The San Antonio Zoo in San Antonio, Texas started out as a small collection of only a few species of animals in San Pedro Park in the 1800's. In 1914, renowned citizen Colonel George W. Brackenridge, decided to expand on the idea of a zoo in San Antonio. He deeded land over to the city in what is now known as Brackenridge Park and placed buffalo, deer, elk, monkeys, a pair of lions, and a few bears on the land, there by establishing the San Antonio Zoo.

The San Antonio Zoo has been a leader in zoological innovation. In 1929, they were the first to introduce two open, non-caged exhibits in America, one for bears called the Barless Bear Terraces and another for primates called Primate Paradise. The zoo expanded in 1948 to include the Richard Friedrich Aquarium, at the time considered the world's greatest aquarium. Then again, in 1966, the zoo became one of the first to open a bird house where visitors could admire free flying birds in a man-made, sub-tropical environment. The Hixon Bird House is now home to one of the largest collections of birds.

The zoo staff understands, as it has for 99 years, that a zoo should be much more than just a collection of animals; it should be a center for world-renowned research, education, and conservation. This mission of the San Antonio Zoo has made it one of the greatest in the world and home to 750 different species of animals spread out over 56 acres of land, 34 of which are open to the public. The zoo is incredibly popular and welcomes more than 1 million guests annually.



The San Antonio Zoo is home to 750 species of amphibians, mammals, birds, and reptiles. The grounds feature eight enormous exhibits where you can get up close and personal with animals from all over the world. Zoo visitors are encouraged to participate in many animal encounters involving feeding certain animals, and there are plenty of other educational opportunities around the zoo.

Africa Live! Is the newest exhibit to the San Antonio Zoo and captures the spirit of Africa in a safari like experience that visitors love. The exhibit features many creatures that are currently endangered due to loss of habitat. The zoo has recreated their natural environment, and some of the animals featured in this exhibit include hippos, crocodiles, and African Cichlids, all visible through underwater viewing windows.

The African Plains main attraction is the watering hole. Here, guests can sit and rest while watching many different plains animals graze and bathe. Man-made cliffs, streams, and natural limestone as well as plants native to Africa fill in this landscape where you can view zebras, cranes, topi, storks, and antelope, while you get ready for the next adventure through Rift Valley Tract where other native African animals can be seen.

Amazonia is a completely outdoor exhibit that features lush greenery and the zoos main waterway. There are over 30 species of tropical animals living in this exhibit as well as rare orchids and other Amazon native plants for guests to enjoy. Many visitors enjoy the free flight deck where birds fly right over your head, and the monkey habitats including the Spider Monkeys and New World Monkeys. You can also feed the fish and see exotic cats such as the jaguar and ocelot.

Cranes of the World is an exhibit dedicated solely to the different varieties of cranes, and it was built around the zoo's waterway. You can see Whooping Cranes, Blue Cranes, Manchurian crane, and hooded cranes in this walk through habitat.

Gibbon Forrest is a naturalistic enclosure where from behind paned glass, visitors can view the gibbons as they play and swing on vines that hang from the wire-enclosed ceiling. There are many learning experiences in this exhibit that teach how these apes biologically bridge a gap to the great apes like the chimpanzee and gorilla and how their family structure requires both genders to take on roles in family rearing.

Next read: Best Time to Visit San Antonio, Texas & Other Travel Tips


Giraffes at the Savanna is a favorite of many people because visitors get to experience feeding a giraffe. This habitat is built to mimic an African oasis, and many other animals are being introduced to this environment in an effort to make it as natural as possible. This oasis is also great for adults to take a break under the shaded canopy in the viewing area.

The Hixon Bird House is a giant circular structure with a large glass dome. Trees, shrubs, a small pond, and other plants comprise this structure that is home to birds such as the thick-billed euphonia, the red-billed leiothrix, and many others. Around the circumference of the building, visitors can engage themselves in many other open air habitats that are home to birds from all parts of the world, from Africa, the American southwest, coastal beaches, and the rain forest of the Amazon to the jungles of Asia and Africa. The Bird House also serves as a quiet area where visitors can escape the loud excitement of the other exhibits.

In the Nature Spot, children five and under will receive a very special zoo experience ledby zoo staff to encourage interaction between the children and small animals. There are seven major areas to the Tiny Tot Nature Spot including Tropical Waters, My Backyard, Monkey/Sloth Hangout, Go Wild, Discovery House, Camp Ground, and River Bank. Children are invited to play in boats, go through mazes, play in a mud kitchen, play on monkey bars, explore the child size aquarium, and dress up like zoo keepers.

TOADally, was opened in 2008 in effort to raise awareness of amphibians and their habitats, which are becoming endangered due to human activity such as habitat destruction and pollution. Visitors can learn about the 30% of amphibious creatures currently on the verge of extinction and learn ways to live a more “green” lifestyle and practice conservation at home.

The San Antonio Zoo has many fun attractions in addition to their animal exhibits. In 1956, the Brackenridge Eagle, now known as the San Antonio Zoo Eagle, opened to the delight of many zoo patrons. The train takes zoo visitors through attractions such as the Witte Museum, Kiddie Park, Japanese Tea Gardens, and past many animal exhibits on five miles of tracks.

Butterflies! is a magnificent site to visit for any insect or butterfly enthusiast. The butterfly house has 15-30 different species of butterflies, hundreds of which fly freely around visitors. The butterflies housed here are brought in from their countries of origin as caterpillars, and visitors encounter a truly educational experience as they learn about the lifecycle of the butterfly and how destructive certain agricultural practices are in many butterfly habitats around the world.

Lory Landing is an Australian themed enclosure for lorikeets, a nectar eating bird, where you can purchase nectar cups and enjoy the lorikeets flocking to you and perching on your head, arm, or shoulders to drink the treat. The 53 different species of lorikeets are exceptionally friendly and playful, making this attraction a delight for people of all ages.

With 60 hand painted animals to choose from, the Zootennial Carousel is a beautiful brass attraction children love to ride over and over again. Many of the animals featured on the ride are native to Texas, but there are imaginary animals and exotic ones as well. The carousel sits on an island in the park and is a must do for families.

The San Antonio Zoo has special attractions throughout the year, including their winter wonderland that runs from Mid-November through January 1st every year. Over 300,000 ecofriendly lights decorate the zoo, and you can walk through Santa's workshop, see a 20- foot snowman is on display, and make s' mores and drink hot chocolate during this festive holiday time. Zoo Boo is held over Halloween in October. Guests are encouraged to dress in non-scary costumes, and many family-friendly Halloween activities are planned. There are also fundraising races for children and adults held throughout the year. An annual ball/gala is held in the fall every year to fundraise for the zoo as well. This event is very formal and includes a formal dinner, dancing, drinks, an auction, and other entertainment.

Monarch Fest happens in the spring and is a dedication to the Monarch Butterflies. The event spans three days and is free with zoo admission. People who participate in the event get to take home milkweed seeds and nectar seeds, and they are able to purchase plants that are beneficial to the lifecycles of butterflies and moths. Patrons also learn about conservation and how to help the monarchs in their migratory path.

The San Antonio Zoo's Vice President of Conservation hosts a river boat cruise through the Amazon in cooperation with Green Tracks in Peru. This unique experience will get participants up close to many of the tropical animals at the zoo and their natural habitat, and it includes many excursions into the forest.

Birthday Parties, Weddings, and After-hours gatherings are available to be hosted at the zoo for rental fees, and the zoo even has a catering staff to help with all your party needs.

Back to: Best Things to Do in San Antonio, TX

3903 N. St. Mary's Street, San Antonio, TX 78212-3199, Phone: 210-734-7184

Day Trips, Fun Attractions & Things to do near me: NYC, SF, Boston, D.C., Places to Go from Seattle, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Fun Date Ideas from LA, Near Houston, Atlanta, Top 10 from Chicago, Denver, Places to See near Dallas, Phoenix, Nashville