The L.A. Zoo has been welcoming visitors and busloads of school kids since 1966. In 1982, the zoo inaugurated a display of cuddly koalas, still one of its biggest attractions among 1,200 animals from around the world. Although it's smaller than the world-famous San Diego Zoo, the L.A. Zoo is far more easy to fully explore. As much an arboretum as a zoo, the grounds are thick with mature shade trees from around the world that help cool the once-barren grounds, and new habitats are light-years ahead of the cruel concrete roundhouses originally used to exhibit animals (though you can't help feeling that, despite the fancy digs, all the creatures would rather be in their natural habitat).
The zoo's latest attraction is new $19-million Campo Gorilla Reserve, a habitat for six African lowland gorillas that closely resembles their native West African homeland. Visitors partake in a pseudo-African-jungle experience as they journey along a misty, forested pathway with glassed viewing areas for close-up views of the gorillas living in two separate habitats: one for a family troop of gorillas, led by a silverback male; and a separate habitat for two bachelors. Other highlights include the Sea Lion Cliffs habitat, home to the zoo's five sea lions where visitors can view the saltwater habitat from an underwater glass viewing area; the Chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains habitat, where visitors can see plenty of primate activity; the Red Ape Rainforest, a natural orangutan habitat; the entertaining World of Birds show; the Pachyderm Forest (climate-controlled digs for the elephants and hippos, complete with an underwater viewing area); and the Mandrills Exhibit (the world's largest and most colorful baboons). The gargantuan Andean condor had me enthralled as well (the facility is renowned in zoological circles for the successful breeding and releasing of California condors, and occasionally some of these majestic and endangered birds are on exhibit). Kids will also enjoy the Winnick Family Children's Zoo, which contains a petting area, exhibition animal-care center, Adventure Theater storytelling and puppet show, and other kid-hip exhibits and activities. Tip: To avoid the busloads of rambunctious school kids, arrive after noon.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Highly Recommended 2010