Keeping Cool at the Zoo

By Katherine Spada

Female lion Kalisa enjoying an icy treat on a hot day. Photo by Jamie Pham.

With temperatures forecast to be in the triple digits some days this summer, here are some tips for ways to keep cool when visiting the L.A. Zoo.

An educator guides children through a veterinary procedure on a condor doll at the CCRZ. Photo by Jamie Pham.

Open weekends and City holidays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the California Condor Rescue Zone (CCRZ) near the front of the Zoo is a great (air-conditioned) play space for children to immerse themselves in the habitat of these birds, and learn how L.A. Zoo animal care and veterinary staff work to save this amazing species. At 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, join us in the CCRZ for an interactive story time.

A Zoo visitor meets Ziggy the harbor seal. Photo by Jamie Pham.

Every day, visitors to the L.A. Zoo can see Atlantic and Pacific harbor seals keeping cool as they swim through their habitat at Sea Life Cliffs, and hear the boisterous barking of sea lions, immediately upon entering the Zoo. On Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., learn from their keepers about how they care for these rescued animals.

Don’t skip the Children’s Zoo, beyond Zoo Grill, where you can spend some time in the shade, enjoying the animal exhibits in this sweet section of the Zoo. Fennec foxes, monkeys, and more call this place home, and your kids might be ready for their nap on the car ride home if you visit Charlie the Linné’s two-toed sloth on your way out at the end of your visit. Weather permitting, enjoy Animals & You close-ups at 10:45 and 11:45 a.m. daily (and additionally, 12:45 p.m. on weekends).

Fennec foxes at the Children's Zoo. Photo by Tad Motoyama.
All ages can enjoy the Conservation Carousel. Photo by Jamie Pham.

When you get to the Fork in the Road, you have some options to choose from! Stop for a slice of pizza (or a draft beer if you’re 21 or older), hop aboard the Safari Shuttle for a ride around the Zoo that you can get on and off as often as you like on one ticket, or pick which pathway you want to take to start your journey around the main loop of the Zoo. Take the path to your right, and you can enjoy a spin on the carousel! Open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and weekends from 10:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., you can even get your carousel tickets online before your trip.

Just across from the carousel, find yourself in the lovely and peaceful aviary. Shady and cool, you can explore a variety of free-flight birds from around the globe. On Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 2 p.m., an educator will help guide you through the species at home in the aviary, encouraging birding beginners to practice wildlife observation skills using binoculars and nature journals.

A green turaco in the Zoo's aviary. Photo by Tad Motoyama.
A zoo keeper feeding endangered giant river otters. Photo by Jamie Pham.

It’s always refreshing to watch the rambunctious river otters swim and play—even if the otterslide makes you a little jealous on a hot day—but observing them from the 2nd story deck of the Rainforest of the Americas stilt house is a great way to enjoy these animals while taking a break under cover. Weekdays at 11:30 a.m., and weekends at 3 p.m., learn about this endangered species during our otter talks. (And don’t miss the harpy eagles while you’re up there!)

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On a really hot day, few can resist the siren call of a snow cone. Try the “tiger’s blood”; this traditional snow cone flavor combines watermelon, strawberry, and a hint of coconut.

Murray the Wombat at the LA Zoo Photo Credit Jamie Pham
Male Southern hairy-nosed wombat Murray. Photo by Jamie Pham.

Continuing your journey around the Zoo, maybe you’ve stopped to watch the chimpanzee youngsters play, or fed acacia leaves to a giraffe. Sat across from a critically endangered Western lowland gorilla, or strolled through the shady pathway looping through habitats housing peccaries, critically endangered addax, or anoa. By the time you get to the Australia exhibits, you may want to take a quiet break in the Australia house, where you can let your eyes adjust to the dim lighting and patiently scope out the wombats or bettongs.

If you’re in this part of the Zoo on a weekend, don’t miss the Tasmanian devil feeding at 1:30 p.m. on Sundays, or the educational Walkabout at 1:30 p.m. on Sundays.

Behold the mighty delicious churro sundae. Photo by Jamie Pham.

Across from the Australia section, is the famous Churro Factory, where you can find refreshments from soft drinks to soft serve, and (of course) churros. But really, there’s little better than a churro sundae on a hot day. Or a cold day. Or any day, really.

Continuing your journey out through the Zoo, you’ll find the LAIR, where amphibians, invertebrates, and reptiles from all over the world have a home. Stay cool inside the main building, where you can watch the hypnotic swimming of the Fly River turtle, or the balancing act of the butaan. Be forewarned that the Desert LAIR building can be quite toasty, so you could feel like you’ve experienced the climate of the region’s native wildlife. ☐

Mexican west coast rattlesnake in the Desert LAIR. Photo by Tad Motoyama.