Explore the Wild in the Heart of California at the San Diego Zoo
If open-air dining overlooking a waterfall, a trip through the treetops in an aerial tram, and admiring almost 1,000 species of exotic animals sounds like your idea of a great time, run, don’t walk, to the San Diego Zoo!
Why is The San Diego Zoo so Famous?
Filled with over 3,700 creatures from around the world, the San Diego Zoo provides a home for animals whose habitats are shrinking with each passing year. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, an extension of the zoo, is an 1800-acre wildlife sanctuary that offers guests the opportunity to see an additional 3,000 animals, and even get up close and personal with some of them! If you’re a local to the San Diego area or in town for a visit, make sure you save time to visit this incredible animal haven.
Things to do at the San Diego Zoo
Animal lovers won’t want to leave this world-renowned zoo for good reason. You’ll be delighted by engaging plant and animal exhibits around every turn, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is as close as you can get to Africa without leaving the United States.
San Diego Zoo Exhibits
With more than 3,700 different animals to see, you may not know where to start. Grab a map by the entrance, or print one online, and make sure you don’t miss these popular visitor favorites:
- Guided Bus Tour — Hop aboard a double-decker bus (with an open-air top!) for a 35-minute narrated tour around the Zoo to get your bearings and decide where to go next.
- Botanical Collection — Almost three-quarters of a million plants fill a lush landscape bursting with color and variety. Take a self-guided tour around the grounds any time you wish, or plan ahead and take one of the monthly guided bus tours.
- Skyfari® Aerial Tram — Soar across treetops for a birds-eye panoramic view of the Zoo and surrounding Balboa Gardens.
- Elephant Odyssey — Observe these gentle giants bathing, eating and playing around their beautifully designed 7.5-acre refuge.
- Shiley’s Cheetah Run — Witness Shiley the cheetah’s mesmerizing 330-foot sprint down a track after a mechanical lure, during which she’ll reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.
- Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge — Watch the playful acrobatics of the lovable denizens of the Polar Bear Plunge from an underwater viewing room.
- Albert’s Restaurant — For an experience that’s as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the palate, try Albert’s Restaurant, located in the heart of the Lost Forest Zone in the San Diego Zoo. Outside you’ll be treated to a view of thunderous waterfall; inside you’ll get to gaze out at the Treehouse gardens.
- Animal Encounters — Meerkats and giraffes and baboons, oh my! Even the grumpiest guest won’t be able to resist the charming animals featured in the Daily Keeper Talks and Animal Ambassador meet ’n greets throughout the park.
- Sun Bear Forest® — Home to thousands of plants and Indochinese animals like the endangered Sun Bear, this southeast Asian rainforest recreation will mesmerize you with its gushing waterfalls and collection of brilliantly colored exotic plants.
Making the Most of Your Visit to the San Diego Zoo
While it’s open 365 days a year (including holidays), hours for the San Diego Zoo vary depending on the day, so it’s best to check the official website before your visit. Here are some tips and frequently asked questions to help you maximize your zoo experience.
How Long Does it Take to See the San Diego Zoo?
Although you can see most of the Zoo in three to four hours, most people spend an entire day to allow enough time to enjoy both the Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park without feeling rushed.
Download the San Diego Zoo Mobile App
The official San Diego Zoo app—offered in both iOS and Android platforms—will help you plot a course straight to your favorite animals and find your way around the Zoo. However, even with the app, it’s easy to lose track of time while wandering past the animals and through the breathtaking gardens, so keep an eye on the time during your visit. Furthermore, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are about 35 miles apart, so plan to spend at least 45 minutes traveling from one to the other.
When is the Best Time to Visit the San Diego Zoo?
The San Diego Zoo is a local and visitor favorite so your best bet to avoid the crowds is to head over right after it opens, and if possible, during the week. With temperatures ranging from 66 degrees in December to 77 in September in San Diego, there really isn’t a bad time of year to visit the Zoo. Though summer temperatures in San Diego don’t get quite as sweltering as other parts of the country, be sure to wear sunscreen, especially if you’re planning a sunshine-filled amble around the Botanical Gardens.
San Diego Zoo Ticket Options
Whether you plan to pop by the San Diego Zoo for a day or are a devoted fan who visits frequently, there’s an admission option for everyone. Those who simply cannot get enough of the Zoo can purchase an annual membership online; prospective visitors can also buy single-day passes via the official zoo website.
If you’re visiting the San Diego area (or just looking to take advantage of living there), consider Southern California CityPASS tickets. Not only will you pay less than the official price for the San Diego Zoo admission, but you can also score discounts to other fun-filled southern California tourist favorites like Disneyland® Resort, LEGOLAND® California, Universal Studios Hollywood™, and SeaWorld® San Diego. It’s the perfect way to experience all the fun and excitement Southern California has to offer for less!
The engaging San Diego Zoo has been thrilling guests for decades. It even pioneered the now ubiquitous open-air, cageless exhibits that mesmerize visitors in zoos all around the world. Whether it’s your first or 50th time visiting the San Diego Zoo, there’s always something new just waiting to delight you and teach you more about our magnificent natural world. Don’t miss your chance to visit this spectacular wildlife sensation.
Go Wild at the Zoo for Less With CityPASS
Don’t pay full price to experience the world-famous San Diego Zoo. With Southern California CityPASS tickets, you can get deep discounts on must-see attractions including the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, Disneyland® Resort, LEGOLAND® California, Universal Studios Hollywood™, and SeaWorld® San Diego! Save money with CityPASS so you can plan a trip your family will never forget.
Header Image © San Diego Zoo