Home to more than 1,100 animals representing more than 250 different species and a botanical collection comprising of several planted gardens with over 800 different plant species and 7,400 individual plants, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is definitely a place worth spending a day.
The Zoo is located in Griffith Park –the largest municipal park in the US–that also has 100 miles of horse trails, a real train yard of antique trains, pony rides, and mini-train rides, carousel, polo grounds, hiking trails and even small caves.
The Griffith Observatory is nearby, and across from the Zoo is the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum. The adjacent Forest Lawn Cemetery is world-famous for its chapels and artwork and is open to the public at no charge.
Since opening its doors in 1966, the Los Angeles Zoo has always had a reputation among zoologists for having an unusually large series of mammals from around the world, with an emphasis on rarities including a Sumatran tiger, Visayan warty pigs, yellow-footed rock wallaby, Cape Griffon vulture, mandrill, okapi, mountain tapir, and a snow leopard.
The Zoo also has one of the most impressive bird collections. Among them a Japanese Mountain Hawk Eagle, given to Los Angeles by its Sister City, Nagoya, an important breeding group of Cape Vultures, and one of the largest flocks of flamingos in any zoo in the world.
The LA Zoo has also been instrumental in the success and ongoing conservation efforts of resurrecting the California condor back from the edge of extinction. Currently, the Condors that reside at the zoo are not on display, but visitors can learn about this California native at the Condor Education Center, full of hands-on activities right next to the front entrance.
There is always something new going on at the zoo, as it attempts to reinvent itself for the newer generation of zoo-goers as well as keeping regulars coming back from more. The reptile house offers a look at rare reptiles and amphibians including Giant Horned “Toad” Lizards, and Shovel-headed Tree Frogs.
The Los Angeles Zoo was originally mostly arranged by continent and with a map in hand, visitors can explore the many exhibits that are tucked away along winding paths. Among them are the Campo Gorilla Reserve, home to seven western lowland gorillas, as well as an enormous breeding and interpretive center for Asian Elephants.
Other exhibits include Sea Life Cliffs, Chimpanzees of Mahale Mountains Red Ape Rain Forest, Dragons of Komodo, and Australia –the home to the Zoo’s cuddly koalas, bouncing kangaroos, wallabies, and spiny echidnas.
For a more up close and personal look at some of the zoo’s inhabitants, there is the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo, a place where kids get the opportunity to feed and groom goats and sheep while exploring caves, a desert trail or viewing prairie dogs through specially designed pop-up bubbles.
Another interactive program you don’t want to miss is the Animals and You Program, where park guests can have a close-up encounter with many of the Zoo’s critters, including the African Desert Hedgehog, California Desert Tortoise, and a Vietnamese Walking Stick to name a few.
One of the nice things about the L. A. Zoo is that it is also an accredited Botanical Garden. Visitors will feel refreshed after seeing all of the beautiful trees and flowers.
Finally, the Neil Papiano Play Park located in the upper zoo along the perimeter road, blends animal-theme climbing sculptures in a large play area, with water misters, grassy landscaping, and a well-designed picnic area. It’s a great place to unwind and eat lunch during your visit.
Getting There Los Angeles Zoo
The best time to visit the Los Angeles Zoo is in the spring – Spring or Fall – the weather is cooler and the animals are active. It can get warm at Griffith Park in the summer and if there are promotions during the weekend, it can become crowded, so plan ahead. If you are planning a birthday party the LA Zoo offers a unique setting.
Admission to the zoo is very affordable for families and if you have an AAA card you get %10 off. Hours are 10 am to 5 pm. The Zoo is open every day of the year except December 25.
Plan on getting to the LA Zoo at 10 am and enjoy the cool mooring temperatures and no crowds. If you start early you will be leaving the zoo as a mass of people are pouring into the entrance.
The Los Angeles Zoo is located at the northeast corner of Griffith Park. Parking is free. Open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, except for Christmas Day.
Los Angeles Zoo 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027 – (323) 644-4200