The old zoo in Griffith Park is one of those places I literally knew nothing about before I went to it, yet after going it has become one of my most recommended places when people ask me what to do in LA. It is remains of the old abandoned LA Zoo that was simply left in its place when the Zoo changed locations. In addition, picnic bench’s were built around and in some of the old animal areas and it was adopted into Griffith Park, only to welcome hundreds of visitors each day. A truly unique location in the urban jungle that is Los Angeles.
Getting to the Old LA Zoo
If you have ever been to Griffith Park before (not the observatory but the merry-go-round and horse areas) then you have been close to the old LA Zoo. Located right off the 5 freeway you will want to enter the Griffith Park area (free) and proceed to the parking lot for the merry-go-round. When walking to the merry-go-round there should be a sign that says Old LA Zoo Picnic area. This can be hard to find but my best recommendation is to look for it then follow its direction to the Zoo. From the merry-go-round it is about a 5-10 minute walk to the start of the Zoo.
Large Animal Exhibits
The first area you will hit on your walk is the back of the large animal exhibits. When you see these you will know you are close and will want to continue down the road until it drops you into a large grass field with the large animal exhibits on the right and the small animal areas on the left. The large animal exhibits were my favorite part of the Zoo as this was where some of the parts of Anchorman (a brilliant movie) were filmed and it is just a lot of fun to explore and walk around in these areas.
The addition of picnic tables to these areas make them a great family outing on the weekend and I saw two birthday parties, an art class and some professional photographers all using them while I was there. I plan to come back here for a picnic as well in the future.
Small Animal Exhibits
While not as exciting as the large animal exhibits it is still a lot of fun to explore these as well. I imagine these were the exhibits mentioned when they shut down the Zoo for no longer being safe for the animals. The cages are quite small but there is a lot of them so they must have housed a decent amount of animals back in their day. These are mostly fenced off so you can’t go in many of them, but there are a few where the gates have been pulled back.
This is also the way that you would proceed through if you wanted to hike to the top of Bee Rock, the large rock jutting out in front of you. This hike is not to difficulty but is probably another 2 miles past the Old Zoo. It does give you great views of the surrounding areas if you make it to the top though.
If you live near LA I would highly recommend you spend a day here with the family. There were tons of people there the whole time I was so it felt very safe, and the kids will have a great time exploring the different animal exhibits before enjoying a nice picnic lunch. Check out the rest of the pictures and get directions below.