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December 30, 2015

San Francisco Zoo & Gardens: A Walk on the Wild Side

The San Francisco Zoo & Gardens is home to more than 1,000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals representing more than 250 species. Easy to reach by mass transit and close to some other unqiuely San Francisco attractions, here are five reasons you should visit the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens:

The South American Tropical Rainforest and Aviary
Just opened in July, 2015, this building features a realistic rainforest ecosystem, full of colorful birds, exotic plants and, according to Zoo staff, a “charming” two-toed sloth. The building also houses the Zoo’s first significant herpetological collection. Translation: rare tree frogs, turtles, lizards and snakes, including a 15-foot-long green anaconda.

The Gorilla Preserve
One of the most exceptional habitats for western lowland gorillas in the U.S., this preserve is home to four females, a silverback male and Hasani, born on Dec. 8, 2008. The grouping replicates a gorilla family much as you might see in the wild. A wall of viewing windows allows you to see them as they interact with each other. More amazing animals are nearby in the African Savanna.

Grizzly Gulch
With a sunny meadow, 20,000-gallon pool, waterfall and herbs, Grizzly Gulch enables Kachina and Kiona, the Zoo’s female grizzly bears, to do what they do best: explore, romp, swim, fish, forage, dig and nap. At one acre, it is one of the largest naturalistic environments dedicated to grizzly bears in any zoo. Here you’ll also learn about Monarch, the grizzly bear that was the inspiration for the Zoo and whose image appears on the California state flag.

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. And if you don’t see them immediately, look higher in the trees.

The Fisher Family Children's Zoo
A six-acre “park within a park” offering up-close animal encounters, the Children's Zoo combines entertainment with education. This special place for children of all ages includes a prairie dog and meerkat exhibit, farm animals, insect zoo, nature trail and Red Panda.

The Basics:
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, Ocean Beach and the Cliff House.

Public transit information including Muni service is available at From downtown take the L-Taraval; bus routes also include the #18 and #23. 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. Weekends and holidays $12, weekdays $10. Parking is free for disabled guests supplying proof of a disabled placard. There is also short-term free parking nearby in the adjacent neighborhood.

Hours vary by season. The Zoo is opens at 10 a.m. every day; closing time is 5 p.m., except during the winter months when it closes at 4 p.m.

Admission for adults (15-64) is $19, seniors (65 and over) $16, children (4-14) $13, 3 and under (free); admission is slightly lower for San Francisco residents.

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 steam train is designed to hold a wheelchair.

There are several cafes on the grounds including the Leaping Lemur Café, Terrace Café (seasonal) and Café Playfield.

Visit the Zoo’s website for printable species guides, activities and resources which are perfect for families. In addition to two dozen exhibits and habitats, the Zoo is home to a beautifully restored Dentzel Carousel ($3 per rider) and the 100-year-old Little Puffer Steam Train makes a one-third mile circuit through the center of the Zoo; board near Komodo Alley. The fare is $5.

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