Making the Most of Your Trip to the Los Angeles Zoo

Susan Choi - Los Angeles
February 22, 2012

Adventure awaits for those intrepid enough to explore the Los Angeles Zoo through the eyes of an expert. There is so much to see, discover, and experience. Even if you have been to the zoo before, consider going again using this guide. You may find a new nook or cranny that until now has not been known to you. Also, there have been a few new changes to the zoo—both in infrastructure and animals. So if you haven't been in a while, now is the time to check it out!

First and foremost, keep in mind that the zoo can get very crowded and uncomfortably hot in the summer. If you live in the area, consider getting an annual membership. It allows you to bypass the long lines to buy tickets and comes with free guest passes so you can bring visitors with you. Always check the weather before you go. If it is going to be warm, it is going to be blistering hot at the zoo. So be prepared: hats, sunblock, and lots of drinking water. Also, the zoo is quite spread out with a lot of rolling hills. It can be hard to see all of it in one day unless you and the kids are willing to go the distance. If your kids have their hearts set on seeing a particular animal, then by all means, forge your own path. Otherwise, these are some tips to making your visit to the zoo as easy and meltdown-free as possible.

Many people hang out at the front of the zoo for a long time, which creates a big bottleneck. Bypass the alligator, flamingos, lemurs, and the sea lion—you can always see these animals on your way out. Also, if you need to use the restroom and can wait, do not use the restrooms near the entrance. They are usually crowded and not always in perfect condition. If your kids love the kettle corn or cinnamon almond snacks, get them at the entrance as they are not available at any of the refreshment stands.

If you get to the zoo early, you can head over to Muriel's Ranch petting zoo, which is a little ways up and to the right of the entrance. There are mostly goats that you can brush, but the kids love the experience. There is a restroom adjacent to the petting zoo, which is not far from the entrance. It starts to get crowded at the petting zoo in the late morning and lasts through the early afternoon. Try to skip the petting zoo during peak hours, but be sure to get back to the petting zoo by 3:30 as it closes at 4:00. If you are lucky, there will be some docents in that area with a snake or a tarantula that the kids (and you) can pet.

The newest attraction to the LA Zoo is the Elephants of Asia exhibit. They did a wonderful job in creating a beautiful habitat for the three elephants. Now the elephants have a larger space to roam free, 3.8 acres to be exact. Most exciting for the elephants and elephant observers are the swimming pools and the waterfall. You can almost see smiles on the elephants now as they splash around the water features. There are also a lot of great interactive features in the pavilion that the kids will love.

The other recent additions to the zoo are three tiny tiger cubs. Born last summer, the tiger cubs have just started to spend time outdoors this past winter. Your children will certainly love to see them, and they are located close to the elephant exhibit. Periodically, the mom and cubs go back inside to allow outdoor time for the male tiger. So if you only see one tiger when you walk by, it is probably the male.

If you continue to head up from the tigers, there is a great play area to let the kids run around. There are picnic tables around the playground; if you packed a lunch, this is a great place to stop and eat. If you need to purchase a meal, then there are two different routes you can take, depending on how much longer you plan to stay.

If the kids want to get the kids in the car shortly after lunch, then head toward the Campo Gorilla Reserve from the elephants. The gorilla reserve is another wonderful habitat that was recently added to the zoo. It is a serene home to seven gorillas. If you want to see the baby gorilla, Glena, at her friskiest, then it is better to view the gorillas in the morning as they like to nap in the afternoons. There is a refreshment stand just a few steps away from the gorillas. It is generally not too crowded here and offers your standard amusement park fare. There are bathrooms on either side of the gorilla exhibit, so it generally doesn't get too crowded at either one.

After lunch, you can mosey your way through the Australian animals and Komodo dragon, and then head back down towards the exit. This route will give you a nice manageable morning at the zoo, and the kids will be napping in the car right on time.

If you and your kids have the endurance to see more animals, then instead of going to the gorillas, take the long windy path towards the chimpanzees. Kids love seeing these animals, and it is fun to watch them play. There is a refreshment stand near the chimpanzee exhibit that has a good variety of food but it can get crowded as it is a choice lunch area for many zoo-goers. You can sit in the outdoor dining area and watch the giraffes and lions as you eat. But if you get there during peak hours, it might be hard to find a free table.

From there, take the path toward the lions and go the long way back toward the entrance. You will see a lot more animals this way. You will still not have seen every animal the LA Zoo has to offer, but it will have been a fairly comprehensive tour. It is a wonderful zoo earnestly attempting to create natural habitats for the animals under their care. No matter which path you take, chances are, you and your family will have had an adventure!

From the Parents

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