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Mandrills never cease to impress at the San Francisco Zoo.

Mandrills never cease to impress at the San Francisco Zoo.

Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Crookedest Street, and clam chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf aside, there’s much to do on a San Francisco family vacation that’s off the main tourist track. If you’re planning a San Francisco vacation with your kids, I hope you’ll consider paying a call to its lovely zoo out by Ocean Beach. A trip to the San Francisco Zoo can also be a springboard to other nearby sights that are also fun to visit with children (included below).

Here are my SF Zoo tips if you plan to go:

1. Arrive early, but not too early. The San Francisco Zoo is open 365 days a year (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. most of the year, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during summer), so you can cross the city after peak morning traffic and still arrive in time for a good parking space.

2. Do not trust GPS to get you to the right gate for the San Francisco Zoo. There is an unfortunate guard who spends each day redirecting GPS-guided tourists arriving at the staff parking entrance to the front visitor’s entrance. Stay on Sloat Avenue until you see the sign to turn off for the zoo. ;-) You can click here to see it on the map.

A chimpanzee hudddles to keep warm with his blanket at San Francisco Zoo.

“The coldest winter I ever spent was July at San Francisco Zoo.”

3. Bring warm layers – even if the morning seems warm. The San Francisco Zoo entrance is actually right across the street from the Pacific Ocean–and not the Pacific Ocean they have in San Diego. While this makes it nice and easy to work in some sand castles and a beach picnic after your zoo visit, keep in mind that on a cooler day (which we get many of in San Francisco, particularly in July) there will be a coastal breeze blowing through the zoo. Make sure everyone in your family will be warm enough to enjoy their time outdoors.

4. Plan a strategic play break at the sandy playground. If your toddler begins resisting the stroller, or refuses to stay near you as you walk, just make a pit stop at the massive playground area for some free play time. The playground has suitable areas for toddlers as well as big kids, not to mention family restrooms that include diaper changing tables beneath heat lamps (yes, believe me on point 3!).

5. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, head to the “South American Tropical Forest,” where a warm and balmy indoor world awaits many a chilly traveler. Just watch out for the enormous yellow anaconda – I can’t imagine what they’re feeding it.

Yellow anaconda at the San Francisco Zoo

View the enormous yellow anaconda from above and below the water.

6. Rent a wagon or a stroller for your visit. Wagon and stroller rentals are available at $10 / day, available on a first-come first-served basis.

7. Check the daily schedule if you’d like to attend the penguing, pelican, or giraffe feedings, or see snack time for the grizzlies. In addition, the San Francisco Zoo is offering these summer events, from June through September:

Summer Programming in the Children’s Zoo

10:30 a.m. Barnyard Stampede – Family Farm
11:00 a.m.- 3:30 p.m. Nature Trail is DAILY starting June 9, then weekends only through Labor Day – Children’s Zoo
11:15 a.m. Hatchery Tour – Family Farm
2:30 p.m. Incredible Insects in Action – Insect Zoo
3:30 p.m. Pond Feeding – Family Farm
4:00 p.m. Keeper Talk: Raptors! – Hawk Hill

Wildlife Theatre (June – September) 

2:00 p.m. Thursday through Sunday

A one-horn Indian rhino at the San Francisco Zoo.

This enormous one-horn rhino (who prefers to sand down his one horn) will stop you in your tracks.

8. Combine your visit to the San Francisco Zoo with a stop at these other favorites in the same vicinity:

See also:

For more information about the San Francisco Zoo, visit their website at: http://www.sfzoo.org/.

Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli
Author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby

 

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2 Responses to Tips for visiting San Francisco Zoo with Little Kids

  1. Micheal says:

    Nice Tips. Kids always enjoy to visit zoo. we need to take care of them.

  2. San Francisco is a wonderful city to explore with kids because most of the city is walkable. If your family is really fit you can even traverse the big hills. One of the thing you left out on this list is the free guided tours provided by SF City Guides. Also, there are a number of lunch spots which are great when you’ve got kids. If you want to skip the mainstream activities and find out about some hidden gems, check out this list of 100 interesting things to do, see, and eat in San Francisco: http://america.vacationxtravel.com/best-five-things-to-do-san-francisco/

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