Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Old McDonald's Farm

Joanne Suttile, a new OCThen reader submits the following e-mail about her memories of Orange County, and asks if anyone remembers "Old McDonald's Farm" in Mission Viejo...

Reading your web site has made me feel a little nostalgic...and a lot "old". I used to think of Jim Sleeper's history of Orange County as the history of OC, but now I realize that the recent "history" is actually stuff I and my family lived...Japanese Village, Lion Country Safari…and other places you don't mention like Old McDonald's Farm in Mission Viejo.

I found your web site while on a search for information about a small science museum near Heritage Park in Irvine. It must have been around in the early 80's and my children...30, 32, and 34 ...remember it well. It closed and was supposed to reopen in a bigger and better location. I believe the name of the museum was The Launch Pad. If you or anyone else knows any more about it, I really would like some details. I am not sure if it has any connection to the Launch Pad in Crystal Court and the subsequent Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, but any information would be helpful.

Joanne Suttile
Mission Viejo
If any of you remember Old McDonald's Farm or know anything about the "small science museum" near Heritage Park, click on "Post a Comment" below and let us know.


  1. Hello,
    Yes, Discovery Science Center (the complex with the ten-story-tall Cube and Delta rocket visible from Interstate 5) is the result of efforts by the original team that showcased Launch Pad in the 90s. is the Web site.

  2. Old McDonald's Farm opened at Knott's Berry Farm (near the seal pool and the current site of the carousel) in January 1955.
    Operators Fulton & Kay Shaw left Knott's in early 1969 to move their business to Mission Viejo, where Old MacDonald's Farm re-opened in August 1969.
    Later, they had a brief dispute with Knott's, who had continued to use the name "Old McDonald's Farm" for their petting zoo. In the end, the Knott's version was renamed simply "The Animal Farm."
    Does anyone know how long Old McDonald's Farm lasted in Mission Viejo? And did I close or just move again?

  3. I lived in Fountain Valley during my childhood. I remember going to Old McDonald's Farm as a child. My older brother used to nag my mom to bring us. I remember it was part of Knott's Berry Farm. I remember it had goats and chickens all over the place back then. Of course, I was pretty young at the time.
    Speaking of which, I remember there was a western steakhouse at Knott's Berry Farm that had the stump of a sequoia tree in front of it. Does anyone remember that?
    Marble Falls, Ark.

  4. I was born in St. JOseph's in Orange in 1963. We moved to El Toro in 1965. My parent's paid $18,900 for the house and the payment was $119/month.
    Anyway, I googled "old mcdonands farm mission viejo" today because I drive by the Kalidoscope a few times a week and ALWAYS think of it!! It was so fun. We went there nearly every weekend (when we weren't going to Lion Country SAfari!)
    So happy to talk about old times! We have tons of pictures--I mean slides!--of our times there!!!

  5. My grandmother lived in Leisure World, and used to take my brother and I to Old McDonald's Farm when we would visit her. I remember that you parked at the top of a hill and there was a button that you pushed that sounded a big horn to let them know when you wanted them to drive up the hill to come pick you up. They would pick you up in a farm tractor, pulling a trailer with hay bales... and drive you back down the hill. I remember that the hay ride was half the fun of the whole visit! Every time I drive by on the 5... I have wonderful memories about that place!

  6. I lived in Laguna Niguel across the way from Mission Viejo from 1972 to 1985, from the ages 7 months old to almost 14. I have very vague memories of Old McDonald's Farm, so I don't think it lasted much longer than the early 70s there. It was right next to the 5, in an area that's now the major shopping center Kaleidoscope Courtyards.

  7. I grew up in Mission Viejo in the neighborhood adjacent to Old MacDonald's farm. The location was once a small ravine that is now the location of the "Kaleidescope" on Marguerite Pkwy and the northbound entrance to the 5 freeway. As a child I have fond memories of a petting zoo and pony ride. After the place closed, the only thing that remained of Old MacDonald's was a the circular metal hitch from the pony ride. Needless to say, weeds and brush grew in that vacant lot, but the rusted metal hitch lasted until the Kaleidescope was build. For that reason I never forgot old MacDonald's, even thought it should have been a cloudy childhood memory.

  8. Ok, I had a Birthday party at Old McDonald's never knew where it was but I remember the tractor and the hill where you parked. My fondest memory would be Tilly the Taper! I thought what a strange looking animal where could it be from? O'what fun to be a kid...

  9. I grew up in Mission Viejo since the early 1970's and have a few recollections about this place. I think my family only actually entered the farm once but because of its location we drove by it hundreds of times. I'll give a little more detail about its location. It was in the most unlikely location, literally the wedge of dirt between the north I-5 Freeway onramp at Crown Valley Pkwy and the hill that formed the burm for the shopping center above it. By the way, do you remember the Sambo's in that shopping center at the far right end overlooking the freeway? The Kaleidoscope shopping center was built on the exact footprint of the Old MacDonald's Farm ravine, as someone else stated. One had to go down a very steep ramp from the parking lot to the ravine floor where the animals and activities were. I went sometime in the mid 1970's and I think it closed down shortly there after. For many years I looked down from the road at the sad pony ride horizontal "pinwheel" like hitch as it rusted. Some of the walk-paths were visible for years also, but slowly were overgrown. The area was bulldozed and filled in the early 90's when they started the mall construction.

  10. When Old McDonald's Farm was at Knotts Berry farm we adopted a dog (a mutt) that we named MacAdoo. I remember going to the park that day (there was only the Calico Mine Road, the Gold Mining, the Bird Cage theater at that time), eating a chicken dinner, then taking the dog home!

  11. It was hotter than the hinges of Hell
    down in that hole in the summertime.
    That's the main thing I remember, as I was completely bored with everything that place had to offer. Having grown up on a ranch in Capistrano, the last thing I wanted to do with my spare time as a kid was be around animals.

  12. Hi,

    I grew up in El Toro (Marine Corps brat)I remember going to Old McDonald's farm for probably my tenth birthday. I recall the tractor ride and stitting down on the ground holding a baby goat in the petting zoo. When I stood up, he had pooped all in my lap.Little goat poops spilled all over.
    I remember seeing the pony ride wheel for years and years when driving down the freeway.

  13. I am 38 now, and I remember Lion Country Safari, but never heard of Old McDonalds, although I remeber the huge gators they used to have at Knotts that I didn't see anyone writing about. Pretty sketchy if I remember correctly. We used to drive through Lion Country Safari, and while we did this one time in our old International Pickup truck, a lion jumped up into the back of our truck and hung out for a while...we just had to wait it out since she wouldn't leave. Can you image them allowing that now days with all the lawsuits, etc!? It would be impossible to get insurance coverage. The elephants kept raming down this one fence or wall or something, and my dad was contracted to go in an build a new one to keep them only a few years before they closed the place.

  14. Ahhh yes, I remember Old McDonald's Farm. I think of it every time I go to the Kaleidoscope center. I remember making a "movie" there for a summer school project when I was a little girl. This was after it had closed and was like a ghost town with the boarded up buildings and that rusted old pony ride wheel. Yes I remember Sambos next door and miss it terribly. My family frequently visited the Japanese Deer Park. I also remember Lion Country Safari with Frazier the Lion (with his cross on the hill above the park) and poor ol' Bubbles the Hippo. I can't go into her story---too sad !!! Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  15. Check out this link...hopefully it works. Good for a smile :)

  16. We used to have birthday parties at Old McDonald's Farm in the early 70's and go to Original Sam's Pizza next door afterwards. My sister's were waitresses at Sambo's....ahh what memories! Man that place has changed!


  17. My husband's family is of the Kay Shaw clan. She is still active and living in So. Orange County. She and Fulton were actively involved with San Juan Capistrano and the parade down there. They have been incredibly active in the community, and have always loved the area. I, too, remember the Farm at Crown Valley, and their home where Coast Hills Church now stands. Ah, fun history and special memories of family and the community! They were/are special people!

  18. We moved to Mission Viejo in the summer of 1977 and I am pretty sure Old McDonald's Farm was closed by then. As one commenter said, it was right near Crown Valley in a ditch. We moved away in 1985 and the metal posts and fences from the farm were still there.


  19. Went to at least two birthdays there.

    I remember being sick with the flu one time while visiting.

    I also remember buying Mexican Jumping Beans which I guess isn't PC today.

    I have never seen them anywhere else since.

  20. Wow. When my family came to OC there was no Mission Viejo, no Dana Point Harbor, and Capistrano Beach had its own fishing pier. Many of my dear friends were born and raised there and have memories that predate mine!

  21. I remember best the horn to call the tractor up the hill to pick you up and take you down into the farm. The anticipation during the hay ride was great. They had so much packed into that little space. The mule ride and coach ride wound around it such that it made it seem so much bigger than it was. But my best memory was of the piano playing chicken and rabbit that went down the slide. For a nickle the light would turn on in the cage and the animal would do it's trick for a little food. I moved to M.V. in '67 when I was 2. I miss the old days when no one sued. Pretty soon you wont be able to go to the beach at night because the ocean is too dangerous.

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