San Francisco Zoo
Learn about the most popular San Francisco attractions
While not as renown as the Bronx or San Diego Zoos, the San Francisco Zoo is a stellar, much-loved and visited establishment, one that sees thousands upon thousands of visitors pass through its gates each year. Read our article below on the San Francisco Zoo to learn about its history, exciting, much-needed recent renovations, and expansive facilities.
Plans began coming into fruition in 1889, when one man and one bear took center stage in a burgeoning effort to open a world-class zoo in the rapidly growing and culturally sophisticated city. Herbert Fleishhacker was the man, a banker and president of the park commission, and his near-obsessive desire to find a permanent home for Monarch-a grizzly bear captured in the Ventura County Mountains by a San Francisco Examiner reporter (!) after a challenge put forth by William Randolph Hearst-led to the decision to use a spot of land in a Southwestern corner near Golden Gate Park as the future home for a zoo. In 1929 the zoo opened under the name of the Fleishhacker Zoo, and soon after animals from all over the world-birds, mammals, and reptiles-began being donated to the zoo by wealthy industrialists and philanthropists. The zoo really took off during the 1930's, when state-of-the-art structures (including monkey island and the lion and elephant houses) were designed and built in the zoo for the influx of animals. In 1941 the zoo was renamed the San Francisco Zoological Gardens, and in 1954 the San Francisco Zoological Society was found. The society's purpose was to educate the public about the riches of the zoo, as well as to maintain and improve the facilities when or if they fell into repair. Their mission-and their passionate adherence to its principles-greatly aided the zoo when it did indeed fall on to hard times.
By the early 1990s, the zoo's state of disrepair, as well as its dwindling attendance, had become a major problem. In 1993, the Zoological Society ended up brokering a rather unique deal with the city that allowed them to take reins of the zoo's management and operations. Since this time-and with the help of voter-approved funding in the form of a 1997 bond measure-the zoo's appearance, facilities, and overall image have gotten much-needed facelifts. Otter River, the Australian WalkAbout, Flamingo Lake, and the Bear Grottos have all either been rebuilt or extensively remodeled, to the great delight and warm acceptance of the public. As of today, the zoo houses a whopping 250 different kinds of species, and has seen a massive spike in attendance due to the renovations that have recently taken place. The zoo continues to update its facilities (as well as its name-soon it will be known as The New Zoo), with aspirations of bringing greater attention to the public about the need and importance of conserving endangered species and caring for all animals in general.
The San Francisco Zoo is home to a staggering array of amphibians, birds, invertebrates, mammals (over 40 different kinds!), and reptiles. You'll also find upon visiting over 25 different exhibits to check out, including Penguin Island, the Feline Conservation Center, the Primate Discovery Center, African Savanna, Gorilla World, Insect Zoo, Lipman Family Lemur Forest, Koala Crossing, and Eagle Island, to name just a few. The zoo aims to be many things all at once-a recreational and educational center, a community organization, and a wildlife and bird sanctuary-and with the great strides taken in the past few years towards improving the property-has managed to succeed beyond its wildest expectations.
For more information on the San Francisco Zoo, including hours of operation, driving directions, admission fees, pictures of housed animals, and upcoming special events, visit their official site here.