If you visit Griffith Park in Los Angeles, you can ride a pony, see a legendary band play live at the Greek Theatre, or get a crystal clear view of Tinseltown’s celebrated H0llywood sign. You can also spend the afternoon exploring a serene abandoned zoo known as the Old Zoo Picnic Area. In lieu of the lions, tigers, and bears which once called the enclosure home, the Old Zoo Picnic Area is now home to several picnic tables and grills.
The Old Zoo Picnic Area was an active zoo from 1912 until the mid-1960s. The Los Angeles Zoo—as it was known—was initially home to 15 animals. Most of the Los Angeles Zoo was constructed in the 1930s by one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s alphabet agencies, which were federally funded projects that put unemployed Americans to work beautifying, building up, and culturally enriching the United States.
When the Los Angeles Zoo expanded and moved to a new location in the mid-1960s, the powers that be decided to keep the original site of the zoo intact because the enclosures had a great deal of historical significance since most of them were built during the Great Depression. The original Los Angeles Zoo was ultimately absorbed by Griffith Park and converted into a picnic area.
Visitors can explore cave enclosures that once housed big cats, primates, and lumbering bears. Onlookers can peer through steel bars and consider what life as a zoo animal would truly be like. Visitors can also walk in the footsteps of long retired zookeepers who watched over the zoo’s animals.
In true Los Angeles style, the Old Zoo Picnic Area has served as the backdrop for countless movies and photoshoots. Will Ferrell of Anchorman fame and the original Wonder Woman Lynda Carter both shot scenes at the Old Zoo Picnic Area. The Old Zoo Picnic Area is home to plenty of artificial caves, winding stairways, and kitschy rock sculptures that are ideal for selfies.
Visitors can access the Old Zoo Picnic Area via a parking lot and a short walk, or a rugged hike which features an iconic abandoned building which is nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains. The zoo’s animals may have vacated long ago, but the grounds of the Old Zoo Picnic Area are well kept. Don’t expect to see weeds and overgrown foliage near the picnic tables. Though slightly off the beaten path, the Old Zoo Picnic Area is a safe, family-friendly spot to spend an afternoon.
If you have often wondered if a zoo is the natural habitat of your wild younger brother or hyperactive cousin, the Old Zoo Picnic Area is the perfect place to test out your hypothesis. Most of the cages and enclosures in the Old Zoo Picnic Area are locked, but visitors can still explore several artificial caves and winding staircases. Most days, the Old Zoo Picnic Area is one of the quietest spots in all of Griffith Park. Visiting an abandoned zoo that is over a century old is akin to time travel.
Griffith Park Drive
Los Angeles, California, 90027