A day at the easily overlooked San Francisco Zoo (and why you shouldn’t completley write it off)

Tomorrow is the first Wednesday of the month, so you know what means: free entrance at the San Francisco Zoo! Yeah, that’s right. When was the last time you thought about the zoo, or made a visit, if ever? You wouldn’t be alone. There’s not many cultural t0-do lists of San Francisco that include the zoo. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out. I mean, how often do you get to see a gorilla up close and personal? If you do go, I recommend taking a small child to enhance the experience, like I did on a recent visit.

It was a perfectly clear day in the city, not a cloud in the sky, so of course we were enshrouded in fog once we pulled up to the zoo’s Outer Sunset locale. I realize this is one of the foggier spots in the city —  Ocean Ave. at the Great Highway across from the beach — but it was still surprising. There’s parking in the zoo for $10, but you can easily park at one of the many spots on Ocean Ave. for free. And except for the fog, it’s probably the best and least urban spots in the city for a zoo.

It’s not a large zoo, and a little rough around the edges, but it’s still very cool to see a giraffe 20 feet away munching on leaves. The monkey enclosures seemed a bit small and cramped, and the tiny, grassless rhino cage just made me feel sad. But then seeing a huge Siberian Tiger lounging in its cage was pretty incredible (it had access to an outdoor area, so not sad). Same for the hippo that swallowed a head of lettuce the keeper tossed her, which then stepped out of its little pool 15 feet from us, scaring the little ones among us. We showed up at the penguin pen for feeding time, but the aroma was a little too ripe for us to linger, so moved onto the bear exhibit but they must have been hibernating this day. The aviary was kinda cool since you were inside the enclosure, but the type and variety of birds weren’t very colorful or exotic.

Ironically, the hit of the day was probably the petting zoo. Something about watching young children going crazy for baby goats is always fun (especially if one of them is yours). So while our local zoo is not in the same league as, say, the San Diego zoo, it’s still a potentially fun outing, especially when it’s free.

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