What’s not to love about the zoo? Animals. Junk food. Souvenirs. Throw into the mix some killer food truck action, a few booze carts, and live musical performances, and you have Roaring Nights at the LA Zoo, the zoo’s summer nightlife series. Turns out that sans sun and cranky kids crawling all over the place, the zoo is a pretty decent place to party.

I strolled in among a pretty young and fashionable crowd — impressive, zoo! Then again, I’m pushing 30 and my wardrobe consists mainly of clothes that I stole from ex-boyfriends, so maybe I’m easily dazzled. I got in line at the first beverage cart, one of many spread liberally throughout the open areas of the zoo. Plenty of people milled around, but not so many as to make the wait for my rum & coke uncomfortable. The bartenders were notably friendly and enthusiastic, and I started to notice a faint air of mischievous conspiracy among all in attendance, even those spending the evening at work. It was like we were all doing something naughty together, being at the zoo after dark. I was digging it.

Drink in hand, I stopped to listen to a pop-up zookeeper at the crocodile exhibit, who politely and earnestly answered all of our dumbass crocodile questions (“Are they afraid of the dark?”). I encountered lots more zoo staff throughout the evening, and they were all friendly and helpful in every way. Security was particularly prominent, and I don’t blame them — booze and wild animals don’t necessarily mix, so it makes sense that they’d be on the lookout for foul play. The crowd was fairly mellow all night, though, which is pretty much what I expected from other people who like the idea of chilling at the zoo after closing.

The Grilled Cheese Truck

I pounded a delicious sharp cheddar/bacon/fresh basil grilled cheese from LA’s famous The Grilled Cheese Truck and wished I had more stomach capacity when I saw the rest of the food truck feast: Ragin’ Cajun on Wheels, Coolhaus, Komodo Truck, and Crepe’n Around — truly a food truck for every taste.

The zoo had plenty to offer that night, some of it neither animal nor music-related. Comedians Rob Gleeson and Jonny Loquasto entertained at the zoo’s Adventure Theater, but I didn’t get a chance to check out their acts because I was distracted by the Game Stop where visitors played Jenga, Connect 4, and other table games — yes, right in the middle of the dang zoo! I ultimately decided that it was a bad idea to sit down and school everyone there, which I would have because I rule at games. I mean, we’re all having a nice night at the zoo — no sense in making a whole bunch of people feel terrible about themselves.

So Many Wizards

I wrapped up the night watching a pretty sweet live performance by LA’s So Many Wizards, which was definitely the best music I’ve ever heard played next to an elephant enclosure. No joke: Billy the elephant was just steps away as SMW rocked out before a respectably-sized crowd. Their set reminded me of a contemporary version of ’90s college rock — They Might Be Giants meets Weezer meets someone new and hip that I’m not cool enough to know about. The high-energy performance was a great finale to an excellent evening spent at the LA Zoo!

If you want to get in on this after-dark zoo experience, Roaring Nights continues for the next two Thursdays in July! Learn more and buy tickets at their event website. Between the music, the adult beverages, the food, and the animals, you’re guaranteed to enjoy yourself.