The first thing to realize is that this is NOT the San Antonio Zoo. Not even close. But then again, it doesn’t pretend to be. In fact, it’s more animal sanctuary than a typical big-city zoo, and it doesn’t get a lot of attention in the Austin Attractions arena.
Located just southwest of Austin, the zoo was originally a goat farm. In 1990, it became the Good Day Ranch and began caring for mostly hard-up domestic animals such as goats, pigs, and donkeys. Kind of like Old McDonald, but where no one gets eaten.
Full of shade-packed trees, the Austin Zoo is a sanctuary to animals that are rescued and, many times, rehabilitated. Set on 15-acres on the southwest edge of Austin, the zoo allows Austin families to get a close-up look at over 300 animals, representing more than 100 different species.
The zoo/sanctuary has grown since then and now includes plenty of exotic animals in need of rescue and/or rehabilitation. In the Big Cats category, there are African Lions, Bengal Tigers, Cougars, and Jaguars, one of which suffers from a pretty obvious case of cataracts.
The Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary does important work, cleaning up and taking responsibility for other people’s messes. The sanctuary may never win some kind of Five Star Austin Tourism Award, but if you’ve got kids, and the weather’s not too insanely hot, consider adding this to your Austin Things To Do list. It’s a good cause, and there’s a petting zoo as well. The zoo also accommodates birthday parties.
And if you’re feeling particularly generous, the zoo is also a 501(c)(3) non-profit – direct contributions are always appreciated and needed.
Catch a glimpse of both exotic and domestic animals at the Austin Zoo, and learn about where they come from, what they like to eat, and what their natural habits are like. From longhorns to donkeys, goats and snakes, to the more exotic binturong, coatimundi, and the serval, the Austin Zoo gives one a glimpse of animal life both in America and around the world.
Many of the animals at the Austin Zoo come from other facilities that are being retired due to age, health or other issues; animals that were seized in animal cruelty cases; retired laboratory research animals; and individuals’ exotic pets they needed to rehome due to changes in the owner’s lifestyle or the inability to provide appropriate care for these pets. The mission of Austin Zoo is to assist animals in need through rescue, rehabilitation and education.
Following Hurricane Ike, the zoo acquired four abandoned wolf hybrids from the Texas Gulf Coast Region in 2009. And what zoo would be complete without monkeys? There are currently three species of monkeys along with an assortment of other miscellaneous creatures including black bears, ring-tailed lemurs, and porcupines.
Be sure to purchase animal food ($2.50) in the gift shop to feed the goats, deer, sheep, llamas, and pigs.
Every Tuesday from 11am to noon, the Austin Zoo offers a program designed for a parent/guardian and a child, ages 2-5 years old, to spend time learning together. Weekly classes will focus on a monthly theme, and participants will be able to visit animal exhibits to get the inside scoop on their care and life history, participate in hands-on activities such as crafts or science experiments. Take home a follow-up lesson to reinforce learning. The cost is an extra $5 for one parent/child, $3 per each additional child.
Ride the Train
Take a scenic 20-minute ride on the train to see some of the zoo’s off-display animals including emus, alpacas and longhorns. The ride can be somewhat interactive with your kids as the Zoo has placed art and items throughout the property. The cost is and additional $3, children under 2 are free.
Bonus: this train is covered so it would be a pleasant ride in the summer since the sun is partially blocked from shining directly down on you and your kiddos! Bonus: If you ride the train and visit with the animals at the Austin Zoo, you’ll earn two checks on your 2017 Austin Summer Fun Checklist!
10am – 6pm daily
Admission: $11 adults, $10 students, seniors and military, $8 children 12 and under. Group rates and annual memberships are available.
Food: Bring your own food and beverages or purchase drinks, snacks and shaved ice from the concession stand (Monday-Sunday, weekdays from 11am – 3 pm & weekends from 11am – 5 pm. There are many picnic benches under giant oak trees, offering lots of shade for hot summer months.
The Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary
10807 Rawhide Trail
Austin Texas 78736