The Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary is unique and different than other zoos—in a good way. Of course they have most of the animals you’d expect to see at a zoo—monkeys, bears, big cats, reptiles, birds and more. But the Austin Zoo is more than just a place to view animals. It’s a non-profit dedicated to assisting animals through rescue, rehabilitation and education. Many of the animals come from bad situations, and the zoo provides them a healthy, happy forever home. The animals are well-loved and cared for and it shows.
On a recent visit with my family we stopped to chat with one of the employees. My ever-curious kids had a hundred questions about the ginormous pig (boar?) we’d just seen (“Is it a boy or a girl? What does it eat? Do you bathe it? Does it say “oink oink?” Does it smile?”). The friendly employee took the time to answer—or at least attempt to answer—all of them. She educated them and through her words you could tell that working at the zoo is more than just a job. Her passion for the animals was evident.
Another thing I love about the Austin Zoo & Sanctuary is the beautiful setting and natural grounds. It’s located not far from Highway 71 (map), yet with all the trees and natural surroundings you feel a world away. It definitely has that hill country vibe and doesn’t feel commercialized at all.
Peacocks roam the grounds, showing off their feathers whenever the mood strikes. At one point a chicken actually hopped in our stroller (my youngest wasn’t in it at the time but thought it was hilarious). Kids can wander around, explore and watch animals in as natural a habitat as possible.
When you arrive you can purchase $2 bags of food for the animals. We bought a few and I’m glad we did, because feeding the deer and goats was truly one of the highlights. I know, I know—even after visiting regal tigers, massive lions and swinging monkeys my kids were excited about goats (no offense to the goats of course—but really?). I guess there’s just something about an animal eating right out of your hand that delights and terrifies kids at the same time.
We all laughed when one feisty little guy snatched the entire paper bag from my daughter’s hand and swallowed it on the spot! We mentioned this to an employee just to be sure he would be ok. She assured us that wasn’t the first time and he’s fine. Fiber.
Another hit with the little ones is the train that meanders through the zoo. It runs at the top of every hour, so be sure to plan ahead so you can catch it. Also, you are welcome to bring your own food and drink into the grounds, and there are plenty of shaded tables to break for a picnic. All in all it’s a great way to spend a day with the kids, and the admission price helps to benefit an important cause.
Finally, one more reason to love the Austin Zoo & Animal Sanctuary—they’re a sponsor of the Austin Gorilla Run this Saturday! The race, which benefits Mountain Gorillas, consists of hundreds of participants dressed up like Gorillas running through the streets of Austin. Hilarious. If any readers out there plan to participate, we want to see pictures! Beat your chest and head over to the Lake Travis Lifestyle Facebook Page to post your favorite pics.