Compass: Abandoned Zoo

This week, we’ll go to California for one of the most eccentric places I have visited. It was April of 2014 and my entire family had gone to California to see family friends. After we had been there for a few weeks, we went to a tourist attraction with the friends we were staying with.

Griffith Zoo is in Los Angeles, California and, according to Wikipedia, was city-owned. It was open from 1912 to 1966 and was fairly successful in its time operating. The zoo closed but the buildings remained, to this day, actually. Unofficially, this tourist location is called the Abandoned Zoo. The animal enclosures, paths, and hidden hallways are standing and available to the public. Since it is a public attraction, many people have done graffiti on the walls and left trash on the ground. The following picture was taken by my mom in a cage that, in the day, would have been hidden to the public. (It’s a little bit blurry.)

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After we parked the car, we walked to the first enclosures which looked like sandstone. Each of the few enclosures was open and had picnic tables in them. One of the picnic tables had “hippies” who were playing music. Another had many dogs and their owners with a framed picture of a dog sitting on the table. My family often laughs at this memory because we couldn’t figure out if the gathering was a birthday or a funeral for the dog.

After we took pictures in the only available enclosure, we hiked and saw all of the sheds, cages, and pathways that led us around the zoo. One of the coolest areas was a rocky, graffitied staircase leading down.

We saw where the employees used to feed the animals, where the public stood and watched, and even where the resources, like food, were kept. It was cool to walk around and imagine what it would have been like one hundred years ago. Even though the animals and the zoo goers were long gone, it still felt like a place of entertainment and fun.

My favorite part was comparing then and now. When it first opened, I bet it was lively and whimsical. Children pointed in amazement as they saw their favorite animals and parents smiled in amusement. I can only guess the fun that was had at the Griffith Zoo. Now, the Abandoned Zoo serves as a blast to the past and a canvas for illegal creative expression. The public flocks to the attraction because we like to imagine what took place before our time. It somehow makes us feel big for a moment.

Traveling often has that effect on people: it makes us feel big for that moment. At the same time, we are humbled that we get to experience something so cool. Stumbling upon the Abandoned Zoo was one my favorite memories from our 2014 California trip and I’d like to think that I’ll never forget it.