Stories

We asked what the Zoo meant to you over the last 100 years and were overwhelmed by the flood of responses sharing stories and appreciation for our dedication to exemplary animal care and family enjoyment. We’ve loved, lost, and grew together with you, in ways only a family can, influencing our committed to the highest standards. Thank you for your continual support, engagement, and exploration of the animal world. Here’s to another 100 years!

"The Oakland Zoo didn’t just affect my life, it was my life and my family’s life. In 1922, Henry (great grandfather) and Sidney (grandfather) Snow founded the Zoo. Sidney was the Zoo Director from 1922 to his death in 1959. So, when my sister, Linda, and I came along in the 1950s, we were raised alongside the other “children” in the Zoo—Effie the Elephant, Rosebud the Chimp, and many more. We learned to value wildlife and the need for conservation and education. Of course, the practices have evolved greatly, but back then we had tea parties with monkeys, played with Effie, and handled lion cubs. We also valued community. Sidney was huge on involving community groups, hosting events, and engaging schools to bring students to the Zoo to learn about animals. I am not sure how he did it all—taking care and feeding all the animals while trying to raise money to support it all. He charged a small admission and sold Zoo Memberships; but at the end of the day, he had to make it all work. From about 1947–1977, our parents, John and Barbara Clark, owned the food and ride concessions; we thought everyone had their own merry-go-round and train. Basically, every day, including weekends and holidays, we worked – from selling popcorn, running the merry-go-round, to balancing the books. Now the Zoo is managed by the Conservation Society of California, the governing body contracted by the City of Oakland to run the Zoo. I can only wonder how proud Henry and Sidney would be to see the impact the Zoo is making on wildlife conservation and education. And, all these years later I have reconnected with the Zoo and am honored to serve as Co-President of the Board—interesting how life sometimes comes full circle. Happy 100th Birthday Oakland Zoo! Here’s to the next 100 years!"

Nancy Clark

Board Co-President and Great Granddaughter of Henry Snow, Co-Founder of Oakland Zoo

"Wow, what a century! From sun bears to giraffes, the Oakland Zoo has always delighted and inspired young minds. As a born-and-raised Oaklander, I interned at the Baby Zoo as a teenager, and I think that shoveling lots of poop was great training for a future in politics! Seriously though, if we didn’t already know how much the Zoo means to our community, we certainly were reminded during the pandemic-forced closure. I’ll never forget how families and children everywhere—like 6-year-old Andy Soulard—rallied to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help keep our beloved Oakland Zoo afloat during that tough time. The days of taking my now-teenaged children for strolls through the Zoo are in the past, but I still love visiting and seeing families from all over the world enjoy one of our city’s greatest treasures. Thank you for all you have done for my family and for countless families in these 100 years."

Libby Schaaf

Mayor of Oakland

“I’ve dived to the bottom of the great barrier reef and climbed the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Swam with humpback whales and became an advocate for autism. But it all started as a kid in zoo camp at the Oakland zoo. The zoo ignited my flame for conservation, compassion, and change I’ll hold with me for a lifetime...It was the only place that believed in my dreams as much as I did.”

Dr. Morgan Cornelius

1997 Zoo Camper and Oakland Zoo Volunteer Veterinarian

"The Oakland Zoo has been priceless to our family…It is and has always been a place for us to learn, grow, and have fun together. Now, more than ever, we appreciate having a safe, outdoor activity for our family.”

Amanda Tanimasa

"I have been going to the Oakland Zoo since my girls were in a stroller....they are now 58 and 60 years old...and oh boy has it improved in those years. I remember the old, outdated zoo. I am so proud of what the zoo has become and I advertise it to everyone visiting the bay area!"

Anne Easterwood and Gwenn Smith Olson

“Oakland zoo has always been our spot for family bonding. We love exploring and learning about the animals together!”

Annette Nelson

"I still remember her smiling face when she saw an elephant. She was too small to understand, but that was the first time she cooed, it was as if to tell us how much she enjoyed it. My heart is glowing remembering this...Oakland Zoo is one of our happy places. It's always fun and relaxing visiting there. And the best thing is you always hit your 12000 steps. What else do you need? Fun family time with a magic of health!!"

C H Vyas

"Wow—one hundred years…. It’s like a Disneyland predecessor!"

Clark Unterberg

"[Oakland Zoo] literally saved this stir crazy mom and new baby during the pandemic. I'll never forget the first outings we had there!"

Jamie Kind

"Our family has always loved the Oakland Zoo. Our children have celebrated birthdays, been there for the opening of the gondola, and had their first “rides”. We’ll be back for its 100th birthday in 2022!"

Jimena Smith

“I have been going to the zoo since I was a child. It has impacted me in many ways because it led to some of the best family memories. I have photos of me throughout the years in the turtle shell by the tortoises and now my daughter will get to take similar pictures in the same shell.”

Mackenzie Everitt

“We have been members since the pandemic has started. My husband and I started with two animal loving sons, ages 2 and 3 and have added one more to the family this past September…Their first zoo experience of course was an amazing one and in awe of every animal.”

Maureen Coloma

"We went to Oakland Zoo the day after we got married. We did not have plans to go on our honeymoon until the next week, so we decided to celebrate with our animal friends at the zoo. We spent the day visiting one of our favorite spots now as husband and wife. Little did we know that this was the last ‘free’ weekend before the world shutdown because of the pandemic, including getting our honeymoon postponed. So, all of 2020 when people asked where we went on our honeymoon we would say Oakland Zoo!"

Megan Mrtnz

"I am 52 and the earliest memory I have is at the Oakland Zoo. I was 2."

Norah Cline

"I began coming to the zoo in the early 1960's, as a small child…Later in life, I came to the zoo from time to time, watching it evolve into the amazing place it is today…Aside from being a father, nothing has brought me as much satisfaction and pleasure as being an Oakland Zoo docent…I love the zoo, the animals, talking with guests and knowing that I am adding to their visit and helping them leave more committed to helping conserve our precious wild friends. The Oakland Zoo IS my happy place."

Peter Coulombe

"30 years ago we moved to the neighborhood & became members. As we raised our daughter, we watched the zoo transform into what she calls "my zoo". It has become much more environmentally & animal friendly. Such a tranquil and educational experience each time we visit. I love sharing "our Zoo" with family & friends."

Rankie Olive

"My mother shared her love for the outdoors, nature, the ocean, and wildlife with us growing up near the Oakland Zoo, visiting regularly. The Zoo impacted our lives, and now my family's life! We truly enjoyed seeing the big cats, primates, turtles and would have to leave the petting zoo kicking and screaming! What's truly special is that my three children, especially my oldest daughter, spent a lot of time at the zoo. She attended zoo camp for years and then decided to become a counselor when she was older. The love and respect for all species on earth were truly elevated by all our experiences at the Oakland Zoo! Thank you for the first 100 years!"

Robert, Marilyn, Alana, Alexis & Arik Hoffman, but especially my mother Lucile!

“The Oakland Zoo was the first excursion we took our kids to during the pandemic. To see the animals for the first time in over a year was thrilling for everyone. We are proud zoo members.”

Stefani Madril

"My favorite place for many years! I was born in 1980 and been going ever since I can remember. Love Oakland Zoo.....happy 100 next year!!!"

Tony Smith

"I went as a child when the monkey enclosure went up and up and up right as you came in where the flamingos are now. Then when my children were little, we had a membership and visited often on the weekends for something to do. Flash forward many years later my oldest became a Teen Wild Guide and volunteered for many summers. Then went to UC Davis and got an animal biology degree because of her love of animals. Then she interned at the Oakland Zoo became an apprentice and now has her dream job as a zookeeper! My youngest works at the zoo in admin at 56 years old. I still LOVE the Oakland Zoo (land of Oz) for so many different reasons."

Yvonne Nickles

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#NoToPlastic Community Clean-Ups

More dates coming soon!

Join Oakland Zoo in Taking Action for whales, sea turtles, shorebirds and all native Wildlife! Volunteers meet at the Zoo and ride the Zoo Shuttle to a local Oakland bay-destined waterway to remove trash, including the ever-abundant plastics that harms and kills our seabirds, turtles, fish and more.

Cocktails & Conservation

September 28, 2022 | October 21, 2022

For 2022, join us LIVE in person or virtually as we feature some of the world’s most incredible conservationists. These heroes are working on the ground every day to save endangered species and their habitats. Join us in person or tune in to Facebook & YouTube Live to learn, ask questions, and be a part of the solution. Enjoy a signature cocktail crafted for your enjoyment from a local Bay Area restaurant or bar. This wildlife Happy Hour offers a shot of hope that we all need!

Earth Day

Thanks for a great event!

We are so excited to bring Earth Day back to the Zoo! Celebrate this wonderful planet we all call home with a day full of live music, animal encounters, entertainment performances, and booths of over 50 hands-on Earth Stations and local environmental organizations! Every visitor that attends gets a special eco-friendly gift on this day.

Brunch for the Wild Bunch

More dates in Spring 2023!

Enjoy the rare opportunity to place food inside habitats before the animals go out for the day. Place produce for the elephants, hide seeds for the baboons, spread snacks for the sun bears, toss treats around the grizzly yard, or feed giraffes. And of course, you’ll get to meet and greet with our amazing animal keepers!

Centennial Birthday Celebration at Snow Park

June 5, 2022

The official date of our founding is June 6, 1922, and we celebrated our birthday at our original birthplace, Snow Park, in downtown Oakland next to Lake Merritt. This extra special day was full of fun and festivities for all ages with live music, performances, food, drink, activities for the kids, and more. Thanks to all the Oakland-based business and organizations that attended. It was a wonderful day to celebrate not just the Zoo, but all of Oakland—the great city we live in and the history we all share together!

Walk in the Wild

June 25, 2022

Thank you for being part of this special event during Oakland Zoo's centennial anniversary and helping us raise over $300,000 for Oakland Zoo and its education programs. A big thank you to all the sponsors, patrons, and vendors for their generous support who made this event possible.

Boo at the Zoo

October 22-31, 2022

Calling all ghosts, goblins, and witches - join us for Boo at the Zoo! Enjoy this family-friendly Halloween event with a spooky animal-themed scavenger hunt to collect animal trading cards. Remember to dress in costume to enter our social media costume contest. Tickets go on sale in mid-September. This event sells out fast!!

Glowfari

November 11-23, 25-30, 2022 | December 1-23, 26-31, 2022

Glowfari is an unforgettable experience for all ages to enjoy! Featuring hundreds of larger-than-life glowing animal lanterns throughout the Zoo; and with all-new animals displays for 2022! Take a mile-long illuminated stroll through the Zoo and visit the desert with camels and bighorn sheep, have an African safari adventure with elephants, giraffes, and an 8-foot crocodile head, walk through the forests of Asia to meet red and giant pandas - and of course ride the gondola to California Trail. Finish the evening with a visit to Santa and ride the Express Train through our Winter Wonderland!