10 Amazing Reasons To Go To The SF Zoo – Whatever Your Age!

The SF Zoo has been around since 1929. Over the years it's had its fair share of renovations and upgrades. But now this San Francisco landmark has changed into something…well, AMAZING! It has metamorphosed from a traditional zoo with cages to a wildlife recreation center with exhibits grouping a variety of species from similar geographic areas.

With smaller children in tow, the petting zoo and Little Puffer steam train will hit the sweet spot. With older children, the Primate Discovery Center, Insect Zoo, and Grizzly Gulch will feed their curiosity. Stroll by Flamingo pond (across from Leaping Lemur Cafe) and marvel at the collection of oh-so pink Chilean flamingos. Nestled into prime oceanfront property, the SF Zoo also has lots of parking.


1. Little Puffer Miniature Steam Train

Little Puffer Miniature Steam Train

It's one of only three remaining 22-inch gauge engines left in the world and it's almost 100 years old. In 1978 the train was packed away to make room for Gorilla World. The little train languished in storage for 20 years until it was dusted off. In 1997, the SF Zoo had enough funds to bring Little Puffer back to life. $700,000 later, with a complete renovation including a new depot and new tracks, the Little Puffer got a new lease on life!

2. The Children's Zoo

Children's Zoo

What's not to love? Six acres with 300 mammals, birds & reptiles, the insect zoo, a meerkat exhibit plus a nature trail and a restored 1921 carousel make it a small child's dream location. Check the calendar of events to find out when feeding times are at the San Francisco zoo.

3. The Lemur Forest

The Lemur Forest

At the SF Zoo you can see five varieties of long-tailed primates from Madagascar. We love watching the playful primates climb and play in the largest outdoor lemur habitat in the USA — and one of the few with access to large, natural trees.


4. The African Savannah

African Savannah

The dramatic exhibit brings giraffe, zebra, and ostriches together in a 3-acre landscape with a viewing spot with access by a covered passageway. The lushly planted exhibit reflects the beauty and diversity of the savannah with plenty of room for the animals to roam.

5. The Gorilla Preserve

The Gorilla Preserve

The San FranciscoZoo boasts one of the largest and most natural gorilla habitats of any zoo in the world. Trees and shrubs create an exceptional habitat for western lowland gorillas. The lush expanse of trees, grasses and rocks are home to four females, including a mother & daughter team, plus a silverback male.

6. Primate Discovery Center

Primate Discovery Center

Gorillas aren't the only ape relatives to be found at the SF Zoo. You can also see rare species of monkeys including colobus, white ruffed lemurs, and macaques at the two-tier interactive center. It's also home to some of the most endangered primate species including langurs, black howler monkeys, siamangs, emperor tamarins, and pied tamarins.

7. Grizzly Gulch

Grizzly Gulch

Grizzly Gulch features the zoo's superstar orphaned bear sisters Kachina & Kiona. It's a rare opportunity to be able to watch them frolic, swim and generally enchant visitors with their playfulness.

With a sunny meadow, a mammoth swimming pond, a waterfall, and heated rocks, Grizzly Gulch lets the sister bears to do what they do best — fish, forage, explore, and nap.

8. The Insect Zoo

The Insect Zoo

First opened in 1979 as a temporary exhibit, the Insect Zoo was so popular that it became a permanent fixture. This lively mini-zoo features up-close-and-personal contact with live arthropods — millipedes, centipedes, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, scorpions, velvet ants, termites, walking sticks, and bees. It's highly interactive with insect-themed books, puppets, and games.

9. Penguin Island

Penguin Island

You're not going to want to miss the colony of Magellanic Penguins, just across from the Lion House. The 200-foot-long pool, built during the 1930s, was once home to squirrel monkeys and seals. A 1980s renovation saw it landscaped with black volcanic rock similar to the penguin's natural habitat. It was also fitted with custom-made burrows for the penguins to use as nesting sites.

10. Meerkats and Prairie Dog Exhibit


Follow the pathway into the Children's Zoo and discover the busiest animals in the zoo. Two distinct species — meerkats and prairie dogs — have been paired together to demonstrate how animals from different parts of the world can successfully live together. The outdoor habitat is enclosed by a low-glass wall allowing even the smallest visitor to see what's going on!


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San Francisco Zoo Resources

San Francisco Zoo

The Zoo is still open and the first 100 people to arrive on a rain day will get a free rain poncho.

Always check the zoo's calendar of events to find out what's happening, including special events and feeding times (for the animals, that is!). There's a current listing on the zoo's Home page.

  • Sloat Boulevard at Ocean Beach
  • The main entrance is on the ocean side, off the Great Highway.
  • Open daily 10 to 5
  • Website

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