Zoo La-La! How lucky are we to have our San Antonio Zoo as one of our many world-class attractions? Founded in 1914, the zoo is a 56-acre home to a wide variety of animals representing 750 species. It’s open year-round and welcomes more than 1,000,000 guests annually – 13,155 of those being children participating in education programs and 80,000 school children coming on field trips.

TripAdvisor ranks the zoo in their Top 10 New Experiences in the World list, and Parent Magazine includes it in their Top 10 Zoos for Kids list. In honor of our city’s 300th Anniversary, I’m ranking the San Antonio Zoo No. 34 in my 300 Reasons to Love San Antonio list.

Through its passion and expertise in animal care, conservation and education, the zoo’s mission is to inspire its community to love, engage with, act for and protect animals and the places they live. Along with viewing all of the beautiful animals, you can dine with giraffes and hippos, play with hundreds of brightly colored, nectar-eating lorikeets, feed the tortoises and experience 30 different species of butterflies floating freely in their lush butterfly habitat.

San Antonio’s first zoo consisted of a collection of animals assembled in San Pedro Park in the 1800s. In 1914, Colonel George W. Brackenridge, one of the city’s leading citizens and founder of the San Antonio Express-News, placed buffalo, elk, deer, monkeys, a pair of lions, and four bears on land he had deeded over to the city in what is now known as Brackenridge Park. This collection became the San Antonio Zoo.

In November 1929, two of the first cageless exhibits in America – the Barless Bear Terraces and the Primate Paradise – opened, offering visitors unprecedented views of animals. When the Richard Friedrich Aquarium was dedicated in 1948, it was described in the local press as “the world’s greatest.” The Hixon Bird House, funded through the efforts of Colonel Frederick C. Hixon, opened in 1966, featuring a simulated tropical rain forest and free-flying birds. The zoo’s bird collection is now one of the world’s largest.

There’s no shortage of great events going on at the zoo. On Thursday, May 23, don’t miss Zoo La-La: A Taste of San Antonio fundraiser, 7-10:30 p.m., where you can sip, savor and support the zoo while sampling food from 50 of San Antonio’s premiere restaurants! Stroll through the zoo’s pathways and animal habitats while enjoying live music on three stages and sampling local craft beer and wine at this adult night out.

And every Saturday night, June 22-Aug. 10, it’s Jungle Boogie Night, beginning at 6 p.m. When the sun goes down, the zoo transforms into a roaring good time with live music, happy hour specials, food trucks and family games.

Well done, San Antonio!