Wildlife Adventure at the Oakland Zoo
We haven't been to the Oakland Zoo since my kids were really little, so I decided to make the trip across the Richmond Bridge and check it out. We were really impressed with the zoo and its recent additions like the new gondolas that whisk visitors up to the hillside above the zoo. My kids loved the ride and the views were amazing. We were all really impressed, and highly recommend it for a visit!
Located off Interstate 580 in the southeast part of Oakland, the Oakland Zoo is fairly small, compact, and easy for a family with small children to take in. The zoo is divided into several sections: the Tropical Rain Forest, the African Veldt, the African Savanna, Wild Australiaand the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children's Zoo, with the appropriate animals grouped around each area. All the exhibits have been recently build or updated, and the animal enclosures are modern, natural, and spacious.
While the Oakland Zoo is on the small size, its more natural habitats makes for a more intimate and up-close-and-personal experience. The Oakland Zoo also has African elephants, which you aren't going to find anywhere else in the Bay Area. We also really loved the zebras, elephants, meerkats, monkeys, camels and the giraffes.
Opening this June will be the zoo's newest animal experience: the California Trail. This exciting new habitat will greatly expand the zoo's area and focus on California wildlife like black and grizzly bears, California condors, gray wolves, eagles, mountain lions, and even American bison.
While the California Trail isn't open yet, you can board high-speed, ski-resort-style gondolas and ride up to the Landing Café and the San Francisco Bay Overlook. This was really the highligh of our visit. The ride is fun, the views of the Bay Area are amazing, and the food at the Landing Café—including wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, and salads—was fantastic. Prices at the Landing Café aren't inexpensive, but quality is high and portions are generous and more than enough to share.
Gondola rides are included with zoo admission, so you can take as many rides as you like. My kids loved it so much, we ended up riding it several times. You don't even have to get out at the top—you can stay on board for the round trip. It's worth the trip to the zoo just to experience the ride, but we can't wait until the California Trail opens this summer!
One of the highlights of the trip was the Children's Zoo. In it you'll find lemurs, otters, alligators, tortoises, the reptile and insect house, and a really cool fruit bat exhibit housing a large number of Malayan Flying Foxes, the largest bats in the world! There's also a barn with sheep and goats to pet and brush, a spacious playground, food concessions, an education center, and the Clorox WildLife Theater. There's plenty of room for little ones to run around and play, and there's also plenty to do and see.
Another of the Oakland Zoo's unique features is the Sky Ride, a chairlift-like conveyance that takes you on a trip high over the zoo. The route goes over the tiger enclosure, the African Veldt exhibit with its giraffes and gazelles, and up to the hill behind the zoo, where you can see tule elk and bison (only visible from the Sky Ride). The Sky Ride costs an additional $3 per person.
If all this isn't enough, there's a small rides area just outside the zoo, Adventure Landing, where you can find the boarding area for the Zoo Train and a number of different carnival rides including a carousel, a small roller coaster, and a few other attractions mostly geared toward small children. Tickets for the rides are $1.75 each (2 tickets are needed for the train and the roller coaster).
The Zoo Train is worth checking out. It takes you on a ride in open cars through and around the perimeter of the zoo, allowing you to see the zoo and many of the animals from a whole new perspective. You get some amazing views of San Francisco and the Bay Area, too.
In addition to the Landing Café, there's a restaurant—Tuskers—just inside the main entrance at Flamingo Plaza, as well as food stands in the Children's Zoo and Adventure Landing. There are also plenty of picnic tables and a large grassy meadow, so you can bring your lunch or snacks, too.
For more information, visit the Oakland Zoo's website at www.oaklandzoo.org or call (510) 632-9525.
If You Go
The Oakland Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road in Oakland, near San Leandro. To get there from Marin, take 101 to 580 in San Rafael and cross the Richmond Bridge. Follow 580 until it merges with Interstate 80. Head south on 80 toward Oakland, then merge onto 580 after Emeryville (stay in the left lanes). Head south on 580 and take the Golf Links Road exit. Turn left onto Golf Links Road and head east (under the freeway). The Oakland Zoo entrance will be on your immediate right.
The Oakland Zoo is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm. The gondolas are open from 10 am to 4 pm, and are free to ride with zoo admission. Adventure Landing and its rides are open from 11 am to 4:30 pm on weekdays and 10 am–4:30 pm on weekends. The zoo is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and during their annual Walk in the Wild fundraiser (June 23, 2018).
Admission is $22 for adults (15–64), $18 for children 2–14 and seniors 65+, and free for children under 2 and seniors 76+. A discount is offered for military families with current military ID. Parking in the Knowland Park is an additional $10 per car. Plenty of parking is available right in the upper parking lot.
The Oakland Zoo is located in the hills above the city, so terrain can be steep and uneven at times. If you're bringing small children a stroller is advised, although you can rent them there if you suddenly decide you need one.
April 20, 2019
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