Best Zoo And Aquarium Events In The Bay Area

July 26, 2013 5:00 AM

Photo Credit: Happy Hollow Park & Zoo/Facebook

Have you been to a zoo or aquarium lately? If it’s been a while since you’ve visited, then you are in for some happy surprises. Zoos are not just about animals anymore and aquariums have more to offer than mere fish sightings. Lectures and workshops, sleepovers and social happenings are some very popular events these days. Check it out for yourself at these Bay Area zoos and aquariums.
Visitors at the entrance to the San Francisco Zoo.

Visitors at the entrance to the San Francisco Zoo.

San Francisco Zoo
Sloat Blvd. & Great Highway
San Francisco, CA 94132
(415) 753-7080

There is always a lot going on at the Bay Area’s largest zoo, and with summer in full swing, it’s the perfect time for families to plan time together with the zoo in mind. Of course there are animals and the connection with wildlife that a zoo experience brings, but you may not know that the zoo also offers events and additional learning opportunities well integrated with the Zoo’s mission of connecting people with wildlife, nature and conservation action. Visit the website to learn aabout what is happening at the San Francisco Zoo. Everyone, kids especially, will enjoy being part of these events.

Overnights: The Zoo provides opportunities for groups and families to camp overnight, from dusk to dawn. Wake up to the surrounding sights and sounds of the animals nearby. The Wild Nights overnight program is safe and evening snacks, activities and light breakfast are included. Family overnights, scheduled several times a year, include dinner, family fireside time and a guided tour. Check the website for dates and prices and to register.

Conservation: Spend time one Saturday helping to beautify the Zoo by volunteering for Renew the Zoo. Involvement is just a few hours on the second Saturday of four months a year, but quite an experience. Pre-registration is required. Adults, teens and families are encouraged to apply.

California Academy Of Sciences
Steinhart Aquarium
California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 379-8000

Steinhart Aquarium is a premiere environment inside the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. It is a home to 38,000 live animals from acrosss the globe with over 900 species represented. Steinhart Aquarium is about more than fish. Enjoy the Animal Attraction, Philippine Coral Reef Gallery, Northern California Coast Gallery, Water Planet Gallery, Rainforest of the World Gallery, Tusher African Hall and the Swamp Gallery, all within Steinhart Aquarium.Get the kids ready for some of the wildest sleepovers ever in several Academy locations including the Aquarium. Sleepovers include Planetarium showings, live animal demonstrations, late-night snack and breakfast, overnight parking, next-day Academy admission and a group photo with new friends. Check the website for information on adult sleepovers too.

The Academy and Aquarium are linked, and additional events include intelligent and engaging lectures and workshops, plus the extremely popular, and for good reason, Thursday night Nightlife, a 21-and-over club-like event with new adventure themes each week. At Nightlife, you can roam the Academy exhibits with drink in hand, go rock climbing, listen to cool bands or DJ sets, lay back to take in a Planetarium show, dine on tasty fare and mingle with the crowds from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Explore the Academy’s Master Events Calendar and find an event to join.

Oakland Zoo
Oakland Zoo
9777 Golf Links Road
Oakland, CA 94605
(510) 632-9525

Many zoo lovers say they prefer the smaller but well-kept Oakland Zoo over its bigger city neighbor. Many fans enjoy spending an afternoon in Oakland’s notoriously warm and sunny weather, wandering the tidy zoo whether alone, with family, friends or on a date. It seems everyone comes to take pictures of the good variety of animals and their large habitats. The Oakland Zoo has areas designated for chidlren, including a rides area and a children’s zoo too. If possible, visit during a mid-weekday afternoon – fall is the ideal season – when the Zoo isn’t crowded and before school trips begin.In addition to the usual suspects, the Zoo offers a range of activities and events to make you smile. Overnights at the Zoo offer a truly special experience, with School Group, Community Group and Family Sundown Safari overnights available. The Zoo’s ZooMoblie program brings animal ambassadors right to you, with each of the ZooMobile outreach programs tailored to your group’s needs. There are also a number of activities, family programs including family overnights, birthday parties, volunteer opportunities and much more offered here. Check the website for full details on the Oakland Zoo’s activities, programs and events.

Related: Bay Area’s Best Animal Attractions

Aquarium of the Bay
The Embarcadero and Beach St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 623-5300

Although rather small, explore and enjoy the Aquarium for what it is — a pleasant way to experience and learn about the Bay Area’s sea life. The Aquarium is a non-profit, educational venue with facts about Bay Area marine life for both tourists and natives who want to act like tourists at Pier 39 for a few hours. The giant octopus here is a definite crowd pleaser, and the jellyfish are another big draw. Separate from the beautiful and engaging Aquarium displays, the space is available to rent for special occasions and events. The space makes an awesome backdrop for weddings and cocktail receptions, mixers, meetings, presentations, birthday parties and youth group sleepovers. Add the Aquarium’s Touch of the Bay gallery to an evening event and give guests the opportunity to touch rays, sharks, sea stars and other sea life, in addition to getting personal with land animals like turtles, slugs, opossums and chinchillas. Check the website for all the information you need.

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo
1300 Senter Road
San Jose, CA 95112
(408) 794-6400

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is a sustainable, conservation-centered outdoor park commited to providing affordable adventure for families with children. The tidy zoo has a wide variety of animals, including mammals, reptiles, birds and an “educational collection,” which includes the likes of tarantulas and insects. The park area is home to the Crooked House, a well-loved vintage attraction that has been updated and given new life this year, plus puppet theaters and rides for the kids. But the park area is definitely a fun way to learn too. Doc’s Critter Care is the new animal hospital featuring indoor and outdoor quarantine, surgery and radiology facilites. Also here are the Lemur Woods Exhibit, the Education Center, the Redwood Lookout and more. Happy Hollow also offers field trips for classes that will challenge young imaginations through parallel play and exploration. There is a full spectrum of classes and zoo camps too. Happy Hollow invites you to have your party here. From a simple to an extraordinary celebration, it’s your choice. Check the website to find out more and plan a visit.

Related: Bay Area’s Best Places For Horseback Riding

Melanie Graysmith is a writer, artist and educator based in San Francisco. She writes on adult education, art and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. She is also a member of an independent filmmaking group. Her work can be found at

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