The Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary is home to over 100 different species of animals, and there are over 300 animals living at the zoo. The zoo is located west of Austin on Rawhide Trail, which can be found by turning off of Highway 290 West shortly after its intersection with Highway 71 West, onto Thomas Springs Road, which intersects with Rawhide Trail a few miles down the road
The Austin Zoo includes educational facilities and beautifully landscaped grounds and gardens, as well as habitats for bears, lions, and numerous exotic birds and reptiles. A petting zoo allows visitors to have close contact with harmless species of animals, and patrons can purchase feed at a nominal cost in order to interact more closely with the animals, which is a special treat for children visiting the zoo.
The primary purpose of the sanctuary is to provide rescue, rehabilitation and education to assist animals in the zoo. The zoo had over 200,000 visitors last year, and is a popular destination for families in the Austin area. Originally, the Austin Zoo was a goat ranch, but in 1990, it changed its name to Good Day Ranch, and at that time, the animals consisted mostly of deer, goats, donkeys, ponies, and pigs, with few exotic animals.
The zoo is open every day from 10:00am to 6:00pm, except Thanksgiving and Christmas, and admission is $7.00 for adults and $4.00 for children, with discounts for seniors, students and military personnel, so the zoo is quite affordable for the whole family. Yearly passes for unlimited visits are also available for individuals as well as families, and proceeds go to providing more homes for the many animals that are turned away since the zoo is regularly inundated with requests to rescue various kinds of animals, both domesticated and wild.
Among the animals at the zoo are big cats such as lions, panthers, tigers, and jaguars, along with Old World and New World Monkeys, as they are classified, and amphibians such as toads, frogs, salamanders and the like. There is also a reptile habitat that includes snakes iguanas, geckos, and tortoises, and various exotic birds, which include lovely peacocks strolling around on the grounds. There is also a sanctuary for unwanted and unusual livestock, many of which have been rescued from those who no longer want them, such as llamas, pot-bellied pigs and miniature donkeys, as well as longhorn cattle.
The Austin Zoo supports a pre-school television program called “Sprout Please!” which provides educational content for young children, and the zoo is also helping promote an appearance by animal expert Jack Hanna, who will appear at the Paramount Theater in downtown Austin in early October to speak about his experiences with wildlife. Another yearly event at the zoo is called Boo at the Zoo, which is held during the week of Halloween for children, along with their parents, to visit the zoo in their costumes and have a safe opportunity to see the animals and ride a “haunted train”.
The zoo is kept in the dark during these nights of fun and parents are encouraged to bring flashlights for peering into the cages and habitats, although some overhead lighting will be provide. Picnics are welcomed during the Halloween event, and the activities promise fun for all.
The Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary is an Austin treasure, and worth the short drive out to the hill country, so keep the zoo in mind this Halloween, or any day of the week!