For more than 90 years, San Francisco Zoo has been entertaining locals and tourists.
This 100 acres of animals and more has something to offer for everyone – from the toddler to the grandma.
In this article, we explain everything you need to know before you visit San Francisco Zoo.
1. How to reach?
2. Opening hours
3. Feeding times
4. Best time to visit
5. Tour duration
6. Free entry
7. Ticket discount
8. Buy Tickets
9. What to see?
11. Download Map
13. Oakland Zoo vs SFO Zoo
Where is the San Francisco zoo?
This family attraction of San Francisco is right on the shore of the Pacific Ocean.
San Francisco Zoo address
Sloan Blvd and Great Highway,
San Francisco, CA
How to get to the San Francisco zoo?
If your starting point is from within San Francisco, take the Muni L Taraval line going towards the Zoo.
Muni bus lines 23 and 18 also stop at the San Fran Zoo entrance.
The Zoo encourages visitors to take public transportation.
Visitors who show same-day Muni receipt at the ticketing window get a $1 discount off the price of admission.
If you are driving to the Zoo, check out the directions here.
San Francisco Zoo parking
The San Fran Zoo has two entrances and one exit – Northbound on the Great Highway.
To exit the parking, purchase the ticket at the Main Gate while leaving.
Cost of parking for both tourists and locals –
On weekdays: 10 dollars
On weekends and holidays: 12 dollars
San Francisco Zoo hours
The San Francisco Zoo opens all through the year.
It opens at 10 am and closes at 4 pm every day.
The last entry is an hour before the closing time.
Feeding times at SF Zoo
The Zoo offers its visitors a chance to get closer to the magnificent animals.
You can see and participate in feeding the animals under the watchful eyes of the keepers.
During the sessions, the keepers keep talking about the animal to make the session memorable.
Tourists who have been to the Zoo before recommend the Grizzly bear and Penguin feeding sessions as the best.
While the Bears only have one feeding session during the day – at 10.30 am, the Penguins have two – at 10.30 am and 3.30 pm.
Be prepared for the crowd around the Grizzly Bear.
You can cheer with the crowd while the bears sprint across the cage.
Some of the other notable feeding sessions at the San Francisco Zoo are:
10.15 am: Red Panda @ Exploration Zone
11.15 am: Chimpanzee Talk @ Chimp Habitat
12.30 pm:Sifaka @ Primate Discovery Center
12.30 pm:Meerkat @ Exploration Zone
2 pm: Sea Lion @ Fred Carroll Family Sea Lion Pool
2.30 pm: Big cats @ Lion House
3 pm: Rainforest animals @ S.A. Tropical Rainforest & Aviary
4.30 pm: Giraffes @ Bernard Osher Giraffe Lodge
Best time to visit San Francisco Zoo
The best time to visit the San Francisco Zoo depends on many factors such as the weather, the animals you want to see, the feeding times, etc.
If you want to see the animals in their most active state, be there as early as you can.
In the morning, the weather is usually pleasant (as compared to late afternoons), and the feeding sessions are also planned for most of the animals.
Visiting early on weekdays and weekends will also ensure you can avoid the crowd.
How long does San Francisco Zoo take?
With all the animals and fun waiting for you at the Zoo, you can spend the whole day at the Zoo.
If you are in a hurry, you can explore the whole Zoo in two hours.
If you are visiting with kids, you will need at least four hours to explore the San Francisco Zoo to your satisfaction.
If you are with kids and or elders and plan to stay long, we recommend regular breaks for food and water at the restaurants.
San Francisco Zoo free day
Residents of San Francisco get a chance to visit the Zoo for free on certain days.
You must provide your identity proving your residency in San Francisco to enjoy these free days.
The last free day at the SFO Zoo was on 6 Mar 2019 and the next open day is yet to be announced.
San Francisco Zoo discount
Kids three and under get a 100% discount and can enter the Zoo for free.
The next lucky group of visitors are the San Francisco residents.
The cost of an adult ticket for a 15 to 64 visitor is $22. However, the discounted rate for the San Francisco residents is $19.
The price of an SFO Zoo ticket for seniors aged 65+ is $18, but the locals only have to pay $13.50 – a discount of $4.5.
Similarly, visitors aged 4 to 14 pay the admission fee of $16 while the locals of the same age get a discount on the ticket and pay only $12.5.
Retired and active military personnel and visitors with disabilities also get the same discount as the locals.
San Francisco Zoo tickets
When it comes to San Francisco entry tickets, the choice is easy – you only have one ticket to choose from.
These tickets get you access to everything in the Zoo – the 2000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals, the steam train, the carousel, themed play zone for kids etc.
Since these are smartphone tickets, they get emailed to you as soon as you make the purchase.
On the day of your visit, show the ticket in your email (on your smartphone) and walk in.
Yes, no need to take print outs!
Cancellations are possible up to 24 hours before your visit date.
Adult ticket (15 to 64 years): $23
Seniors ticket (65+): $19
Child ticket (4 to 14 years): $17
What to see at San Francisco Zoo?
Booked your tickets with us but still confused about what to see?
Here is our list of the must-sees in San Francisco Zoo.
1. Breakfast with Grizzly Bears
Start your day with Kachina and Kiona, two grizzlies of the zoo.
The two orphaned sisters pounce with excitement while their keepers feed them.
2. Step into Giraffe’s home
Step closer to nature and have a better look at the gentle giants.
Visitors get a chance to go inside the Giraffe’s lodge while they are fed by the keepers.
3. Mingle with the Mexican Grey Wolves
Almost extinct in the wild, these little Grey Wolves were welcomed in the SF Zoo.
Prince, David Bowie and Jerry Garcia jump around while you have a 270-degree view of their habitat.
4. Step into the Aviary
In the South American Tropical Rainforest and Aviary Building, you only have essential barriers with nature.
Step in to see birds, sloth and anaconda with minimal barriers.
5. Check out the Animal Resource Center (ARC)
In the Zoo’s Koret Animal Resource Center, you get to see trained volunteers and zookeeper take care of the animals.
You can listen to their stories and also learn about various conservation efforts Zoo participates in.
6. Visit the Family Farm (the Petting Zoo)
San Fran Zoo holds something for everyone.
While you enjoy the greenery of the gardens, your kids can pet animals like sheep and goats in the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo.
7. Ride the 100 years old train
Hop on the miniature train to ride through the South America and Bear Country sections.
The train has carried passengers for generations and still runs after 100 years of service.
8. Get on the Dentzel Carousel
This merry-go-round has pleased generations of visitors with a ride for 4 dollars.
It is one of a kind Carousel and was restored in 1921.
It is located near the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo.
San Francisco Zoo reviews
SFO Zoo is a highly rated tourist attraction.
Check out two San Francisco Zoo reviews we picked from Tripadvisor, which give you an idea of what to expect at this attraction.
Fun and interesting
I went by myself to the zoo hoping to spend a couple of hours of fun. In the end, I spent way more walking around. The environment is clean and tidy, and the animals look very healthy. Easy to walk around and navigate, a must-see place for a family visit. CharliePineda1984, Costa Rica
Recently took our grandkids here for a Sunday visit after not visiting for several years. They have done some really amazing settings for the animals. Order tickets online to save time. We paid to park the car which is close to the entrance – otherwise park free on the street and take the hike. Get there early. My favourite attractions were the Grizzly bears, the Mexican wolfs, the tigers and the snow leopard. Drastler, California
San Francisco Zoo Map
This SFO Zoo is massive, and there is so much to see.
This is why we recommend that you carry a copy of the Zoo’s map during your visit.
A map will ensure you don’t get lost and find the animal enclosures easily.
Since you may be spending 2 to 4 hours in the SFO Zoo, you will also need to know the location of visitors’ services.
You can download and save the map on your phone or bookmark this page to get back later.
Restaurants in SF Zoo
Apart from the standbys, San Fran Zoo has three restaurants.
Leaping lemur café
The café provides indoor and outdoor dining with tastes from around the world.
With its central location, this is the best place to stop.
The Station Pizza parlour
Located near the Little Puffer Train depot, the pint offers outdoor dining overlooking the Bear exhibits and Eagle Islands.
Near the Elinor Friend Playground, this café offers special meals for kids made with love and local organic produce.
Oakland Zoo vs San Francisco Zoo
The San Francisco Zoo and the Oakland Zoo are around 50 minutes apart (30 Miles, 48 Kms).
Many tourists visiting San Francisco and the locals face this question – should they visit the Oakland Zoo or the San Francisco Zoo?
If you have kids and if you are looking for places to visit, we suggest you visit both – maybe with a few days’ gap in between.
However, if you must choose between the two consider the following inside tips.
1. Both the Zoos have a nice and huge collection of healthy animals.
2. Oakland Zoo and the SFO Zoo have kids’ trains
1. Oakland Zoo is much smaller than the SFO Zoo
2. While most of the animals live in natural habitats, some of the animals in SFO Zoo are in antiquated cages
3. There is more to do near the SFO Zoo than the Oakland Zoo. After you are done with the SFO Zoo, you can check out the beach, Cliff House area, and the Golden Gate Park.