Journey around the world without ever leaving central California at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. This incredible zoo is home to more than 200 species and has interactive and award-winning habitats that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the California coast, the African savannahs or the Australian outback.
The zoo’s hours are scheduled to beat the Fresno heat so arrive when the gates open at 8 a.m. in the summer and at 9 a.m. the rest of the year. Start at Sea Lion Cove where you can see California sea lions and harbor seals in a habitat that mimics the coast. You can watch these animated creatures play from a cliff overlook or head to the underwater viewing area where you can watch them swim. This habitat was designed with eco-friendly wetlands landscaping which naturally filters the water. There’s also a sand play area for kids to feel like they really are at the beach.
Head to African Adventure where you can look out across 13 acres and imagine you’re on the savannah as you take in the views of lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, kudu and antelope. Don’t miss feeding the giraffes at Twiga Terrace. You’ll climb to a tall platform where you’ll be at eye level with these incredible creatures. All interactive experiences at the zoo are to the animals’ preference so if the giraffes don’t feel like interacting, they aren’t forced to come over. That said, resident Jabari will almost certainly stop by as he loves his lettuce. This experience costs extra but if you purchase the Total Zoo Experience when you get your tickets online or at the gate, giraffe feeding is included.
For lunch, grab a table at Kopje Lounge in African Adventure. This restaurant serves food like sandwiches, pizzas and salads, but the best part is getting to watch the animals out the windows while you eat. There’s another café as well as a coffee shop on property and guests are always welcome to bring picnic lunches. Be sure to pack your reusable water bottle as the zoo has filtered filling stations to keep you hydrated.
In the afternoon head to Stingray Bay, another attraction included in the Total Zoo Experience. Here you can feed stingrays in a shallow pool. It’s a totally safe experience for the whole family. There’s also sharks in this part of the zoo, though not in the same pool.
While the zoo is a perfect self-guided experience, it’s a great idea to scan the QR code at the entrance when you arrive to get the day’s schedule of events along with a map. Keeper Chats happen at various times throughout the day and they’re well worth scheduling your visit around. The zookeepers are a wealth of knowledge, and you’ll get to see animals participating in enrichment experiences. The topics of these chats range from sea lions to reptiles to elephants. A guest favorite is the daily Winged Wonders Bird Show which happens at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. You’ll get the opportunity to see a variety of birds from around the world take flight.
Keep an eye out for Kingdoms of Asia opening in early 2023. This brand-new exhibit will feature animals from across Asia like Malayan tigers, sloth bears, Komodo dragons and Sunda gharial, a relative of the crocodile.
Learn more and buy tickets at www.fresnochaffeezoo.org.
Fresno Chaffee Zoo
894 W. Belmont Ave., Fresno, CA 93728