Griffith Park is huge – both its best and its worst feature.
On the plus side: A sprawling 4,200-acre park is a dream in the very urban Los Angeles setting. The trick is navigating your way through the park to discover all of its hidden gems.
Earlier this week, we discovered one of them: The Old Zoo at Griffith Park. It’s tucked away near the Merry-Go-Round but doesn’t get much play compared to all the other attractions the park has to offer.
The Old Zoo site is home to many of the animal enclosures, cages and aviaries that were here until The Los Angeles Zoo moved to its new home just a few miles away in 1965.
These days, you can walk right up into the enclosures and cages – even investigate the spaces in-between. The Explorers loved navigating their way up stairways and across structures to see where they lead.
I’m not going to lie to you: this place is a little eerie. But it generated talk about animal care, animal rights and animals in general.
After our initial investigation, we turned our sights from the cages to the grounds beside them. And that’s when we discovered just how beautiful the place is.
Not more than a stone’s throw from the Old Zoo’s abandoned enclosures is a small stream at the bottom of a hill. The kids saw it and took off running. There was creek crossing, dam building, rock skipping and mud making to be had.
The kids and their friends were in nature play heaven. We had the spot pretty much all to ourselves and enjoyed every minute of it.
Three Simple Ways for Kids to Connect With Nature at Griffith Park’s Old Zoo
- Enjoy a picnic lunch. Choose from picnic tables or grab a spot on the sprawling grass and set out a blanket. The view is superb and crowds nearly nonexistent.
- Play in the creek. Across from the old animal enclosures is a stream that’s perfect for exploring. We visited after a recent rain and the water level was low enough for The Little Explorer to hop.
- Pretend to be monkeys. The kids enjoyed exploring the abandoned animal enclosures, pretending to be monkeys, birds, lions and more.
The Old Zoo Area Amenities
- The Old Zoo site features abandoned animal cages, a large grassy expanse and a stream (or dry creek bed, depending on when you visit)
- Several picnic tables are available
- Crowds at the Old Zoo site do not seem to be an issue (we visited on a holiday & saw just a few other people)
- A small parking area off Griffith Park Drive provides free access to the Old Zoo Picnic Area
- No restrooms available at the Old Zoo site
- Griffith Park houses The Los Angeles Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, the Autry National Center, Travel Town, a Merry-Go-Round, golf courses and more; there are also miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding and biking
- Call the Griffith Park Visitor’s Center for more info at (323) 644-2050
The Old Zoo at Griffith Park is located at:
4730 Crystal Springs Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027