The Austin Zoo, sitting on 20 acres (eight hectares) about 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of downtown, showcases a diverse population of more than 300 animals and 100 species.
The collection of animals is a lot more exotic today than when the zoo opened as the Good Day Ranch in 1990. There are big cats, including lions, jaguars and the resident tigers, Caesar and Kila; monkeys from Africa and South America; lemurs from Madagascar; and North American black bears. Bird enthusiasts will enjoy the macaws, cockatoos and the larger emus. There are also peacocks, which roam freely around the zoo. Children are encouraged to feed animals in the petting section. Kids can grab a handful of feed and make a new friend – maybe a goat, deer or llama. You might want to get a few bags of feed, available in the gift shop for a small fee, to keep your friends happy.
The entry fee goes towards the zoo's conservation program. It has been rescuing animals threatened in the wild or unwanted by their owners since it was opened. Some of the endangered animals that call the zoo home include the Bengal tiger and the cougar. In 2012, the zoo rescued about a dozen animals, including tigers, lambs and foxes, who were in need of a safe home.
There are no restaurants or food stands here, so you’ll need to bring your own refreshments.
The Austin zoo is difficult to access via public transportation, but just a 20-minute drive from downtown. Free parking is available. Check the website for operating hours throughout the year.