Top 10 Zoos on the West Coast USA

Jocelyn Murray September 20, 2011 No Comments


Tots and Travel Recommended

Particularly fascinating to children, zoos are a wonderful place for people of all ages to learn about the animal world and our role in its preservation while having fun. Listed alphabetically, the following 10 zoos were selected from the west coast region of the USA and include Washington State, Oregon and California, as well as Alaska and Hawaii. Visit one of these fantastic zoos and discover some of the species that share in our amazing world.


Alaska Zoo

Alaska Zoo - tigers

A tiger lounging at the Alaska Zoo

Located in Anchorage, Alaska, the Alaska Zoo features a wonderful variety of animals native to this region. There are reindeer, moose, musk oxen, polar and brown bears, wolverines and wolves. Visitors can see a wide collection of birds of prey including owls, hawks and eagles. The zoo is also home to exotic cold weather creatures including Tibetan yaks, snow leopards, Amur tigers and double-humped Bactrian camels. There are tours, animal encounters and various programs that provide guests of all ages with educational experiences they are certain to remember. For more information on this wonderful zoo visit their website at


Honolulu Zoo

Honolulu Zoo - elephants

Elephants eating peanuts at the Honolulu Zoo

Hawaii’s tropical climate makes the Honolulu Zoo on the island of Oahu the perfect place for animal species indigenous to the tropics. Birds, mammals and reptiles from three major habitats are showcased here. The African Savannah habitat includes chimpanzees, giraffes, zebras, rhinoceroses, lizards and a walk-through aviary. The Tropical Forest habitat features monkeys, tigers, elephants, Komodo dragons and colorful birds. The Pacific Islands habitat has native birds and reptiles including the Galapagos tortoise and Eclectus Parrots. Children can also enjoy a close encounter with the domestic animals in the Children’s Zoo including sheep, goats, hedgehogs, and llamas. For more information visit their website at


Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens

Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens

A pensive gorilla at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens

Situated on 133 lush sprawling acres in Griffith Park, the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens is home to over 1,100 birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and more than 800 species of plants. The fantastic exhibits include a gorilla reserve, walk-through tropical aviary, elephant habitat, rainforest, reptile house, and a host of animals native to Australia, Africa, Eurasia, and North and South America. A two-acre Winnick Family Children’s Zoo delights children with a petting area and low windows for pint-sized viewing at rare and unusual animals. The zoo also features an animal themed play park for little ones to climb and explore. A variety of shows and programs at the zoo allow for close encounters with the animals as well. For more information visit their website at


Oakland Zoo

Oakland Zoo lion

A majestic lion at the Oakland Zoo

Set in the picturesque Knowland State Park of Oakland, California, the Oakland Zoo offers families a haven in which to explore the many animals living here. Its main attraction is the African Savannah where elephants and other animals roam a six-acre habitat with grassy hills, open plains, pool and trees. The zoo’s Tropical Rain Forest is a lush and inviting habitat with tigers, primates, colorful birds, reptiles and more. The zoo also features a fantastic children’s zoo with many play and discovery areas including giant sculptures, a Bug House with live insects and a Reptile & Amphibian Discovery room. A small amusement park within the zoo boasts rides for children as well. A variety of programs including live animal presentations and feedings make a trip here unforgettable. For more information visit their website


Oregon Zoo

Oregon Zoo - Orangutan

An orangutan at the Oregon Zoo

Founded in 1887, the Oregon Zoo is the oldest zoo on the western part of the USA. Located in Portland Oregon, this 64-acre zoo is home to about 260 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, invertebrates and amphibians, 1,000 species of exotic plants in their botanical garden, and exhibits reflecting different regions from around the world including Africa – with lions, cheetahs, giraffes and hippos, Asian elephants, rainforests – with monkeys, birds and caimans, the Pacific shores – with bears, penguins, an insect zoo, the popular walk-through aviary Lorikeet Landing, and the Northwest – with a delightful petting farm where goats, hogs, ducks, chickens, rabbits and more reside. The zoo also boasts wonderful train rides that take guests on a scenic tour through the zoo and Washington Park. For more information visit


Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium - lemurs

Curious lemurs at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Surrounded by spectacular views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington offers a fantastic combination of zoo and aquarium on its 29-acre property. Most of the zoo animals are native to the Pacific Rim and feature such creatures as tigers and gibbons, to walruses, beluga whales, polar bears and puffins. The aquariums – South and North Pacific – are inhabited by a variety of fascinating marine life including shark, seahorses, cuttlefish and eels, and have a discovery center with touch tank. Children can play and explore at the Kids’ Zone with its live animals, petting zoo, crafts, and climbing and play apparatus. Then they can go for an enchanting ride on the zoo’s Antique Carousel that dates back to 1917. For more information visit


San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo - pandas

A panda munching on a bamboo shoot at the San Diego Zoo

100 acres in San Diego’s Balboa Park is home to one of the world’s best zoos with more than 4,000 animals and a botanical garden teeming with exotic plants. The San Diego Zoo has many rare and endangered animals and features exhibits with exquisitely reproduced natural habitats that include gorillas, tigers, leopards, jaguars, polar bears, camels, koalas, giant pandas and much more. The zoo’s Discovery Outpost has a wonderful Children’s Zoo with petting area and playground, and over 30 animal exhibits designed with kids in mind. Tours, animal interactions, presentations and programs offer fascinating and educational experiences, while gondola rides on Skyfari give guests an unforgettable view of the zoo and surrounding San Diego areas. The zoo also features a thrilling safari simulator ride and miniature train ride. For more information visit


San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Elephants San Diego Safari Park

Elephants at the San Diego Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is an expansive 1,800-acre sanctuary with rolling hills, rocky slopes, and over 3,500 animals in the San Pasqual Valley near Escondido, California. Visitors can embark on a variety of safaris where they will be treated to memorable wildlife encounters from scenic and relaxing cart and tram tours with knowledgeable guides, to exciting zip lines with panoramic views, to caravans, sleepovers in tents, and more. Kids will enjoy exploring the park’s jungle gym playground, Discovery Station with fun and educational activities, interactive water play area, Petting Kraal with goats, colorful lorikeets, and exotic merry-go-round with its many rare and wild animals for a delightful ride. This African-themed park offers guests a beautifully recreated glimpse of several African regions including a Gorilla Habitat, Lion Camp and Elephant Overlook. For more information visit


San Francisco Zoo

San Francisco Zoo - tamarins

A tamarin at the San Francisco Zoo

One of the most popular attractions in Northern California’s Bay Area, the San Francisco Zoo in San Francisco, California has about 700 animals representing the regions of Asia, Africa, Australia, North America and South America. Its 100-acre location by the Pacific Ocean offers families fabulous exhibits, a scenic nature trail, shows and programs, miniature steam train, carousel, bird sanctuary, playground and recreational area. The Children’s Zoo has its own exhibits including an Insect Zoo where kids can observe and learn about creepy crawlies in fascination. It also boasts a Family Farm with petting area, hatchery, and programs like animal care and feedings. The Fisher-Price Little Learners’ Log Cabin provides young children and toddlers with dynamic learning opportunities including music, crafts, games and animal encounters as well. For more information visit


Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo - penguins

Penguins at the Woodland Park Zoo

From tropical rain forests, to the African savannah, to the Pacific Northwest, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington houses about 1,100 animals in its award-winning naturalistic habitat exhibits. Watch jaguars in a lush tropical forest; see lions, hippos and zebras in the grassland plains; hand feed tropical birds as you walk through the Willawong Station where over 150 colorful birds fly free; listen to Madagascar hissing cockroaches and katydids, or observe desert millipedes and scorpions in Bug World. Children will love the Family Farm (seasonal), with its petting area that includes goats, rabbits and sheep, and the nature-themed Zoomazium where they can have fun expending energy in a playground, enjoy stories, arts and crafts, and live animals. The zoo also features an historic carousel with 48 horses that is open year-round. For more information visit

avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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