Pro Tips for Enjoying Oregon Zoo Summer Concerts

I don’t often write about work in this space, because honestly – I can’t even manage to blog most of the things I want to from my non-work life. Why would I spend more of my free time writing about work?

But last weekend, my friends and I bought tickets to Old Crow Medicine Show. I figured since I was just like any other guest, I should share my advice for making the most of a summer concert experience.

Your concert ticket will allow you in to the zoo at any point during the day. Some people come at 3, find a place in line, then either sit and wait or explore the zoo. The concert lawn area doesn’t open for concert ticket-holders until 5, so they basically camp out.  If you want to do that, either bring a buddy and trade-off, or bring a book and enjoy some down time. It’s a great time to check out the wildlife – how many concert venues have animals to look at??

But I have no interest in dedicating my whole afternoon to finding an only-slightly-better concert lawn spot. The farthest spot on the main lawn is only 200′ from the stage – so why go so early? My friends and I MAXed from the Hollywood District at around 5ish, and all we carried in were a couple sheets to sit on, our wallets and refillable water bottles. It was a dream come true to not be hassling with chairs, baskets, etc. We found a spot on the southeast area of the lawn, in front of the 2nd set of bleachers. It was great.

TriMet MAX Lightrail is an easy way to get to Oregon Zoo Summer Concerts

Take MAX light rail to the zoo any day, but especially for a concert. See how we are unencumbered by picnic baskets and chairs? Traveling LIGHT is so much more easy and fun than lugging all that stuff!


1. Definitely bring sunscreen and sunglasses and/or hat, as most of the lawn is in the full sun until after the show starts.

2. Refillable water bottles: there are plumbed cambros in a couple places around the concert lawn so you can refill your bottle, but the real trick is to take it in to the soda machine in AfriCafé. You can’t fill it with soda, obviously, but there is ice, and each soda machine has a water spigot as well. COLD water. Just make sure your bottle is empty by the time you enter the zoo.

3. A sheet or blanket to sit on. I recommend a sheet because it’s lighter-weight and thus easier to carry. Can you tell I don’t like carrying stuff? Even if you end up on the bleachers (which are actually pretty great), you will want to fold up the sheet as a pad to sit on.

4. ID and money. Most food & beverage outlets take cards, but when I was there a construction act had cut the line for credit cards so everything was cash-only. Since the zoo is under construction all around the concert lawn for the next 2 years, bring cash just in case. You never know. There are a few ATMs, but I’ve seen them run out of cash on really busy nights.


1. Don’t Bring Food – There are some delicious and interesting new menu items INSIDE AfriCafé – gourmet bleu cheese burger w/fresh pears, a muffaletta sandwich, impressive artisanal cheese plate or charcuterie plate. The outside carts serve what you would probably expect at an outdoor concert – brats, nachos, curry, etc. My point is, DON’T LUG AROUND A PICNIC BASKET. It’s not necessary. The food isn’t as expensive as you would think it would be inside a concert venue. Definitely check out the whole menu inside AfriCafé before settling for the carts.

food options for Oregon Zoo Summer Concerts

This charcuterie plate, locally-sourced, abundant, and delicious, was only $11. We ALL ate off it! This is available INSIDE the AfriCafé restaurant, along with other gourmet options. Oh – it’s also all served on compostible bamboo!

2. Don’t Bring Beverages – they are not allowed. You’ll either have to donate them to the food bank or return them to a vehicle. There are lockers by the restrooms in the main entry, so you could lock them up there. But save yourself the hassle and just don’t bring them.

3. Don’t Bring Chairs – unless your back can’t handle sitting on the ground. If you need a chair, you have to get a low chair. The back of the chair can’t be higher than 30″. That’s about standard table-height, in case you were wondering. The seat can’t be higher than 8″ off the ground. But GUYS – just don’t bring chairs if you don’t need them! My friends and I all sat around in a loose circle so we could all interact with each other. Once the music started, we traded off going down to the front to dance and staying on the sheet. When we were all together, we were all dancing. Chairs would have been wasted.


1. Some people bring kids. You have to pay full price for them, and kids tend to poop out early. These friends I went with are all also parents, and we were MORE THAN thrilled to have a night out without the kiddos!

2. I’m opposed to carrying extra things, but if you’re not, you might want to consider a sun umbrella (assuming it will be sunny when you go)


What to wear to an outdoor concert

A cute hat is the perfect accessory on a sunny day at an outdoor concert!


1. Wear comfortable clothes. Maxi dresses are popular, as they are super comfortable and not short. “Not short” is kinda crucial when you are sitting on a blanket on a lawn. If you wear heels, make them wedges, as you’ll be on the lawn. Yes, I’ve seen chicks in stilettos trying to navigate the lawn! As a person who wears high heels every day*, let me just tell you – there is a time and place for a stiletto, and an outdoor concert is not it.

2. Be on the lawn by 6:30 so you can watch the Wild Life Life show. They will fly 2-3 birds over the concert lawn, which is pretty cool. If you are really lucky, they will fly Chinook the bald eagle. If Chinook is participating, she will fly over the lawn from the direction of the Elephant Museum. Chinook is worth stopping and watching for!

3. If you have extra tickets, or need an extra ticket, check in with the reception office. Better yet, call them early and let them know your situation. If you are really nice, they might hook you up with someone who is either trying to sell or trying to buy a ticket. Scalpers hang around outside trying to buy tickets for half price and selling them for more than the face value. I just need to mention that scalping is illegal, btw. I had an extra ticket, and the guy out front offered me $20 on a $34 ticket. He was selling some other tickets for $40. Don’t support that guy! A very nice young lady had been in the office earlier looking to buy a ticket, so I sent her a text and she bought my extra ticket for $30. Score for us both!

If you try to buy off of someone on Craigslist or something like that, don’t pay more than face value, and only buy it if it’s a real ticket. You can print as many print-at-home tickets as you like, but only the first one through the gate will scan you in. Don’t be the schmuck whose ticket is a duplicate so you can’t go in the concert.


Let me know any additional tips or advice you have, and I will add it to my list. And I’d love to know if any of this helps you – so leave me some feedback!

Have fun!


*except for right now, because I have a sprained ankle

In case you were wondering: while I do work at Oregon Zoo, my employment has nothing to do with this post. I bought my tickets, and paid for everything. I have some insider knowledge about navigating this experience because I managed this concert series for over a decade, but all opinions are my own.


  1. Sara July 1, 2013
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  2. Poppy July 6, 2013
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  3. Tamara Ross July 16, 2013
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