleaning with the exception of 2 trains.


Although it can be hot in the summer, we recommend going first thing in the morning. They also close early so you’ll want to check the hours before you go. If you are in the area and plan to go more than once, there is a special summer membership. If you are pressed for time, getting tickets to ride the shuttle is a great option. The shuttle runs every 15 minutes and has 11 stops throughout the park. Shuttle prices are $7 for adults, $4 for children ages 3 to 12, and free for children under 3. For a map or more information, please visit their website.


47900 Portola Ave
Palm Desert, CA
(760) 346-5694

Season Hours:

Open every day October 1 to May 31
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Last admission at 4:00 pm.
Closed December 25

Summer Hours:

Open every day June 1 to September 30
8:00 am to 1:30 pm
Last admission at 1:00 pm

Admission Rates

General Admission $19.95
Seniors (62+) $17.95
Children (Ages 3 – 12) $9.95
Children under 3 FREE


The Living Desert is more than a collection of exhibits, it is also a nature preserve protecting over 1,000 acres of Sonoran desert. Within the preserve, there are a series of nature trails (closed in the summer) for various levels of difficulty.

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