Earlier this year, grizzly bears, mountain lions, and six other native California species moved into spacious new digs at the Oakland Zoo. Their accommodations—spread across 56 acres of land—come with serious perks, among them exquisite views of the San Francisco Bay Area, including that recognizable skyline glimmering across the bay. You can enjoy the vistas yourself by boarding the free gondola near the zoo entrance. On the four minute ascent, you'll sail above hills dotted with oak trees and wandering bison, then disembark at a visitor center and the Landing Café. Hungry? Grab a wood-fired pizza, then drink in the panorama from the café's sunny patio.
Once you've had your fill, stroll the California Trail, a quarter-mile boardwalk slated to open in June. Along the way, you'll see the native animals in areas modeled on their territories in the wild. "Each habitat has a different story to tell," says Joel Parrott, the zoo's president and CEO. "The focus of the trail is on California wildlife species that reside here today, along with native animals that are not in California anymore."
Although the view is impressive, the real scene stealers are the grizzly bears, who roam a habitat the size of two football fields. You can watch the magnificent creatures—former Dumpster divers rescued in Alaska—from four observation stations. A subterranean vantage point looks straight into a pool where the bears indulge in one of their favorite activities: swimming.
This article was first published in Summer 2018. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.