Oakland Zoo membership: is it worth it?

The Oakland Zoo is a perfect balance of animals, play areas, and (dare I say it?) rides for kids. In fact, there is so much other fun stuff going on, sometimes it’s a challenge to remember to see the animals. The nice thing about membership is that you can go, see an animal or two, have a meltdown, and leave without stressing about the price of admission.

But is it worth it? How many times do I need to go to the zoo to break even? Is it a good deal if my kids are toddlers or babies? Let’s break it down.

Perks of Membership:

  • Admission for one year
  • FREE admission 362 days of the year at The Oakland Zoo
  • FREE parking at The Oakland Zoo
  • FREE guest pass (for one-time use) for 2 adults and 2 children at The Oakland Zoo
  • FREE (8) coupons for rides
  • FREE roar! newsletter with advance notice of events, exhibitions, classes, and travel opportunities.
  • DISCOUNTS at the Gift Shop, for Zoo Camp, Birthday Parties, and special events such as Walk in the Wild and ZooLights
  • DISCOUNTED or FREE admission to over 125 zoos and aquariums nationwide
    • 50% off at Lindsay Wildlife Museum
    • 50% off at SF Zoo
    • 50% off SF Aquarium of the Bay
  • When a kid gets snoozy or worse, you can leave and not curse the entrance price (priceless)!

What Membership doesn’t get you:

  • Free admission to annual Zoo Lights events, birthday parties, special events
  • Additional guest passes

The break-even point:

Though pricey at $130 my family of five (two adults and up to four children between 2 and 17 allowed) would have to go to to the Oakland Zoo less than twice to offset the ~$75 of a visit (including admission for two adults ($15.75 x 2), 3 children ($11.75 x 3) and parking ($8)). That’s not even factoring in guest passes and ride tickets. It’s a slam dunk.

Two visits per year is very easy to meet. However, being members means we should go as often as we feel the urge to visit the monkeys, giraffes, lazy lions, and zoo train. Membership also means discounted admission to local attractions, we also get half off when visiting the grandparents at the Cleveland Zoo (no, I don’t mean to imply my parents live at the Zoo!).

When is it not worth it?

If your children are under age two, it may not be worth it yet; they’re still free. Can you glom onto a friends’ membership? Do the math on your own family and let us know if its worth it for you.

Other membership levels:

  • There are many other zoo membership levels depending on the size of your family and whether you want to include other caregivers.

[All photos Heather Flett; rate information updated 11/14]

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  1. Cara says

    A friend and I just got a family plus membership together — both of our names are on the card, and then it allows one “floating” adult, so that is for our respective husbands when they join us. We have never all gone at the same time (meaning the other family and our entire family), so this plan worked or us. It also includes 4 kids’ admission on every visit. It made it an even better deal for each family than if we had each bought the normal family membership.

  2. says

    Well, we used to have one- I usually ask for it as a gift for my daughter’s bday from the grandparents. We NEVER went as a family or on the weekend because it was too crowded. Then I was turned onto the Discover and Go program through the Alameda County library where you can reserve passes for free. No more membership for us!