The World famous San Diego Zoo, one of the most visited (the zoo draws over 3 million people a year!) and priciest ($50 per person!) zoos around, is the city’s most prominent tourist attraction. Any trip to San Diego would not be complete without a visit to this wonderful zoo. Located on 100 acres in gorgeous Balboa Park, over 3700 animals and 700,000 exotic plants call the zoo home. It is a very pretty zoo to stroll around with nicely landscaped grounds, a diverse variety of plant life and plenty of shade.
The zoo is most notable for their Giant Panda Exhibit, being one of only a handful of US zoos to house pandas. The only other zoos with Pandas are the National Zoo in Washington DC, Zoo Atlanta, and the Memphis Zoo. If you head straight to the panda exhibit at opening, you will avoid the lengthy wait (oftentimes up to an hour!) and have more time to explore without feeling rushed, as well as obtain crowd free photos and videos of the 2 adorable Pandas!
Your admission ticket includes a few cool extras. The double decker Guided Bus Tour takes you on a 35 minute tour of most of the zoo grounds. This is where you will find the best overviews of the park, and hence, the prime photo opportunities. It’s a relaxing addition to your day of walking. I recommend taking the tour mid-day after your feet start tiring.
The Skyfari Aerial Tram ride provides a convenient and scenic means of transportation from one end of the park to the other. It’s a fun ride with nice views of the zoo, the Museum of Man, and even a hint of the San Diego skyline.
Other highlights at the zoo include an underwater hippo viewing area, an underwater polar bear viewing area, Australian Wonders (home to several koala bears), and Gorilla tropics (a lush tropical walk through area with waterfalls).
The San Diego Zoo is also known for its’ unique Animal Ambassador program. Here you will see Cheetahs and dogs living together! The dogs and cheetahs are paired together at a very young age to establish a bond. The purpose of the pairing is to make the cheetah more comfortable as dogs have a natural tendency to be relaxed around people.
Be aware that there is plenty of walking required at this zoo including hilly terrain so dress appropriately (gym shoes and preferably workout clothes). On the bright side, you will get in your daily workout and more as those miles will quickly rack up by the end of the day. On average, it will take about 4-5 hours to walk the entire zoo, although you can cut out some of this time if you choose to take the guided bus tour.
In the meantime, enjoy this photo tour of the San Diego Zoo and start planning your trip!
Locations, Hours, & Pricing
The San Diego Zoo is located at: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101. Hours are: 9am-6pm. Tickets are $50 per adult, $40 per child (ages 4-11). The 4D show is an extra 6 bucks. For details on membership and special experience pricing, visit the San Diego Zoo ticket website.
A few helpful tips for a smooth visit
*Wear gym shoes. You will be doing lots of walking through hilly terrain.
*Don’t forget about the gardens! There are several lovely gardens to explore including a beautiful Japanese garden with koi fish.
*Bring a few water bottles and snacks. Fortunately, you can bring outside food and drinks into the zoo. I recommend wearing a backpack.
*Wear sunglasses and bring a bottle of sunblock so you do not have to waste money at the gift shop.
*Arrive right at opening. The zoo will already have a line, however, it will be much less crowded than later in the day. Head straight over to the more popular attractions like the Panda exhibit or the Skyfari ride to avoid the lengthy waits later in the day.
*If you live in San Diego, purchase a membership – it pays for itself in less than 2 visits. If you live in California (outside of San Diego), purchase a membership (more expensive, yet still pays for itself in less than 3 visits).
*Look for coupons in the brochures at your hotel. We found a nice $5 off each adult ticket on the back of the San Diego Zoo flyer.
*Plan a picnic lunch to save some money. The zoo is beautiful with lots of shady places to eat and enjoy nature at the same time. If you prefer to eat at the zoo, The Sandwich Company is a pretty good value. Or you can always leave the zoo (get your hand stamped and return later in the day).
*Bring a quality camera – lots of nice photo opportunities here.
*Plan the bus tour in the afternoon hours to give your feet a break!
What are some of your favorite exhibits at the San Diego Zoo?