Our family, including my mother-in-law visited the Oakland Zoo on July 31, 2017. Here is what families need to know before visiting the Oakland Zoo.
Location and Hours
The Oakland Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland. It is a 100 acre zoo located inside Knowland Park at the south end of Oakland, just off Highway 580. There are two entrances to the Zoo: the Main Entrance and the Lower Entrance (accessible by public transit). The Oakland Zoo is about a 1 hour drive from the South Bay area.
Fall/Winter hours are from 10:00AM-4:00PM, seven days a week. The Oakland Zoo also has an amusement rides area which is open from 11:00AM-5:00PM. The Gondola is open from 10:00AM-5:00PM every day, and the contact yard (where kids come into contact with sheep) is open from 10:00AM-4:00PM.
Tickets and Parking
Tickets prices for the Oakland Zoo are $20 for Children (2-14) and Seniors (65-75) and $24 for Adults (15-64). Children under 2 and Seniors over 76 are free. Military families receive a reduced rate.
Parking is $10 per car. Parking is right in front of the Zoo entrance, but the lot is large. There is a nice covered drop-off/pick-up area. We waited there, out of the sun, while my husband got the car at the end of our Zoo visit.
Save time and buy your tickets and parking pass online here.
Facilities, Food, and Shopping
The Oakland Zoo has strollers available for rent, but not wheelchairs. It’s $7 for a single stroller and $9 for a double. Restrooms are located in seven areas throughout the Zoo. Guest services include a First Aid Station and Lost and Found.
Some of the paths in the zoo are quite steep and were a bit challenging for my mother-in-law. We found out after that you can arrange for a private cart for $35, though the zoo prefers a 2 week advance reservation. If your family includes an elderly person who will fatigue walking up hills, then I recommend emailing the Reservation Associate to arrange for a private cart.
There are 3 cafes in the Oakland Zoo (Island Cafe in Flamingo Plaza, Safari Cafe in Adventure Landing, and the Landing Cafe which recently opened in the California Trail) and 4 other food options (Ice Cream Cart, Budongo Grind Coffee Shop, Savanna Watering Hole, and Madagascar Trading Post).
My girls loved their Icees from the Madagascar Trading Post. We had lunch at the Island Cafe and the food was really good. The Kids Meals come with apple sauce, animal crackers and milk/juice. You can also bring your own food in and enjoy a picnic at the Zoo. There are three picnic areas: two outside the Lower Entrance and one outside the Main Entrance of the Zoo. Bathrooms and the public bus stop are located outside the Lower Entrance.
The Oakland Zoo Gift Shop is located in Flamingo Plaza, just inside the Main Entrance of the Zoo.
The Oakland Zoo has over 660 native and non-native animals. They are located in 6 areas throughout the Zoo (click here for a virtual map), including:
- Flamingo Plaza (Flamingos)
- Wild Australia (Note: This is only accessible by taking the Zoo train. Board the train in the Adventures Landing area. From the train, you may get a glimpse of Emus and Wallaroos)
- Children’s Zoo (Tortoise, Lemur, River Otter, Bats, Reptile & Amphibian House, Goat/Sheep Barn, Bug House, Rabbits, Guinea Hog, Alligator)
- Tropical Rainforest (Aviary, Squirrel Monkey, Chimpanzee, Hornbill, Tiger, & more)
- African Savanna (Zebra, Elephant, Lion, Camel, Bison, Baboon, & more)
- African Veldt (Giraffe, Eland, Egyptian Goose, Aviary)
A seventh area, the California Trail, just opened in the summer. The California Trail includes animals native to California such as a mountain lion, jaguar, black bear, grizzly bear, wold, condor.
If you’re not up for a lot of walking, the elephants, lions, camels and bison can be seen from the Sky Ride ($3 a person).
Animal Feeding Times and Animal Feeding Talks are listed in the Oakland Zoo Visitor’s Guide which you will receive upon admission, or you can find them here.
Although the animals are the main attraction, the Oakland Zoo has a few non-animal attractions, including Adventure Landing. Adventure Landing has 6 amusement rides, primarily aimed at kids under 10. This is where you catch the train to the Wild Australia part of the Zoo. Ride tickets must be purchased separately. Rides are either 1 or 2 tickets. Tickets when we were there were $1.75 each or $24 for a book of 16 tickets.
The Children’s Zoo also has a Wildlife Theater, a couple of small play areas & face painting. The Gondola (seats 8) opened in June 2017 and takes you to the California Trail where the Visitor’s Center and Cafe is open. The animal exhibits and the Children’s Activity Zone are now open as of summer 2018. The Gondola ride is free. There is also a Sky Ride (seats 2-3) that goes past the African Veldt and part of the African Savanna. Tickets are $3/each. Both the Sky Ride and Gondola offer beautiful views of Oakland and the San Francisco Bay.
We arrived at the Oakland Zoo just after 11AM on a Monday. Although we had to park a bit further from the entrance, there was no line to purchase tickets. The ticketing agent kept asking specifically how old my mother-in-law was, which I thought was strange. The reason she was asking was because Seniors 76 and older get in free. My mother-in-law turned out to be free, which was a nice surprise. Upon entry, you are given a voting token to vote for your favorite conservation project: Take Action for Tamarins, Bring Bison Home, or Leap High for Frogs & Toads.
We started at the areas to the left of the Flamingo Plaza and made our way around the zoo, finishing with the rides at Adventures Landing. Although it was a hot, sunny day, there were plenty of benches in shade along the way. It took about 5 hours to see the whole zoo, break for lunch and go on the rides. We didn’t walk over to the elephant and lion areas, but instead, saw them from the Sky Ride.
One thing I didn’t like is that visitors have to pay for the train to see the Wild Australia area. In my opinion, access to all the animals should be included in the admission price. That said, the train was only $3.50 a person (2 tickets), and the conductor didn’t even take our tickets. You may or may not see the Wallaroo from the train.
My eldest’s favorite animal is the elephant, so seeing elephants was her favorite part. My younger one liked the rides and the children’s zoo. I liked the bat exhibit.
Overall, we recommend the Oakland Zoo as a great family day or half day out!