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With an average of 266 sunny days per year, San Diego is always a perfect choice for a sun- and fun-filled family-friendly vacation. But for clients looking to walk on the wild side, the city also offers opportunities to learn about — and get close to — exotic animals.
“In addition to our world-famous zoo and SeaWorld San Diego, the city has a menagerie of thrilling and unique animal encounters and immersive experiences that visitors don’t even know about,” said Robert Arends, public relations manager for San Diego Tourism Authority. “At California Wolf Center and Sky Falconry, families not only interact with and learn about fascinating animals in-depth, but they also get to explore San Diego’s great outdoors beyond the beaches.”
Sky FalconryClients can learn about falconry — and even fly a trained bird — at Sky Falconry, which is located in the town of Alpine, just 30 miles outside San Diego. Hands-on classes offer education about raptor conservation and the fascinating art of falconry. Plus, Hawk Walks and Private Raptor Experiences can provide one-on-one encounters with magnificent birds of prey.
“Today’s travelers are looking for one-of-a-kind, off-the-beaten-path experiences they can do with the whole family,” said Denise Disharoon, co-owner and falconer at Sky Falconry. “We are honored to offer the rare opportunity to free-fly a bird of prey, and we hope this unique, shared experience will create memories that last a lifetime.”
During a one-hour basic falconry group lesson, participants learn about the history of falconry and the role of raptors in their natural environment, and they actually get to hold a hawk, cast it from their glove, and call it back again.
On a Hawk Walk, families are taken on an interactive adventure along the trails of the San Diego Mountains, where they learn field-training techniques and have the thrilling experience of partnering with a trained hawk that swoops down from hundreds of feet high to land on their glove. For clients looking for a truly bucket-list-worthy experience, the two-hour Private Raptor Outing is the only class where participants can free-fly both a hawk and a falcon as they learn about the different hunting style of each species.
California Wolf CenterCalifornia Wolf Center, meanwhile, is an education and conservation center dedicated to returning wild wolves to their natural habitat, and is located near the town of Julian in the mountains of San Diego County. As part of a statewide effort to recover and protect endangered native wolf species, the center is also home to several packs of gray wolves as well as highly endangered Mexican gray wolves.
“California Wolf Center offers family-friendly educational experiences focused on ways that people can share the landscape with wolves and other wildlife,” said Erin Hunt, director of operations for California Wolf Center. “From coloring sheets and activities for young kids, to stories that inspire future generations to explore and care for the world around them, we include experiences for all ages while offering a rare opportunity to observe natural wolf behavior.”
The center provides visitors with engaging educational programs that share information about the biology, behavior and history of wolves in California, with the goal of increasing the understanding about these amazing — and often mysterious — animals.
“Wolf Recovery Today” public tours of the center include an educational presentation and guided observation of two packs of wolves. For an opportunity to take part in a more intimate guided tour of the resident wolves, families can opt for the smaller-size Wolf Pack Tour or El Lobo Tour, which focuses primarily on the recovery of the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf and the reintroduction of that species in the U.S. Southwest. Private tours are also available by appointment and provide an opportunity for clients to experience a personalized visit to the center with one of the educators.
Insider Tip: The quaint gold-mining town of Julian is a cool place to explore before or after a California Wolf Center tour. Plus, since Julian is famous for its apple pie, it’s also the perfect spot for a sweet snack.