Do your little animals get wild after long weeks packed with school and extra curricular activities? With summer vacation on the way and plenty of sun breaks during the day, hanging out with the wild things at the Oregon zoo might be just what they need! The Oregon Zoo is full of family-oriented fun for all ages, interests,and energy levels. We’ve put together a guide to help you get the most out of a day spent with furry, feathered, and spiny zoo friends. Read on for everything you need to know and more.
photo: Angela Redmon via flickr
If your clan is ready for a challenging bike trip, take your two-wheelers to the zoo! Avoid hills by biking to the MAX station or a bus stop and hop off at the zoo. After a long day of walking and adventuring your trip back to downtown (or if you’re going east) is a smooth downhill ride home, passing Washington Park’s beautiful Portland Japanese Garden and world-famous International Rose Test Garden.
The zoo borders to the 30-mile-long Wildwood Trail and the 7-mile-long Marquam Trail, and is connected to a system of additional paths. For a scenic route that takes you along forested trails and on a train ride, check out the Metro’s Walk There! book and online guide. Don’t forget to pack some snacks. The ride/walk combinations makes for an unforgettable all-day excursion that won’t soon be forgotten
MAX or Bus
TriMet’s Trip Planner will help you find the perfect rout to the zoo. Kid’s love a good bus adventure and the MAX Red Line and Blue Line trains stop next to the zoo at the Washington Park station. Bus Line 63 to Washington Park also stops at Washington Park station and taking the MAX into Washington Park, gets you $1.50 off the zoo admission!
The variable parking fee may be worth it to load a worn out kiddo straight into the car after a fun day exploring the zoo. You can pay for parking at a pay station or with a mobile app
Cost: $2/Hour, $8/All Day
Pro-tip: As you can imagine spring and summer weekends parking lots fill up fast. On your drive in you’ll see a sign indicating if the lot is full or not. If so you will be directed to overflow parking locations and can take a free shuttle to the zoo (yay for saving on parking).
photo: Chris Tillman via flickr
Must See Animals, Exhibits & Events
Animal Encounter Tours
Take your family experience to the next level and get up close and personal with Animal Encounter experiences. Choose from options like The Family Farm Experience where the whole clan head to the barn to pet and feed the inhabitants. Or sign up for the Encounter Bugs tour and makes friends with a tarantula. Check website for changing availability and descriptions.
Pricing: varies by tour
Called “a place for discovery” the education center is a new edition to the zoo. Filled with tons of things to see, do and discover the center let’s you check out the tiny world of bugs, tips on places to explore, see nature, or hike. They host camps and teen volunteer programs along with a 150-seat event space for lectures and documentaries.
photo: Sid The Kid2010 via flickr
A train that takes you around the entire park and zoo? Sign our sore feet up. Weather permitting the train takes riders on a six-minute loop to the edge of the zoo and back.
Infants (under 2): free
The carousel is running daily at 10:30 a.m. weather permitting. Located right next to the elephant exhibit it’s a great little pit stop on your walk through the park.
The Oregon Zoo is packed with a variety of exhibits. Family favorites include: Africa Rainforest, Amur Cats, Black Bear Ridge, Chimpanzees, Polar Bears, and the Predators of the Serengeti. For a full list of exhibits visit the Zoo’s website. You can even find a zoo map online that will help you guide you on your day of adventure. Do you think you can hit every exhibit before the sun goes down? We’d be surprised!
photo: Anne Jacko via flickr
This summer the zoo has a full lineup of musicians and comedians that both kids and parents will enjoy. Names like Ziggy Marley, Violent Femmes, Indigo Girls and Trampled by Turtles are among those to take the zoo’s stage which is set on tiered grass perfect for blankets, food, fun and running around.
11 Tips & Tricks
Tip #1: Today at the zoo. The zoo’s summary page of what’s happening from programs and events to if the train is running is incredibly helpful to know before you go.
Tip #2: Rain rain you can stay. If you get caught in the rain while visiting, pop into the Aviary that’s located in the Africa exhibit – it’s warm and dry and you can check out the fun birds while you wait for the rain to pass.
Tip #3: All the animals. We all have our favorite animals and ones we can’t miss but with a little research you can plan to see every one on your list—and those who aren’t! Check out this list for all the animals in the zoo, a bit about them, and whom you’ll be meeting on your trip.
Tip #4: When in doubt bring the stroller. Even if you don’t usually use one for your kids you’ll thank yourself (and so will the kiddos) that you brought it when little legs need a break.
Tip #5: In the zoo on a Tuesday. Admission at the Oregon Zoo is only $5.00 per person on the second Tuesday of every month. But, beware – these days, as well as school-holidays, are some of the most crowded. Check out other deals here.
Tip #6: Take a path less traveled. To avoid crowds tour the zoo counter-clockwise.
Tip #7: Save time. If you aren’t a member, buy tickets online before you come to the zoo – it will save time when you arrive!
Tip #8: Feeding time. While snacks are great and picnics in the park something to look forward to (and totally okay with the zoo), sometimes your trip planning isn’t picture perfect! In case you and your piglets have a hungry tummy halfway through there are plenty of food options at the Oregon Zoo. Your options include: The Cascade Grill, AfriCafe, Cascade to Go, Coffee Crossing, Bearwalk Café, Black Rhino Hut, elephant ears (be weary of long lines), and food carts. Cheap or free refills on souvenir drinks comes in handy for staying hydrated!
Tip #9: Keep an eye on the Oregon Zoo website and Facebook page for information about the cool events that they host throughout the year, including zoo lights during the holidays, trick-or-treating at Halloween, summer concerts and more!
Tip #10: Know before you go. We loved reading about all the new updates to the zoo under their “A New Zoo” tab. This gives you more information on how volunteers, donations, and a ton of work continues to grow the Oregon Zoo into the beloved space it is for kids both young and old.
4001 SW Canyon Rd.
Hours vary based on the season – please see the website for a detailed schedule
Adult (12–64): $17.95, Senior/Military (65 and up): $15.95,Youth (3–11): $12.95, 2 and under: Free
What zoo outing trick do you always use? We’d love to hear (and use) them! Let us know in the comments below.