12 Things You Can't Miss at the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens | San Francisco Travel
Animals roam the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens.

12 Things You Can't Miss at the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens

Get the inside scoop on the most fun and fascinating experiences at the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens.

Located where San Francisco's Sunset District meets the wide open Pacific Ocean, the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens is an urban oasis home to more than 2,000 exotic, endangered, and rescued animals. Covering 100 acres of land, the Zoo offers visitors the chance to get up close to some of the most beautiful and fascinating creatures on the planet.

Must-See Attractions at the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens

Eat Breakfast with a Grizzly Bear

Every day at 10:30 a.m., zookeepers serve breakfast to the Zoo's two grizzly bears, Kachina and Kiona. These impressive animals are sisters who were orphaned in the wild and given a second chance at the San Francisco Zoo. Learn all about grizzly bears, their special place in California's ecosystem (and history), and see just how much they can eat!

Visit the Giraffes' Home

At 3:45 p.m. each day, visitors to the Zoo can go inside the Giraffe Lodge for an up-close look at some of the largest animals on Earth. Zookeepers will share their knowledge of these gentle giants while feeding them their daily dose of healthy snacks (bananas and romaine lettuce are among the favorites). Guests may even get a chance to serve the giraffes themselves.

Children feed a giraffe at the San Francisco Zoo.

See Rare Mexican Gray Wolves

These small wolves are nearly extinct in the wild, which makes their presence at the San Francisco Zoo all the more important. The four little guys are each named after a famous musician: Prince, David Bowie, and San Francisco's own Jerry Garcia. The most recent addition is named Betty White for the famous actress who was a proud animal-lover. You can get a 270-degree view of their habitat by stepping inside a special part of the exhibit in Wolf Canyon.

Step Into the Open Aviary

The South American Tropical Rainforest & Aviary building has only the most essential barriers between you and the animals. That means you shouldn't be surprised if a toucan or a macaw suddenly sails over your head! See these beautiful birds, as well as sloths and an anaconda, inside. Don't worry; the anaconda is most definitely contained!

A toucan at the San Francisco Zoo.

Take A Walk on the Wild Side

The San Francisco Zoo & Gardens offers a variety of guided experiences that provide visitors with access to exhibits that regular admission won't cover. They range from 60 to 90 minutes in duration and can be customized to suit your interests.

See Experts in Action at the ARC

The Zoo's Koret Animal Resource Center (ARC) is a working facility that allows visitors to see how zookeepers and trained volunteers care for animals. Each one of them has a story to tell. The ARC also gives visitors a chance to learn about the various conservation efforts that the Zoo participates in.

Waddle to Penguin Island

Penguin Island is one of the most successful captive breeding colonies in the world, with 205 penguin chicks fledged since the 1980s. See these Magellanic penguins "fly" through the water at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour! You'll also get to learn why Magellanic penguins are right at home in San Francisco's temperate climate. Watch the penguin feedings daily at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the Family Farm.

A penguin at the San Francisco Zoo.

Touch the Animals in the Family Farm

The San Francisco Zoo & Gardens is a great place for families to explore. Within the Fisher Family Children's Zoo is the Family Farm, where your little ones can pet goats, sheep, and other animals.

See Gorillas Up Close

The Jones Family Gorilla Preserve is one of the largest habitats for western lowland gorillas in the country. This preserve covers nearly an acre of land and gives visitors a chance to see and learn about these gentle giants.

A baby gorilla at the San Francisco Zoo.

Walk Through the Lemur Forest

This is the largest outdoor lemur habitat in the U.S. and one of the only such enclosures that lets the lemurs climb large trees throughout the exhibit. Active and engaging primates originally from Madagascar, the lemurs do, indeed, leap from tree to tree. If you don't see them immediately, look higher in the trees.

Enjoy Special Seasonal Exhibits

The Zoo's Nature Trail is open year-round, but in the summer months it becomes an interactive educational wildlife experience. That's not the only limited time-only attraction at the Zoo. During the holidays, the Zoo Lights event sees the many buildings on the Zoo's grounds decorated in beautiful light installations that visitors can enjoy at night. During October, be sure to come out for ZootoberFest and Boo at the Zoo!

Ride the Famous Little Puffer Train

This pint-sized steam engine is actually more than 100 years old. It has carried generations of visitors around the Zoo and is still running today. Hop aboard and ride through the South America and Bear Country sections of the park. If the Little Puffer is a must for your gang, be sure to call the Zoo ahead of time, as the train is sometimes closed for maintenance or due to weather.


How to Get There

The San Francisco Zoo & Gardens is located at the intersection of Sloat Boulevard and the Great Highway, which runs along the coast. Nearby attractions include Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach.

Public transit information, including Muni service, is available at www.511.org. If you take Muni, be sure to present proof of payment (transfer); you will receive a $1 discount off your admission.

Parking is available at the Zoo on weekends and holidays for $13 and on weekdays for  $11. Parking is free for disabled guests supplying proof of a disabled placard. There is also short-term free parking nearby in the adjacent neighborhood.

Admission & Hours

Admission for adults  (12-64) is $25, for seniors (65 and over) $20, for children (2-11) $18, and anyone under 2 is free. Discounted admission is available for San Francisco residents.

Open daily, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (last entry is 4:00 p.m.)


Wheelchairs (and strollers) are available for rent at the main gate. Accessible routes and exhibit areas are indicated on the Zoo map located at the Main Gate. A special passenger car on the Little Puffer miniature system train is designed to hold a wheelchair.

Carol High
Carol High

Carol is a digital marketer creating media-rich content for global audiences covering travel, San Francisco and the Bay Area, food & drink, outdoor experiences, and cross-cultural storytelling. Her work is found in the San Mateo Daily Journal and The Skyline View (Skyline College). Before travel writing, her professional background included working internationally in business, nonprofits, and government. She lives in San Francisco with her family and regularly explores the parks in her city, especially untamed McLaren Park.

The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset with a multicolored sky and the San Francisco Bay in the foreground.
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