Griffith Park feels like the antithesis of downtown Los Angeles. I felt like I could stretch out and breathe in this gorgeous green space. There are several reasons to take the trip out to Griffith Park like a view of the Hollywood sign, an Observatory with a Tesla coil (!) and frequent art instillation and events. But one of the oddest reasons to visit Griffith Park is to find the urban ruins within it. There is an abandoned zoo you can walk through that even contains picnic tables in case you want to nosh a bit before you leave.
The Griffith Park Zoo was opened in 1912 on the site of a former ostrich farm and closed in the mid 60’s.
Los Angeles invites her neighbors to see THE COLONY OF ANIMAL FOLKS! … Bizarre, fascinating, are the sights in the zoo at Griffith Park! Here, majestically guarding his mate, stalks a black mane lion-what a handsome specimen he is! With stately mien a herd of elk grazes unaware of visitors … wallabies, dwarf kangaroos, exhibit their ability as jumpers … over fifty monkeys perform acrobatics and “show off” to the amusement of onlookers … zebras, deer, Brahma Sacred Cows of India, antelope, bears, camels, and numerous other strange beasts make up this picturesque animal colony. Chattering for admiration are hundreds of brilliantly plumaged … talking birds and scores of other striking and beautiful winged creatures! … Hours on end visitors are enthralled, entertained, amused in the veritable fairyland of nature’s own folks! –Ad in the Los Angeles Times, November 15, 1936
Criticized for the small enclosures, a larger and more modern zoo was opened just to the north still in Griffith Park and the old zoo was left to ruin. I’m not sure when the picnic tables were added. However, I am sure that the graffiti is current, as a lot of it centered about Trump and the presidential election 5 months from now. Click for more Griffith Park Zoo history.
If you are limited on time in Los Angeles and this is off your route I might skip this. It was fun, but heading to the west side of the park gives you more bang for your buck. We visited on the Fourth of July and a lot of my preferred destinations were closed, so the abandoned zoo jumped up from “maybe” to a “must do” on my LA list.
Griffith Park is reachable by bus on the east and the subway on the west (as well as Uber and taxi, of course). The abandoned zoo site is on the east side, and pretty close to the bus stop. The walk to the site is easy to moderate. There is a little incline, and I don’t think it would qualify as handicap accessible. Look for the signs for the “Zoo Picnic Area” at the Griffith Park Merry – Go – Round.