Portland is home some marvelous and exotic creatures to be observed without having to leave the city limits. The Oregon Zoo hosts more than 2,000 species of animal life and another 1,000+ of plants, from both local flora and fauna and the far reaches of the planet. It’s a prime destination for Portland families, especially among those with children displaying veterinary or zoological interests.
Parents will appreciate the Oregon Zoo’s safe environment maintained by a staff of nearly 200 and an additional 2,000 volunteers annually. It’s a well-known destination for tourists and Portland visitors, and there are several specialized exhibits that change regularly to give Portland residents new reasons to revisit the Oregon Zoo. Dining options on the grounds are varied and reasonably priced, with menus catering to old and young zoo-goers alike.
Families will also enjoy the low cost of admission to the Oregon Zoo. Adults pay $10.50 apiece, while seniors (65+) pay $9 each and kids $7.50 if they’re over 3 years old, or free admission if younger. Group rates apply if more than 20 tickets are purchased, and members are granted free admission as long as they are current with their $135 annual dues, which includes additional perks such as free parking, subscription to Oregon Zootracks Magazine and various discounts.
The many, many animals are an obvious attraction to the Oregon Zoo, but the Zoo Railway is another popular feature on the grounds. It traverses along one of two tracks, the first being the Zoo Loop that operates from Labor Day through November 1. This loop runs for one mile of the zoo perimeter, though the animal areas aren’t visible from the railway. This is also the loop that operates during the famous ZooLights Festival, when the track courses through trees decorated for the holiday season, a big hit with kids and parents alike.
The second loop, which runs through four miles of Washington Park, operates from Memorial Day until Labor Day and costs $5 per rider. It includes a close look at the Japanese Gardens, Portland’s world-famous International Rose Test Garden and past a child play park before returning to a station at the zoo. Due to a staircase on the way to the boarding stations, it is not wheelchair accessible.
Given the wealth of attractions and wonder the Oregon Zoo offers visitors, this destination is a great place to spend some quality time with the whole family. Visitors staying with Portland residents will likely want to check it out as well, so be sure to check out the Oregon Zoo website for information about current exhibits and plan a trip on the wild side.
Getting to the Oregon Zoo is easy: Highway 26, which can be accessed from Interstate 5 north- and south-bound through Portland, has an exit (Exit 72) that goes straight into the grounds, and driving west on Southwest Clay Street from Downtown Portland will take drivers to this exit as well; parking is $2 per vehicle. TriMet’s Red and Blue MAX lines run through an underground tunnel with a stop directly underneath the hilly grounds of the Oregon Zoo, with a free elevator ride taking riders straight up to the grounds. Bus Line 63 runs along the entire campus and into Downtown Portland, and several hiking trails and bike routes exist connecting the zoo with nearby Washington Park and other parts of the West Hills and Hillside neighborhoods.