Oakland Zoo vs. SF Zoo
Size wise – Oakland zoo is a bit more compact than SF Zoo, and it’s apparent in animal exhibits as well as the walkways around the park. Unfortunately you will have to pay for parking at the Oakland zoo since you can only enter the grounds on car. At SF Zoo there’s plenty of free parking located right next to the park. Some of the exhibits were better planned than at the SF Zoo, and our little dude finally got to see the tigers he likes to imitate so much. Also there’s a New Oakland Zoo gondola worth checking out.
Oakland zoo offers plenty of activities for children and parents. It is engaging and encourages parents and children to interact and ultimately enjoy the time together. There are multiple exhibits with explanation, which I think even kids will find engaging. In contrast to San Francisco Zoo Oakland Zoo has Live Elephants !!! So it wins by default & you can take an #Elphie.
New Oakland Zoo gondola
Furthermore there is a new “Urban gondola” lift that takes visitors on a short 15 min ride to the Upper portion of the Zoo (currently under construction). I’ve got to add – kids absolutely love the panoramic views opening from the glass cabins. Even though the observation deck isn’t much of destination point at the moment (Besides generously sponsored by Kaiser Permanente “Science Center”) and little cafe, the experience of riding the air lift is still fun.
Seriously, if you are looking for a reason to go to the Oakland Zoo with kids – riding the New Oakland Zoo gondola is enough. Just make sure to be one of the first visitors since it can get very busy, especially on the weekends.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for the lines I’d ride the thing again with my son. Little bear was ecstatic and really enjoyed the whole panoramic glass concept.
Exhibits at the Zoo
The best idea to get acquainted with the exhibits is through the Official website. However I can assure you that you will definitely see most of the animals that you’d expect. Arriving to the park early will ensure that your will get to see animals right after the feeding + they are a bit more lively in the morning rather than in the heat of the day. Typically animals tend to sleep or hide in the shade throughout the mid-day. Also after riding the zoo gondola you will have a better overview of the park and see the exhibits that you’d like to visit
Also, worth pointing out there’s a free petting zoo almost right at the entrance of the Zoo with a bunch of lazy goats who could care less for children who try to pet them. Our little dude was very excited and flabbergasted to touch one =)
Almost every exhibit has a description and several interactive stands. There’s an old Oakland zoo gondola / ride which is in pitiful condition (we don’t recommend trying that). Additionally there is a train, which I believe an electric train that you might want to check out. There is a steam engine at San Francisco zoo or Redwood Valley Railway steam engine is far more authentic. Nonetheless kids love the train at the Oakland zoo. New Oakland Zoo gondola is probably the best ride in all of the park and tops the train ride.
Add Oakland Zoo to your California itinerary
Whether you are travel around the world with children, or travel with kids locally in USA or simply staycationing in California, Oakland Zoo should make it on your itinerary.
It has this warm family atmosphere. If you need a stroller you can actually rent one here for a few bucks; and if you brought your own you can leave with no worries (there are security guards monitoring stroller parking).
Plan ahead and bring plenty of sunscreen as well as some food, it’s not as easy to find decent kids menu at any zoo. Bring some food and drinks for yourself and enjoy Oakland zoo!
Overall – a positive experience; can’t wait to come back with our son when he’s a little older!