Updated: May 21, 2015

The Oregon Zoo:

Just outside of downtown Portland on Hwy 26 sits the Oregon Zoo, or as I call it the Portland Zoo. The zoo is just large enough to make it a major attraction for residents and visitors to the city of Portland. I have been a member for about 3 years now and have come to like the smaller things at the zoo like Africa Rainforest, Cascade Canyon Trail, and their special exhibits like the Winged Wonders. You can spend about 2 to 3 hours at the zoo on any given visit and the # of exhibits has only increased since I've been going. The new Black Bear Ridge, Eagle Canyon, and Cougar Crossing are part of the Cascade Canyon Trail which my kids like to walk down. On warm summer days in Portland, there is no better place to be at than the zoo watching the elephants play or learning about the birds of prey. My kids love taking the train ride that goes through the zoo and out to Washington Park where you can get off the train and go for a hike or walk or just play at a nearby playground. The train ride for the zoo loop costs $3/adult and $2.50/kids, although members do get discounts.


One feature our family enjoys are the Zoo keys which our children carry around the zoo. You push the key into a slot at 17 of the animal exhibits to hear educational information on that particular animal. The keys work for the mountain goats, black bears, polar bears, penguins, elephants, bats, and at several other locations on the zoo grounds. The top exhibits are the Africa Savanna with zebra, hippos, giraffes, and rhinos, the Asian elephants, the bears, primates, and the sea lions and otters. The official website can be found online at Oregonzoo.org. I have always found the food services to be a little lacking at the zoo, although the Cascade Grill Restaurant is nice (but pricey). There are several places to eat as you make your way around the zoo grounds. Summer Camp at the Oregon zoo is a great program setup to help kids learn about animals and get hands on experience with their daily care. The 5 day camps are excellent educational tools for kids as young as 4 and up to grade 9. The Summer Concert series is another benefit we enjoy as members, but they are open to the general public too. The zoo concerts take place at the amphitheater near the elephants and the shows take place rain or shine. If you want Oregon zoo coupons or discounts, consider the Portland Attraction Pass HERE. The pass is roughly $35/adult ($29/kids) but lets you into the Zoo, Pittock Mansion, Japanese Garden, Portland Art Museum, Children's Museum and a few others. If you plan on visiting Portland then the pass is well worth the money and it lasts up to 5 days.

Location - Getting There - Maps:

The address of the Oregon zoo is 4001 SW Canyon Road, Portland, Oregon 97221 and their phone number is 503-226-1561. The zoo is only about 5 minutes west of downtown Portland on Hwy 26. Washington Park is what surrounds the zoo and you can take the MAX (light rail) right to the zoo entrance. TriMet buses run through Washington Park throughout the day as well, so if the parking lot is full consider taking public transportation. For detailed directions on how to get to the Oregon zoo, go HERE. We have also provided a map down below which shows the zoo in vicinity to the city of Portland.
For a detailed map of the Oregon zoo, there is a PDF file located HERE. You could print it out, but at the admission office when you first enter the zoo, they give you the exact same map.

Hours, Fees, Memberships:

The Oregon Zoo is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year with the exception of Christmas Day. The zoo hours are 9 AM to 6 PM from April 15 - Sept 15 and 9AM to 4 PM from Sept 16 - April 14. The grounds stay open 1 hour after the gates close. During the Zoolights in late November and most of December the zoo stays open longer (see the extended hours below). The rates for adults (12-64) is $9.75, seniors (65+) is $8.25, children (3-11) are $6.75, and infants (2 and under) get in for FREE. Members pay no parking fee, otherwise parking is $1 per car. You can purchase tickets online at the main zoo website or in person when you arrive. The zoo accepts VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Discover Card, or cash as payment. Membership to the Oregon zoo is a great option if you have small children and plan on going more than 2 times a year. We joined the zoo membership a few years back and have so far regained any upfront money we spent. We usually go twice a year during the spring and summer months and then again at the zoolights in December. We buy the $94 Family Plus option which allows my wife and I and our 2 children to get in FREE when we go. The benefits of being a zoo member are that you get in for free, you get free parking, there are reciprocal admission benefits at over 120 zoos nationwide, and you get discounts on the train rides, educational camps, and at the gift shop. You also get a FREE guest visit with each visit to the zoo, FREE Zoo Tunes concerts, and free admission to the Zoolights. There are a variety of memberships available, so be sure to check out the site for details.

Zoolights:

Perhaps our favorite time of year to attend the Portland Zoo, each year the zoo is open special hours during the holiday season to display an incredible array of lighted displays. They call it the "Zoolights" and you will be amazed to go. The only drawback is that in late November and into December the weather in Portland is usually rainy and it is also very cold. Each year that we go, we bring blankets and bundle up to the ride the zoo train around the park and see the spectacular setup. The lights are setup so that it appears animals are moving - such as jumping monkeys or prowling tigers. Each set of lights turns on for a moment and then the next series goes on making it appear in the dark conditions that things are actually moving. The zoo lights are only an evening exhibit so that they stand out. The hours of operation are Sunday to Thursday from 5 PM to 8 PM and Fri-Sat from 5PM to 8:30 PM. There are over 1/2 million lights in the exhibit. Members get in for FREE to the Zoolights.