Our family visited the San Francisco Zoo on July 23, 2017. Spoiler alert: My girls liked it so much that we went back 5 days later, this time with Grandma in tow! Here is what families need to know before visiting the San Francisco Zoo.

Location and Hours

The Pacific Ocean is just off to the left...covered in fog

The Pacific Ocean is just off to the left…covered in fog

The San Francisco Zoo is located right off the Pacific Ocean, on the southwest edge of San Francisco. This means the temperature will be cooler and you need to dress warm. This appealed to us because we were trying to escape the heat of the South Bay. Even though I checked the temperature ahead of time and tried to prepare for it, my girls were still a bit cold. It was overcast and misted on and off throughout the day. This did not dampen their fun though. I highly recommend checking the weather before you visit, which you can do here. For directions to the San Francisco Zoo, click here.

Tip: On rainy days, the Zoo will give the first 100 people a complimentary rain poncho.

The San Francisco Zoo is open every day of the year from 10:00AM to 5:00PM in the Spring/Summer and 10:00AM to 4:00PM in the Fall/Winter. The Family Farm opens at 10:30AM. Last admission is one hour before closing.

Tickets and Parking

Ticket counter. This is where you buy your parking ticket.

Ticket counter. This is where you buy your parking ticket.

Tickets are $20 for adults (15-64), $17 for Seniors (65+) and $14 for children (4-14). Kids under 3 are free. Residents of San Francisco receive a discounted price. The Zoo also offers $1 off the ticket price to those who take public transportation. Purchase tickets and gift vouchers online here or at the Tickets Counter. Tickets are checked at the Gatehouse, which is partway in the Zoo, after the Entry Village.

Parking is $10 during the week and $12 on weekends. Parking cannot be purchased online and must be purchased at the Tickets Counter. You will receive a parking ticket with a bar code that you scan at the exit gate to get out. Many people, including us, did not realize this. We had purchased our admission tickets online so that we didn’t have to wait in line. We had to go back to the Ticketing counter to buy a parking ticket before we could leave.

Facilities, Food and Shopping

The San Francisco Zoo has strollers and wheelchairs available to rent. There is also a First Aid station, Lost Children, and Lost and Found at the Entry Village. Bathrooms are located in 7 places throughout the Zoo.

There are 4 Cafes (Leaping Lemur Cafe, Cafe Playfield, The Station Pizza Parlor, and The Depot Grill). The latter two have seasonal hours. Only the Leaping Lemur Cafe has indoor seating. Kids Meals are available and include apple sauce, animal crackers, and milk or juice. The Kids Meals at the Leaping Lemur Cafe also include orange slices. There is also a snack cart in Cat Kingdom, but it wasn’t open when we were there. Outside food is permitted.

For shopping, there is a Gift Shop at the Entry Village and a Monkey Business Shop (seasonal) in the Primate Discovery Area. You can also buy a few items just outside the entrance to the Zoo, upon exiting.

Animals

The San Francisco Zoo is a 100 acre zoo, divided into 7 areas plus a playground area. The 7 areas are:

  • Exploration Zone (Includes Insect Zoo, Family Farm, Nature Trail, Prairie Dogs, Meerkats, and Red Pandas)
  • Outback Trail (Kangaroos, Koalas, Cassowary)
  • South America (Sloth, Anaconda, Aviary, Anteater, Capybara, Greater Rhea, Guanaco)
  • Bear Country (Note: The Polar Bear died earlier this year. You can still see Sea Lions, Wolves, Bald Eagles and the Grizzly Bears)
  • Cat Kingdom (Lions, Tigers, Snow Leopard, Fishing Cat, Rhinos, Hippos and Penguins)
  • Primate Discovery Center (Lemurs, Chimpanzees, Mandrill, Sifaka, Patas Monkey), and
  • African Region (Ostrich, Kudu, Giraffes, Zebras, Gorillas, African Aviary)

It takes about a good 5 hours to see the whole zoo, including play time and lunch time. The special exhibit right now is about Tarantulas and is very well done. The Pachyderm building is under construction and is closed.

Meerkat (Exploration Zone)

Meerkat (Exploration Zone)

Amy checking out the Giraffe & Marabou Stork (African Region)

Amy checking out the Giraffe & Marabou Stork (African Region)

Grizzly bear (Bear Country)

Grizzly bear (Bear Country)

Other Attractions

Although the animals are the main attraction, the San Francisco Zoo has several non-animal attractions including:

  • The Wildlife Theatre,
  • A large playground divided into three ‘biomes’ (play structures for different age groups),
  • The Sculpture Learning Plaza (sculptures of different mammals, birds and insects; many of which are life-size),
  • Rockin’ Rainforest Ropes (a play area made out of ropes),
  • An artistic film called ‘Red Ivory’ about the poaching of elephant ivory,
  • The Dentzel Carousel ($4 per ride per person), and
  • The Little Puffer Steam Train ($6 per ride per person). Purchase tickets for the Carousel and Steam Train on-line, at the Tickets Counter or on-site.
Hannah at the Sculpture Learning Plaza

Hannah at the Sculpture Learning Plaza

The playground for 5-12 year olds

The playground for 5-12 year olds

Amy on the Dentzel Carousel

Amy on the Dentzel Carousel

Our Experience

We loved the San Francisco Zoo! It is in a very natural setting with lots of trees and gardens throughout. My girls loved having their pictures taken on the animal statues throughout the zoo, as well in front of the posters. They had a blast on the playground and loved the Sculpture Learning Plaza. The Carousel was also a big hit. The girls could see most animals really well and had a blast feeding and brushing the goats. We found the size of the zoo was just right.

Peacock Hannah

Peacock Hannah

Amy feeding a sheep (Family Farm)

Amy feeding a sheep (Family Farm)

Amy loved getting her picture taken with all the statues!

Amy loved getting her picture taken with all the statues!

Their main disappointment was that the Rainforest Ropes and Dippin’ Dots cart weren’t open both times we went. My younger one was also disappointed we didn’t take her on the Little Puffer Train, but that gives us a good reason to go back again! We also didn’t make it to any of the Keeper Talks, do the tours, or go to the Wildlife Theater, but that was okay with us. Again, more to do on another visit.

The weather is definitely on the cooler side, but is a nice break from the heat, as long as you’re dressed appropriately.

Overall, we highly recommend the San Francisco Zoo as a great family day out!

The full name is the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens. You can see why!

The full name is the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens. You can see why!

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