I consider myself to be a Zoo freak. And by freak, I mean virtuoso. On average, Juniper and I visit the San Antonio Zoo once a week. It is for this very reason that I have been crowned Mayor of the San Antonio Zoo. Yeah. That's right. MAYOR OF THE S-TO-THE-A-TO-THE-Z! Some times, even if we don’t go into the actual zoo, we’ll hop on the zoo train for a quick ride through Brackenridge Park. It's fantastic. They have the best hippo exhibit I've ever seen and they just opened phase II of their Africa Live Exhibit: it's a byooot!
For as much as we find ourselves there, I tend to consider myself an expert on the San Antonio Zoo. And here is what I know...
Almost every weekend, as I drive down Mulberry to the Valero or to the Redbox or to get to Broadway or whatever, I spy hundreds of poor souls waiting in traffic to gain entrance to the zoo. Which is precisely when I’d like to stop my car, walk up to theirs and reach through the window to shake some sense in them! Why put up with such misery? Seriously. A trip to the zoo on the weekend will result in just that. And since we’re officially in the hot season, multiply that misery by 100.
The zoo is great. But not worth experiencing in misery.
Considering many San Antonians drive at least 30 minutes to get to the zoo, I would really recommend that they heed the following advice:
1. Don’t go to the zoo on the weekend.
2. Limit your visit to 2 hours.
3. Don’t go when it’s hot. Period.
When you do hit up the zoo, be sure to check out the best the zoo has to offer:
I. The Africa Live Exhibit (phases I & II).
A. Phase I is indoors. Here you’ll find
1. THE BEST HIPPO EXHIBIT IN THE UNIVERSE!
2. And a REALLY COOL CROCODILE EXHIBIT!
B. Phase II is outdoors. Here you’ll find
1. THE AMAZING OKAPI EXHIBIT
2. THE AWESOME WILD DOG EXHIBIT
4. And Elephants
II. The Tiny Tot Nature Spot (for kids 5 and under)
A. The Discovery House (indoors) offers a lot of hands-on interaction for the kiddos: a play kitchen, a fishing area, a cave/tunnel area (with one tunnels under the prairie dog exhibit to a bubble look-out).
B. The Campground area offers a lot of places to sit out for a picnic.
C. As you leave the Campground area and head toward the Riverbank, there is an exhibit of EXTRA- PERKY MONKEYS that are always a joy to watch!
D. The Riverbank area offers a beach that the kiddos can wade & play in. Bring your bathing suits and a change of clothes.
E. Don’t miss the GIGANTIC TORTOISES. THEY ARE BEYOND COOL.
III. The Zoo Train
I’ve annotated the best route to take while at the zoo.
You’ll notice on the map the entrance at the bottom of the image. Start with the orange colored arrows. (I’ve circled in yellow all the exhibits that have been beyond cool at some point for some reason). Across from the Black Leopards, at the entrance into Amazonia, there is a split in agenda. Follow the orange arrows to continue on to The Africa Live exhibit or follow the black arrows to continue on to The Tiny Tots Nature Spot.
Now that you know the best exhibits & most efficient route through the zoo, consider the best time to visit the zoo:
1. If it is winter (November-March), go. Just go. People are afraid of the cold, thus the zoo is quiet and you’ll have the place to yourself. Also, because the temperature is cooler, the animals will likely be out of their hiding spots & fairly active. Unless it’s really cold.
2. If it is spring/summer (April-October), go:
a) at 3:00 PM. Seriously. All the field trippers will be gone (they generally leave & load up buses around 2PM). Thus, the zoo is quiet and you’ll have the place to yourself. Also, the temperature will be slightly milder as the sun is lower in the sky. Yes, you’ll only have 2 hours to explore. But trust my experience, YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE AT THE ZOO FOR MORE THAN 2 HOURS. The kid’s attention span will self-destruct at 2 hours. Trust.
b) when it is overcast & rainy. Seriously. Some field trips will be cancelled due to weather and most visitors will refrain from going due to the fear of getting wet. Thus, the zoo is quiet and you’ll have the place to yourself. Also, the temperature will be slightly milder as the clouds provide protection from the sweltering sun. Yes, you might get wet. But be smart and bring and umbrella. Also, the majority of the zoo is under a huge expanse of trees. AND? THE BEST PART OF THE ZOO IS LOCATED INSIDE A BUILDING! (see above for the best parts of the zoo)
c) if you cannot go at 3PM or when it is overcast & rainy, go very early in the morning. 9AM (when the zoo opens).
If you live in a 5-10 mile radius of the zoo, and you have kids, invest in a membership. Seriously. If you see yourself going to the zoo more than once in the year, just do it. You'll be supporting an awesome cause. The zoo also provides many amazing educational programs for kids of all ages: Buggy Babies, Tiny-Tot Classes, Feast with the Beasts, summer camps, sleep-ins, Zoo School and home school programs, just to name a few.
A Family membership (2 adults, plus all children living in the same household, or grandchildren under 18 yrs.) = $65/year
A Family + 1 membership (same as Family, plus one guest each visit) = $85/year
A Contributing membership (same as Family, plus five guests each visit) = $120/year
*Admission to the zoo for an adult (12 and up) is $10; for kids (3-11) is $8
**Also, as a member, you have access to the zoo as early as 730 AM