The Old L.A. Zoo sits quietly within Griffith Park. The Zoo is certainly a lesser known attraction in L.A. You won’t be able to read about it in your Frommer’s travel guide, and it is not an attraction that the city of Los Angeles is particularly proud of. Nonetheless, I am happy to list the Old L.A. Zoo amongst the other “traditional” L.A. attractions, since I consider it one of the most fascinating places in the city. (I am kind of a hipster like that).
The Zoo moved to Griffith park in 1913. The Zoo was nearly closed three years later when the health department discovered that its sewage was not entirely excluded from the Los Angeles River. The city park commissioners and other local authorities considered it run-down until a short period in the mid 30′s when it was renovated. Then the criticism and embarrassment continued until its last days in the 60′s when it was replaced by the current Los Angeles Zoo nearby. And there the Old Zoo still sits basking in its “abandondness”. The city seems to insist that the Zoo is off limits but nothing prevents you from exploring the grounds. In fact, you will likely run into some adults walking their dogs or having a picnic, or teenagers monkeying around. The various cages that you see surrounding the picnic area comprise the “Monkey Habitat”. The fake boulder enclosures housed bears (at least they did when they were featured in the movie Anchorman).
The Zoo grounds are not too extensive. Consider hiking Griffith park, vising the actual Los Angeles Zoo, or visiting the Autry National Center of the American West (featured here) while you are in the area.
Web Urbanist lists the Old L.A. Zoo as one of the 7 Abandoned Wonders of the United States. Now that is something to be proud of!
Directions: Start from Los Feliz Blvd. and Crystal Springs Dr.. Head North into Griffith Park along Crystal Springs Dr.. Make a left on Griffith Park Dr. (after the Merry Go Round). Go down Griffith Park Dr. for about half a mile or so until you see a parking lot on your left. The road will start to turn north shortly after that so if you go along the turn you know you have gone to far. Walk until the parking lot dead ends and continue up a slight incline and keep your eye out for the Zoo picnic area.
You can learn more about the Old L.A. Zoo here: http://english.glendale.cc.ca.us/zoo.html