Searching for something to do on a weekend, I rec'd a Groupon for discounted tickets to the Austin Zoo & Animal Sanctuary so I decided to go ahead & purchase. The tickets to the zoo are only $8 ea for adults but what the heck, why not take advantage of a special offer. When we arrived there, it'd been open for only 30 mins but the parking lot was already filling up. It's a small lot so I'd advise anyone wanting to visit, get there early, otherwise you may find it difficult to park near the entrance, we had to park in the adjacent parking area further from the entrance but we still got a spot, just remember to get there at opening time (10am) or perhaps a tad earlier to get a good spot. The park, we found out, is all about the animals. All the animals are rescues. They come from a variety of places, a lot come from dire circumstances or cruel confinement or were donated. The animal areas are REALLY nice compared to other zoos that have concrete all over but this zoo uses the natural terrain to make their enclosures & tries to preserve the trees, etc. that were already in place in that pen. They have a wide variety of animals from hybrid wolves, to peacocks, to ducks, to hogs, to reptiles, leopards (black & golden), to large tortoises, to birds to lions, tigers, (and bears!). The park is really lovely. It's situated in the hill country & has AMAZING views! It's SHADY, breezy when we went, has a lot of places to sit & rest. You can take your water in w/you too! It also has a petting zoo where you can feed the animals in the petting area. All the animals are well cared for & the zoo keepers are constantly working on the pens, cleaning them, feeding the animals, always doing something. The staff is extremely friendly, always happy & able to answer questions about the facility or the animals & truly act like they really enjoy working there. The zoo also has a train ride that does cost a nominal extra $2.50 for adults (sorry don't know kids' pricing on anything) but it's a pretty ride & decent ride so be sure to ride it if you go & they even have stroller parking by the ticket booth at the train. It's a very family friendly facility too. The peacocks have free reign over the park, they go wherever they please which is a nice touch. We really enjoyed our visit & look forward to our next visit. I hate to say it but we actually had a better time here than at the San Antonio Zoo. I certainly was VERY impressed w/the cleanliness & the super nice enclosures for the animals & again the awesome setting & views! The Austin Zoo is not hard to find but on the way there, we got kinda turned around trying to get to the zoo. It's really not hard to find at all as far as directions go, I just think I was directionally challenged on this trip, lol. We took the feeder road b/c that's what the instructions said so I'm really not sure if you can get to Circle Dr (which goes to Rawhide Trail) from the actual 259 W hwy, I'm sure you could, I just don't want to give false info if I'm not sure myself b/c even the billboard we saw on I-35 said to take Ben White Blvd, not 259. From what I could tell on the map though, according to the map, it appears that you can take 259 & still get there. Next time we go, I may just try that & post an update here w/my findings. I'm sure those that may know for sure, though, can post that info in addition to what I've written. If you do take the feeder rd all the way down, we found that 259 eventually turns left at an intersection, we had to turn around & go back as I couldn't get over in time to turn as the sign telling me to turn was at the actual turn, not ahead of time enough for me to get over so just be aware of that. Also, the billboard on I-35 said to "follow the signs" to the zoo. Well, there were no signs that we saw until you turned on Circle Drive & they were signs that were plain white w/red lettering, more like homemade type signs, nothing big or fancy to get your attention, not billboard signs or hwy dept signs, so just keep that in mind when watching for the signs to the zoo. I just wanted to mention it just in case someone who wanted to visit was relying on signs that may not actually be there & think they were lost. The directions I got online are pretty straight forward so you shouldn't have any trouble finding it. Just a side note though, you turn right onto Rawhide Trail from Circle drive but the turn on Rawhide from Circle Dr comes at you last minute in a curve...the ZOO sign is RIGHT there at Rawhide, not before the turn, so we got no warning to turn & almost missed it. Overall, WELLLL worth visiting, especially b/c it's an animal rescue. Don't let the word "animal rescue" turn you away, it's not your typical concrete everywhere, animals in cages rescue. The PR lady told us that they give their animals a choice, inside or outside which I really thought was something. We were COMPLETELY & pleasantly surprised at this facility...definitely give it a visit! You won't be sorry!
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