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We took our girls to the San Francisco Zoo, excited to point out real animals to Pumpkin, animals she had only thus far seen in My Big Book of Animals.

Despite some inconveniences, such as difficult parking, small and ill-placed exhibit signage and a very hectic food court, my girls had a fun time on their first visit to the zoo.

If you are planning a visit to the San Francisco Zoo, here are some things to keep in mind:

come early

The parking lot fills up very fast on days with pleasant weather, and after that only paid valet parking is available if you want to park near the zoo entrance. Another reason to arrive at opening is to actually be able to see most of the animals. After about 12 noon, most of them are asleep or hiding after their midday meal.

Pick up a map

Maps are provided at the entrance and we consulted ours on more than one occasion to navigate the zoo. The signage is not clearly placed, and we went in circles a few times in order to find our way around.

Bring your own lunch

The Leaping Lemur Café is more of a zoo than the actual zoo! It’s structured like a food court, but all three counters are right next to each other causing a mess of a line, not to mention confusion.

The food is way overpriced, the music blaring, and by the time you receive your tray and turn around, you would be lucky to find a place to sit, as the sitting area is very crowded.

We did in fact grab a table as soon as another family had vacated it, but if I had known ahead of time how hectic it would be, I would’ve brought lunch instead.

If you have little ones, I don’t think highchairs would be available either (I didn’t see any).

Overall, the grounds are very stroller-friendly, so no worries there. We did have fun posing and taking photos with the animals, and we definitely got our workout in for the day. Pumpkin enjoyed being outdoors, and although this zoo has no “effant” (elephant) she was excited to see a real live “ghee-affe” (giraffe)!


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