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Visiting the San Francisco Zoo

The San Francisco Zoo is quite possibly my family's favorite location in San Francisco! We're members and visit at least once a month. Read on to discover why we love the SF zoo so much!

SF Zoo


Let me just start by saying that the location of the San Francisco Zoo is second to none. As you drive up to the parking lot you are on the Great Highway which runs parallel to the ocean. It gives you a really breath-taking and spectacular view as you drive up to the zoo’s entrance.


Visiting the SF Zoo
The alternating tiger/lion enclosure lets you get up close and personal with the big cats. Meow! Or should I say, ROAR!!

ARRIVING AT THE SF ZOO

The zoo has a it’s own parking lot with additional parking on the streets around the zoo. Most of the time, parking is a breeze. We’ve never had to park on the street. Normally, we arrive around 10:00am, when the zoo opens, and we find parking right away in the dedicated zoo lot. But I must mention, that one Saturday we were running very late and didn’t arrive at the zoo until about 12:30pm. Also, it was also Labor Day weekend.

Arriving late, on a holiday weekend, is NOT a good idea. The parking lot was full when we arrived, so we were stuck with street parking or valet. We decided to go with valet. We had to wait in a rather long and slow moving line until we could finally unload ourselves at the front gate and have the car taken from us. Picking up the car a 1/2 hour before the zoo closed resulted in a wait as well, but we were expecting it. That all being said, arrive early for convenience and a smooth entry/exit!

Everyone needs to pay for parking, it’s $10.00-$12.00 for the day. If there is a long ticket line members can go to membership services to pay for their parking. Otherwise, even if you’ve purchased your ticket online, you’ll need to pay for parking in person.


SF Zoo - Lemur
My fav: LEMURS!

THINGS TO DO AND SEE

Now that we’ve discussed arriving at the zoo, let’s talk about what you can expect to see when you get there. The zoo has over 2,000 endangered, exotic, and rescued animals including amphibians, birds, invertebrates, mammals, and reptiles. But, the zoo has a lot more to offer than just animal exhibits. It boasts a Family Farm (complete with Petting Zoo), Nature Trail, Animal Resource Center, Education Center, Carousel, Steam Train, and 3 Playgrounds (each appropriate for different age groups).

Petting Zoo at SF Zoo
Brushes are available for the kids to brush the animals in the Petting Zoo. Get to the Petting Zoo at 10:30am to see the Barnyard Stampede.

The Petting Zoo has a Barnyard Stampede daily at 10:30am. This is when they let the Barnyard animals out around the Family Farm area to be pet and brushed. We haven’t experienced this yet, but it sounds cute.

The Nature Trail is one of my favorite things to do at the Zoo. This scenic trail winds through the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo. Between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day weekend, volunteers show and tell you all about different small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Some animals can be gently touched by older children and adults, a volunteer will let you know when this is an option.

The Koret Animal Resource Center (ARC) allows visitors to get a behind-the-scenes look at how animals are cared for. Seasonal tours can be scheduled, but you can also get a glimpse into what’s going on through the large viewing windows year-round.

The Education Center holds learning programs and classes for children, teens, and adults. When my little one gets a little bit older I plan on taking her to one of their classes or an entire series. You can sign up for a session of classes or just drop in on classes that interest you or your children the most. You will need to register ahead of time to do so.

The Carousel and Steam Train (Little Puffer) have an additional cost, but it’s only a few dollars. I think they’re worth the extra expense, especially the Steam Train.


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The zoo offers several different educational programs, we haven’t tried any yet, but I’d like to. As mentioned, I’m especially interested in the Children’s Programs which hold themed classes every week throughout the year. There are also Youth Programs, including volunteer opportunities, Zoo Camp, and Family and Adult Programs. Once children are 6 years old, you can even camp at the zoo overnight. Would you like to host a Birthday Party at the zoo? Yeah, you can do that too!


ZooLights
Meeting and greeting reindeer at ZooLights.

SPECIAL EVENTS

Although Boo at the Zoo and ZooLights are my family’s favorite events held at the zoo, there are many more events that the zoo hosts year-round. Here is a list of some of the other fantastic events that are worth a visit:

  • ZOOtoberfest
  • Red, White & Zoo
  • Big Bunny’s Spring Fling and Egg Hunt
  • St. Patrick’s Party
  • Will Zoo Be Mine?
  • Lunar New Year

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REFRESHMENTS

You are welcome to bring your own refreshments to save some cash, but if you’d rather grab a bite to eat at the zoo there are 3 dining options: The Leaping Lemur Café, The Station Pizza Parlor, and Café Playfield.

The Leaping Lemur Café has the most variety and options, it also gets very crowded around lunch time. There are tables both indoors and outdoors, but it does fill up. If you’d like to have a seat without waiting, I’d recommend getting a late or early lunch.


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HOURS AND ADMISSION

The zoo is open 365 days a year from 10:00am to 4:00pm.

Admission Prices

SF Zoo Members Free
Adult (15-64) $19.00
Seniors (65 and over) $16.00
Children (4-14) $13.00
Children (3 and under) Free
Parking, weekdays $10.00
Parking, weekends and holidays $12.00

SF Resident Admission Prices

Proof of SF residency required.
SF Zoo Members Free
Adult (15-64) $16.00
Seniors (65 and over) $11.50
Children (4-14) $9.50
Children (3 and under) Free
Parking, weekdays $10.00
Parking, weekends and holidays $12.00

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Terrifying? Nah! It’s just a yawning meerkat and an unbelievably timed photo. LOL

For more information about visiting the San Francisco Zoo, check out their website: www.sfzoo.org.


We’re members of the SF Zoo and it is one of my favorite spots to take my toddler on a regular basis and my friends and family when they visit.

For more places my family and I love to visit in San Francisco, check out these posts:


What are your favorite places in San Francisco?

Thank you for reading and have a beautiful day!

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