I’ve always had a bit of a problem with the SF Zoo. I always used to love going there, but now with the upgraded and newly added areas there are parts of the old zoo that are still there that look very, well, old. The new lemus exhibit and african savannah are very nice, but when you travel across and see the new grizzly gulch area right next to the old bear grottos those old bear grottos look pretty dilapidated.
As you walk around you seem to move from the good new looking exhibits right next to the old exhibits through out the zoo. Some are completely empty and overgrown with weeds, others harken back to the days where zoos were built similar to a public bathroom in a cage–concrete floors and walls with a drain in the center.
Maybe part of the reason is that they need more money to rebuild the outdated areas or figure out what to do with the areas that just need a little work. After returning from todays journey out there I thought it was kind of odd that they’ve added an ice skating rink for Christmas time right smack in front of the area that used to be the main entrance. Incidently if you walk around that they’ve also set up a corral on the grass to house some reindeer in a temporary display. Unfortunately if you turn and look to the left the have managed to use the space in front of the old Mother’s Building with the old concession stands. It kind of makes think of it as the little zoo that tried and couldn’t.
My feelings are maybe they should close the zoo for a year or so and just rebuild all the exhibits that need rebuilding and work on getting more animals to fill out the empty exhibit areas. The map that they give you on the way in even has areas marked as “future” exhibits. Sort of a, “Here’s what you’d see if we had it, but we don’t.” The Primate Center which was the first remodeled section is beginning to show it’s age and needs a fresh coat of paint and maybe some rustoleum on the metal. The central area home to the old elephant and lion houses needs a lot of work and looks more like a prison camp for the animals than a place to proudly display them. The orangutans are gone, being replaced by the Leaping Lemur Cafe. Monkey Island is gone being replace by, well I’m not sure exactly, but it’s not there anymore. The Children’s Zoo has been beefed up quite a bit, but is very disorganized and the main part of it is still the Family Farm which is basically, goats, sheep and poop.
The three places I’d recommend highly are the African Savannah, Lemur Forest and the Australian Walkabout. If you have kids you can give them a ride on the restored Dentzel Carousel built in the 1920’s. Grizzly Gulch you could pass on unless you really like grizzly bears, but it’s just two of them in a relatively small space that’s just a little bit bigger than the current bear gulags, I mean grottos. Definitely bring your lunch as the cafes while now going upscale have more than done so in price. A 20oz soda at one of the concession stands along the way will cost you $3.00 and a churro will cost you $3.50
$15 for adults $12 if you’re an SF resident. $8 for parking [which if you’re smart and don’t mind a little walk you can get for free. Easily accessible from the L-Taraval metro line or from the slower than molasses 18 & 23 buses. Check it out, but I wouldn’t put it way up on your list. Leaping Lemur Cafe serves up Pizza & Pasta with free Wi-Fi while the Playfield Cafe serves up Asian specialties and the Terrace Cafe is a taqueria with burgers and fries.