I’ve been to the Sacramento Zoo countless times in my life. Yes, I go with my kids often, but I went to elementary at Holy Spirit School right behind the zoo. It was so fun to hear the lions roaring while I road my bike to school. We always joked that the only time it wasn’t so fun to be so close to the zoo was at the end of the month when they hadn’t to cleaned the elephant cages yet.
From the Zoo’s website:
Within our 14.5 acres there are over 500 animals comprised of over 140 different species at the Zoo. We specialize in exotic and endangered animals from Reptiles to Mammals, Birds to Amphibians and more. You can find: photos, animal facts sheets and details about all your favorite creatures at the Zoo.
My mom, the kids, and I took a trip to the zoo recently. Instead of popping in for an hour or so, we decided to take it all in. We got there at 9 and left around 4. I think we did all there was to offer. Here’s what I learned.
The zoo is open daily from 9-4 and only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kids 2 and under are free, kids 2-12 $7.25, Adults 11.25. You can buy tickets online before you go, but they charge a convenience fee. Check out Groupon before you go, there is almost always a $29 package that includes general admission for 4, three train and carrousel tickets, and discount coupons at concession stands and the gift shop. Or you can become a member for $90-$145 a year (these are family memberships, other memberships are also available), and get free admission to the zoo for the year and discount admission to reciprocal zoos. Some of the reciprocal zoos are San Francisco Zoo and Aquarium of the Bay.
In the summer, you should plan to start your day at the zoo in the morning. The animals are more active during the cooler parts of the day. When you arrive, check out their daily calendar to see what shows they have going to have at the amphitheater and around the zoo. You can see the daily calendar here as well.
We loved checking out the viewing window at the zoo’s veterinarian hospital. When we were there they were looking at the X-ray of an owl with a broken leg. The kids were very interested in this. The vet can actually tell us through a speaker what he or she are looking at. Pretty fun for the kids to see!
There were docents all over the zoo that day with different animals for the kids to touch and see up close. On the left you’ll see Herkimer, 85, the desert tortoise is the oldest resident at the zoo. This was especially exciting for my little lizard lover Lyla. Speaking of lizards, they have a huge amphibian house. It was built in the shape of a snake and opened in 1970. It’s nice and cool inside, so save it for the hottest part of your trip in the summer. There are tons of frogs, snakes, lizards, and turtles to see. I think we spent at least 45 minutes in there.
Lyla is standing in front of the flamingo exhibit on her 4th birthday. It was a very special day because she found a pink flamingo feather and got to take it home. That day, we learned the pink color of flamingos comes from the food they eat.
A few of our other favorite exhibits are the red panda, orangoutangs, and the snow leopard.
Coming later this summer is the Small Wonders of Africa project. This area will house African Straw-colored Fruit Bats, Banded Mongooses, Aardvarks, Wolf’s Guenons, Red-billed Hornbill and Crested Guineafowl. Something we’ll have to go back to see!
Do: The fun Stuff
The Zoo does not allow you to bring your lunch in with you. But they do have two different eateries to choose from: Savannah Snacks and the Kampala Cafe. They have plenty of options for anyone that has dietary restrictions. We ate at the cafe. My mom and I had turkey sandwiches and the kids had the chicken tender kids meals. The food was OK, but kinda pricey. About $8 per person. I suggest you pack your own lunch and have a picnic at William Land Park. The zoo is actually in the park and there are tons of great spots for lunch. A few picnic local options are right across the street (probably by where you parked) the outdoor amphitheater and the garden. You can get a hand stamp that will allow you to get back in to the zoo. Or plan to spend a half day at the Zoo and get the kids a sunburst with a side of read and some sherbet floats at nearby Vic’s before you head home.
They have the most unique carrousel around. It’s called the Conservation Carrousel. You can actually sponsor one of the beautiful hand carved animals on the carrousel for $5,000. This is a popular spot for my little Rinos. The tickets to ride the carrousel are $2 per rider, accompanying adults are free.
They also have a cute little train that goes on a 7 minute ride around the grounds. The conductor gives lots of good info throughout the ride. Tickets are $3.
They have a giraffe feeding everyday at 11:45am and 2:00pm It’s $3 per person and they only take cash. This is a must do! It was so great. I thought my 3yo would be scared, but he actually liked it…sort of. Lyla loved it and wanted to do it again and again. Be sure to get to the line about 15 minutes early if you go on a busy day. They allow guests to keep feeding the giraffes until they are full and stop eating. So if you’re at the end of a long line, you may not get to feed the giraffes. There was a docent with giraffe bones to show us exactly how big they’re vertebrae are. We also learned that they have seven vertebrae in their neck just like us.
There are tons of great photo opportunities throughout the zoo. It’s fun to take pictures in the same places over the years to see how the kids have grown. It’s like a zoo growth chart!
This is especially funny. Lyla when she was 2 and B when he was 2. Super cute!
The Sac Zoo has tons of events going on all the time from Texas Hold’em tourneys to the Zoo Zoom and everything in between. Check out their calendar page for all the details. They offer birthday parties, summer camps, and sleepovers. Make sure you book all of these things early, but the summer camps are the ones that fill up the fastest.
This summer they have Twilight Thursdays each Thursday from June 19th-July 31st. Each weekly theme has music, food, and cars. It’s very family friendly. This Thursday is Reggae Night with the Arden Park Roots, Volkswagens, and Caribbean Jerk Wings. You can check out the whole list here.