How long does it take to do the Oakland Zoo? A Local’s Advice

Visiting the Oakland Zoo is an exciting, family-friendly activity many people enjoy when traveling in the San Francisco Bay Area. But how long should you plan to spend at the zoo? As someone whos been to the Oakland Zoo over 30 times and lives locally, I’m here to help you out.

You should plan to spend 2-4 hours at the Oakland Zoo, depending on what you want to do there.

Here’s why.

Choose Your Sections

The Oakland Zoo is split into two main parts: the older part and the newer California Trail section. The older part of the zoo is smaller and has the giraffes, tigers, lions, a petting zoo, monkeys, and more.

Oakland Zoo giraffes

You can see everything in this part of the zoo in about 1.5 hours. The California Trail section, which opened in 2018, is reached by a gondola and can take about an hour to explore.

Ride the Gondola up to California Trail

If you want to do both parts, 2.5 to 3 hours is a good amount of time.

However, if you’re with small kids or are pressed for time, you can just do the California Trail, check out a few animals in the lower portion of the zoo (try the giraffes, elephants, tigers and lions, since those don’t require walking down a back up a hill), and do the whole thing in 2 hours.

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Two Addons to Consider

There are two main reasons why you might need to budget more time for your visit. The first is that there is some really tasty food at the zoo, including the Landing Cafe and Tuskers. If you plan to have lunch, you should add some extra time to your budget.

Comfort food at the zoo!

The second reason is that outside the zoo is Adventure Landing, a small amusement park with a mini train and other rides. If you want to take a ride on the train or check out the other rides, I would add an extra 45 minutes to one hour.

Adventure Landing adds about 45 minutes


To sum it up:

  • If you plan to just do the basics at the Oakland Zoo, leave at least 2 hours. Start with California Trail, visit the giraffes and tigers, and call it a day.
  • If you want to see California Trail and more animals in the older section of the zoo, leave at least 3 hours to do so.
  • To do both sections of the zoo, have lunch, and explore Adventure Landing, you should budget 3-4 hours or more.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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