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24 Questions About California's Zoos, Answered

24 Questions About California's Zoos, Answered

Whether it's about Bay Area must-sees or nationwide showstoppers, we’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions about California's zoos.


5 min read

June 30, 2021

Did you know that the San Diego Zoo has the largest population of giant pandas in America? If you did, then you’re a wildlife aficionado and we’re impressed with your koalafications. But let us go out on a limb and say that there are still a few California zoo questions you need answered—'toucan' can play this game. Whether they’re about Bay Area must-sees, nationwide showstoppers, or just plain fun facts that float around your brain, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about the Golden State’s zoos. 

The Living Desert is set on 1,200 acres, with 80 developed as zoo and gardens. It welcomes over 500,000 visitors annually.

1. What is the Biggest Zoo in California 

With an enclosure of around 1,200 acres, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is Golden State’s biggest.

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2. Which CA Zoo has the Most Animals?

Housing over 12,00 animals and more than 650 species, the 100-acre San Diego Zoo takes the cake.

3. What is the #1 Zoo in America?

The San Diego Zoo is not only rated number one in the United States, but it’s also one of the best in the entire world. The zoo is also a pioneer in open-air, cageless exhibits—you’ll find animals chillin’ like villains in gorgeous Balboa Park.

4. How Many Zoos Does California Have?

In total, there are 25 zoos in the Golden State.

5. Which Zoo has the Most Visitors Each Year?

Approximately 175 million people—half of the country’s population—visit a zoo or aquarium each year, and more than 3.2 million have chosen the San Diego Zoo.

6. Why is the San Diego Zoo so Famous?

First, it’s located in Balboa Park—a downtown San Diego spotlight. Second, its programs with endangered animals such as pandas, tree kangaroos, clouded leopards, and others are regarded as top-notch by world standards. We can go on, but it’s best if you see for yourself. 

7. Is LA Zoo or San Diego Zoo better?

Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. On top of your usual animal encounters, the San Diego Zoo offers plenty of other activities—an aerial tramway, bus guided tours, 4D Theater, and more. With that said, one-day tickets to this zoo cost nearly triple the price of those to the Los Angeles Zoo. The LA Zoo is also superior among plant-buffs, with over 800 different plant species and roughly 7,000 individual plants.

A particular spate of escapes took place during the late 1990s and early 2000s when, in half a decade, at least 35 animals escaped the L.A. Zoo.

8. What are the working hours at Los Angeles Zoo?

Visitors are allowed in the Los Angeles Zoo from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

9. Which CA Zoo has the Most Reptiles?

Regardless of whether you’re intrigued or fearful of things that creep, crawl, and slither, L.A. Zoo’s LAIR is worth a visit. The exhibit—Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles—is second only to Zoo Atlanta, boasting over 60 species from around the world.

10. Which CA Zoo has the Most Exotic Animals?

The San Diego Zoo strikes once again. The animals here are considered the most exotic, with a display of the most unusual Tasmanian devils—extremely rare creatures found only on the island state of Tasmania.

11. What is the Most Expensive Zoo in California?

Surprise surprise, the San Diego Zoo entrance tickets are $75, making this zoo the Golden State’s priciest.

12. What is the Least Expensive Zoo in America?

Washington’s Woodland Park Zoo is considered the least expensive zoo in the country—charging only $5 as a donation.

13. Which Zoo offers the Most Value in California?

Given the number of animals, endangered species, and engaging exhibitions, the San Diego Zoo’s value is immeasurable.

14. Which California Zoo has been featured in a movie?

If you’ve watched the 2004 Anchorman film, then you’ll remember the San Diego Zoo panda watch scene. The actual filming location for this scene is the Old Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park.

The San Diego Zoo is home more to more animals in a smaller space, whereas the Safari Park focuses more on larger African and Asian animals.

15. What’s the difference between San Diego Zoo and Safari Park?

The San Diego Zoo houses animals from all over the world—Australia, Africa, Asia, Central America, South America, and more. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, on the other hand, focuses on animals from mostly arid environments like the Asian and African Savannas.

16. What's Long Beach's Most Famous Zoo?

The fourth most-attended aquarium in the nation, the Aquarium of the Pacific is not one you want to miss. With a display of about 12,000 animals and more than 100 exhibits, the aquarium celebrates the planet’s largest and most diverse body of water—the Pacific Ocean.

17. How many Zoos are there in Southern California?

Between the San Diego Zoo, L.A. Zoo, San Diego Safari Park, and smaller ones like Santa Barbara Zoo, SoCal has around a dozen zoos you and your family can visit.

Watch baby orangutans amble through a miniature forest before they kick back with a snack of bamboo in the Sacramento Zoo.

18. When does the Sacramento Zoo Open?

If you’re planning a visit to the Sacramento Zoo, the working hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.

19. Which Zoo is the Most Crowded?

With roughly 3.5 million annual visitors, the San Diego Zoo is considered to be the most crowded in California.

20. What's the Best Thing to do in The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens?

Booking an animal encounter is a must-do. This tour includes park admission, a guide, and a personal tram, taking you on a journey through the zoo’s exhibitions as well as the on-site animal hospital. The animal encounter gives you 30 minutes to get up-close and personal with an animal of your choosing.

These animals at the petting zoo are so cute, it’s almost un-bear-able! Coming here is a trunk full of fun.

21. What's the Best Petting Zoo in San Diego?

Book an appointment with Cindy Lu’s Petting Zoo and turn your backyard into a barnyard. This mobile petting zoo can come to you, organize a farm tour at their premises, and teach your kids about adorable sheep, alpacas, roosters, and more.

22. How much do Fresno Chaffee Zoo tickets cost?

Admission to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo is $14.95 for adults and $8.95 for children aged 2–11. Children aged one and under can get in for free.

23. What’s the best zoo in Monterey for families?

With an all-time family-favorite sea otter exhibition, Monterey Bay Aquarium invites you to watch these creatures tumble on the surface, wrestle with each other, and showcase their lively acrobatics.

Going to the zoo is so exciting and fun that it should be ill-eagle! Have you found Nemo yet?

24. Do Any Zoos Offer Discounts?

Nearly all California Zoos offer a California resident discount. Some of the discounts are:

San Diego Zoo’s AAA Membership

Holders of this membership can save up to 10 percent on the One-Day Pass.

Oakland Zoo Family Membership

This membership gets you free daytime admission, free parking space, 10 percent off at the gift shop, zoo camp, educational programs, and birthday parties.

Los Angeles Zoo Membership

With free daytime admission, a member’s-only entrance, free or discounted admission to more than 170 zoos and aquariums (including 15 in California), this membership is a steal. This will also get you a free subscription to the Digital Zooscape newsletter and Zoo View magazine, as well as a 10 percent discount at gift shops and restaurants.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens Senior and Military Discount

Both military workers and seniors aged 62 and older get $2 off their general admission ticket.

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