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Oregon Zoo
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What’s to Love: Of course, there is an underlying debate of whether or not zoos are a good or bad thing. I’ve been to some zoos where I felt the integrity of the entire business was suspect. However, the Oregon Zoo (located in Portland’s Washington Park) is not such a place. This is the best zoo I’ve ever visited. They may not have the most animals, or the largest square footage, but it’s clean, well managed, eco-conscious, friendly, and a great time for kids! Even the cafeteria has responsible food choices on the menu offering many local organic/natural products. The Zoo has a “Green Team” that strives to make the Zoo an “Earth Friendly” operation (read more here).

The exhibits are well thought out, and it’s easy to navigate throughout the premises. Our son loves seeing the giraffes, elephants, sea lions, hippos, zebras…all the animals; however, most of all he loves riding the train! The train takes a pleasant trip into Forest Park. During most of the year, the train makes a stop at the Rose Garden where you can get off and re-board later. The Zoo is also a good spot to check-out holiday lights during the Christmas season.

Caveats: Practically impossible to come up with one. It can get very crowded, but there is always a place to get away from too many people. If you don’t have a membership, the price of admission is quite a shocker at $11.50 for adults and $8.50 for children ages 3-11.  Ages 2 and under are free.  On top of the admission cost, if you want to ride the train, you’re going to have to get buy separate tickets, which run from $2.50 – $3.50 per person. OUCH!

Website: Oregon Zoo

Distance from Portland: Within Portland city limits.

Recommended Ages: All ages, but carrying around a newborn/infant may not be the best option. Toddlers do very well, and older kids seem to enjoy the Zoo as well.

Parental Stress Factor: Low/Medium Stress. This really depends on how busy it is and how many kids you’re watching. It’s definitely hard to please everyone. Plus, you may be stressed out after you paid $30+ just to get into the Zoo. Generally, the Zoo has always been a place to go and hang out and have fun!

Physical Difficulty: Not too difficult, but it is a bit hilly on the exit. Be prepared for tired kids on your way out.

Family Fun Factor : High – This is one of the best spots to hang out as a family. It’s easy to stay together and talk about all the animals. We always have a great time at the Zoo.

Pet Friendly: For obvious reasons…no.

Weather Considerations: Surprisingly, we’ve had our best Zoo visits on rainy days. I don’t know what it is, but on rainy days we see more animals, and it feels like no one is there.

Insider Info: The sandbox rules! It’s covered from the elements and has some killer trucks, cranes, backhoes, and sand toys. Don’t forget to spend time at the Trillium Farm Exhibit, which is part of the “Great Northwest” section of the Zoo. This is probably the most fun for kids, because they may get a chance to pet some farm animals, play on a tractor, and see some cougars, bears, and a bald eagle.

If you’re money conscious, and you don’t want to leave with unwanted accessories, I would avoid the Gift Shop altogether. If you don’t take the bus or Max train, you’re going to have to pay an extra for parking.

For special deals on pricing, check-out their admission page.

Family Tips: If you plan on visiting the Zoo more than once, I’d get a membership. You’ll save a lot of money, and you won’t have to pay the $1.00 parking fee. There are many benefits I’m not mentioning, which can be researched on their website.

There are a lot of nice picnic areas. Even though the food in the cafeteria is actually pretty good, save a whole lot of money and bring your own food. You’ll find a picnic table just when you need one.

If you’re kids are going to get tired, especially on the exit hills, I recommend bringing a stroller. Backpacks are not the best, because kids that can walk will want to get out – usually after you just put them back in the pack! To avoid meltdowns, we would often bring the stroller and a backpack for the exit. That way, on the way out, he couldn’t escape!

Technorati Tags: Oregon Zoo, see animals, Portland Zoo, zoo train, max train to the zoo, Washington Park, Hoyt Arboretum, Portland Children’s Museum, World Forestry Center, Holocaust Memorial, Letterboxing

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2 Comments


  1. As of 2012, parking now costs $2 a car, but you can save $1.50 per ticket if you rode MAX or the bus. Just show your transit ticket at the gate to get the discount. Adult prices are now $10.50, kids $7.50, which makes a family membership a good idea if you vist more than twice in 12 months.

    • Joseph,

      Thanks for the comment and the update on parking and prices! I should know better than to put prices in my articles. Vince

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