Oregon Zoo

Awesome beasts native to America have a home alongside exotic and endangered species from around the world at this picturesque Portland attraction.

Gaze at the majestic big cats of Africa, see an underwater view of the flooded Amazon Forest and enjoy the graceful spectacle of the Asian elephants at the Oregon Zoo.

Reserve at least half a day to see the 64-acre (26-hectare) zoo in Washington Park in the West Hills. There are five main exhibit areas to explore: the Great Northwest, Pacific Shores, Fragile Forests, Asia and Africa.

In the Asia exhibit, you won’t miss those highly sociable giants, the Asian elephants. For 50 years the zoo has been successfully breeding this endangered species, which is smaller and heavier than the African elephant. This exhibit also has island pigs of Asia. In order to see the nocturnal Malayan sun bears, take advantage of ZooSnooze and spend the night at the zoo September to mid-June, Tuesdays through Saturdays (except holidays).

At the Fragile Forests exhibit, look out for the green anaconda in the shallow waters of the Amazon Flooded Forest. Out of the water, you might see toucans, howler monkeys or an ocelot.

One of the zoo’s cutest critters, the sea otter, is at the Pacific Shores exhibit in Steller Cove. Pacific Shores also has polar bears, penguins and the fascinating Insects Zoo. Try to find the Australian walking stick or hear the Madagascar hissing cockroach.

If you need to rest your feet, hop on the Zoo Loop, a train tracking a 1-mile (1.6 kilometer) route around the zoo’s perimeter (note: animals are not visible from the train). Trains also head further afield to the International Rose Test Garden on the Washington Park and Zoo Railway line.

In winter, the trains are decorated as part of the Zoolights show, when the zoo becomes a wonderland of trees laden with lights. During summer, attend one of the many concerts on the lawn.

Prices on the second Tuesday of every month are discounted but these days do get busy. Surprisingly, the zoo isn’t a bad place to visit in the rain as most of the exhibits offer some shelter as you watch the animals.