There's no dearth of attractions for the whole family in Southern California. Sure, many people have visited Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and the Los Angeles or San Diego Zoo, but few have toured a turtle farm or climbed aboard a trolley or petted a velvety limpet, all experiences that transcend the restrictions of age.
What follows is just a sampling of the Southland's special places that offer enriching experiences for children--and fun-filled excursions in nostalgia for adults.
Lomita Railroad Museum, 250th Street and Woodward Avenue, Lomita, (213) 326-6255. It seems incongruous in this quiet residential area to hear the sound of a train whistle and the call, "All aboard."
The station is a faithful replica of the Greenwood Station in Wakefield, Mass. You can climb into the cab of the gleaming engine. The engine's controls are painted a bright red and are neatly tagged to identify such devices as the water gauge and air pump. The museum includes other railroad memorabilia, from lanterns and models to menus and china from the elegant dining cars.
Open Wednesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission costs 50 cents. There are picnic tables in the park across the street. Ample parking.
Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, 29322 Modjeska Canyon Road, Orange, (714) 649-2760. This is real country, quiet and unspoiled.
There are acres of trails to explore, and birds are everywhere, particularly the tiny, graceful hummingbirds. If you hear a determined tapping, an acorn woodpecker may be carving out a cache for more nuts. The observation porch offers a splendid opportunity for bird watching. Binoculars and a field guide are helpful. Animals, including snakes and a baby possum, are on view in the museum. Open daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Donation is $1.50; optional guided tours cost $2. Picnic tables and free parking.
Angel's Attic, 516 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, (213) 394-8331. Angel's Attic is housed in a Victorian edifice built in 1895. This is a museum of miniatures, dolls, antique toys and antique doll houses. There's a plantation house straight out of "Gone With the Wind," a Dutch mansion with a revolving door and running water and a simple cabin that supposedly was built by an inmate at Folsom prison. Upstairs are the doll collections--the famous Dionne quintuplets are there--and cuddly teddy bears. Open Thursday through Sunday 12:30-4:30 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors 65 and over and $1 for children 12 and under. Ample street parking.
Santa Ana Zoo, 1801 E. Chestnut Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 836-4000. This is the ideal place for a child's first visit to a zoo. Primates are featured. The capering golden lion tamarins don't walk, they bounce. The Capuchin monkeys are lively, and the gibbon, a real showoff, entertains audiences with a variety of contortions. The children's zoo has easy access to animals, and they are easy to feed and pet. Saturdays and Sundays there are elephant rides--weather permitting--for $1.50. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults, 75 cents for children ages 3-12, ages 2 and under free. Picnic facilities and a children's playground. Free parking.
Cabrillo Marine Museum, 3720 Stephen White Drive, San Pedro, (213) 548-7562. There are 35 aquariums with easy viewing of exotic sea creatures. Pelicans dangle from the ceiling; the whaling exhibit, complete with scrimshaw, is engrossing. At the touch tank, an artificially created tide pool, you can touch bristly sea urchins, sea anemones and starfish. Open Tuesday through Friday noon to 5 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Parking costs $4.
Fullerton Youth Science Center, Room 26, Ladera Vista Junior High School, on Acacia Avenue between Chapman and Commonwealth avenues, Fullerton, (714) 526-1690. The principles of science come alive at this unusual center, where all exhibits are hands-on. Visitors can experience the walk-in "kaleidoscope" or whisper into sound telescopes. Open Saturdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Free admission and parking.
Casa de Tortuga, Fountain Valley, (714) 962-0612. The address of Casa de Tortuga is not published because drop-in guests are not welcome. When you telephone, a tour (starting at 10 a.m. Monday-Saturday only) will be arranged and directions will be given.
More than 450 turtles and tortoises live here in splendor. The straw is changed twice weekly, food preferences are indulged and medical care is offered. Out back, turtles swim in a 5,000-gallon pond.
You'll visit the infirmary, be introduced to exotic specimens from foreign lands and learn about the many turtle eggs in incubators. Darwin, an immense 17-year-old Galapagos tortoise, lumbers across the yard. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Ample street parking.