Does your family like to swim? Play at the playground? Swing from the trees? We have some friends and families that would love to plan a playdate for you! The Oregon Zoo is full of family-oriented fun for all ages, interests, and attention spans. Get the most out of your day at the zoo with our digital handbook, packed with everything you need to know and more. Read on to find out more.

photo: goodmami via flickr

Getting There

By Bike
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.

On Foot
The zoo borders to the 30-mile-long Wildwood Trail and the 7-mile-long Marquam Trail, with connections to other urban nature trails and multi-use paths. Metro’s Walk There! book and online guide takes you on a spectacular route that combines forested trails, beautiful neighborhood streets and a train ride with a day at the zoo. The walk and a zoo visit make for a perfect all-day Portland excursion.

MAX or Bus
TriMet offers a Trip Planner to get you to the zoo. MAX Red Line or Blue Line trains stop next to the zoo at the Washington Park station. As well as Bus Line 63 to Washington Park stopping at the Washington Park station. If you do ride the MAX into Washington Park, your MAX ticket gets you $1.50 off the zoo admission!

By Car
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: $1.60/Hour, $4/All Day Off Peak Oct.-Mar., $6.40/All Day Peak Apr.-Sept.

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: Laura via flickr

Must See Animals, Exhibits & Events

Animal Encounter Tours

Join zookeepers through the staff-only doors to learn what it’s like to work at the zoo! All tours are documented by a photographer. Check website for changing availability and descriptions.

Animal encounter tours:

  • Harbor seal
  • Sea otter (meet Nellie and Tucker, a pair of North American river otters born at the Oregon Zoo in late February)
  • Hippo/rhino
  • Penguin
  • Giraffe

Pricing: $120 per person, including zoo admission and photographs.

photo: Sid The Kid2010 via flickr

Zoo Railway

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.

Rates:
General: $4
Members: $3.50
Infants (under 2): free

 The Carousel

Weather permitting the carousel runs daily from 10:30 a.m. until close. Located right next to the elephant exhibit it’s a great little pit stop on your walk through the park.

photo: Thiago Silva via flikcr

Petting Zoo

Don’t miss the petting zoo at the Family Farm (located in the Great Northwest area of the zoo). It’s gigantic and kids can get up close and personal with bunnies, goats, cows, ducks and more. They even have a vegetable garden where children can learn about how we grow the foods we love to eat (or that you love them to eat!). And yes, there are hand-washing stations available.

Zoo Keys
The zoo created zoo keys so kids can literally “unlock the secrets of the zoo” to learn about favorite animals. These cool and colorful keys unlock talk boxes on zoo grounds.

Pricing: $2.50 (purchase with admission)

Education Center

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.

Upcoming Shows

photo: Anne Jacko via flickr

Summer Concerts
This summer the zoo has a full lineup of musicians and comedians that both kids and parents will enjoy. Names like Pat Benatar, Brandi Carlile, and Garrison Keillor 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 $4.00 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: All aboard! There is another train that takes you outside of the zoo into Washington Park. Here you can get off and explore the International Rose Test Garden and Japanese Garden before hopping a ride back to the zoo – perfect for eating lunch in the park! The trains do not operate all year round – check the website for detailed schedules.

Tip #9: 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 #10: 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 #11: 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.

Location:
4001 SW Canyon Rd.
Portland
503-226-1561
Online: oregonzoo.org
Hours vary based on the season – please see the website for a detailed schedule

Pricing: 
Peak season (March 1 to Sept. 30): Adult (12–64): $14.95, Senior/Military (65 and up): $12.95,Youth (3–11): $9.95, 2 and under: Free

Off-peak season (Oct. 1 to Feb. 28): Adult (12–64): $9.95, Senior/Military (65 and up): $7.95, Youth (3–11): $4.95, 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.

—Kris Wilhelmy