Zoo, San Diego

4.5 out of 5 stars 142 Reviews

2920 Zoo Drive (619) 234-3153

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    Flamingos
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    Gorilla at the at the San Diego Zoo
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    Giant panda munching on bamboo sticks
    by Jefie
  • davesut's Profile Photo

    The Zoo

    by davesut Written Mar 22, 2014

    Oh a zoo, a paradox of conservation and captivity, of living things in a decent environment or squalor, of the marvels of the natural world or the boredom of looking at another exhibit fast asleep? Here are my tips for San Diego Zoo which is one of the best
    - If you want to see the Pandas go there first. The queues later on in the day were a tad annoying. This section was arranged in a way so that visitors don't spend too long hogging the view. If you get there early, you can go round again. Just be aware that they will take the obligatory green screen photo of your party.
    - Check out the didgerydude. I thought this guy was cool in the performance area close to the Koala exhibit.
    - don't forget you will have to pay for parking
    - pay for tickets in advance on the website for a discount
    - take comfy walking shoes

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  • lmkluque's Profile Photo

    San Diego Zoo

    by lmkluque Updated Dec 21, 2013

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    Zoos are not really my thing and the SD Zoo is one of the few I've ever gone to. This means that I personally don't have much experience to compare it with other zoos.

    However, the SD Zoo is touted to be, "The World Famous San Diego Zoo" and from the comments of visitors, I guess ours is one of the best. I can say that our House of Reptiles looks very much like the scene of the first Harry Potter movie that was shot in the Reptile House of the London Zoo.

    The SD Zoo began as a collection of plants and animals left over from the Panama-American Exposition of 1915-1916 and has grown and developed into a world class research facility and a haven for injured animals and endangered species, besides being a fun place to go on vacation. The Zoo has tried to recreate a natural enviornment for each animal and quite some time ago the San Diego Wild Animal Park--now known as San Diego Zoo's Safari Park--grew out of that effort.

    Update:

    Periodically the Zoo adds to it's collection or reorganizes the animals. Tiger River, Heart of Africa and Elephant Odyssey are examples of their efforts, not to mention the addition of new births. The Zoo just sent one of our baby Pandas, Yun Zi , to China and another baby was born.

    The Zoo is a big place and would take more than a day to see everything. When my three granddaughters and I got our Zoo passes I thought it would be a good idea for each of us to choose which animals we each wanted to see.

    Big Mistake!

    To see the four chosen animals, we had to walk a million miles up and down steep terrain and it took the whole day! Thank God there were plenty of benches to sit on along the way. We didn't even stop to see the Pandas as we were all so tired by the time we arrived and the line was at least an hour's wait--the 2003 baby--named Mei Sheng--had just been born and everyone wanted a chance to see it. Lucky us, we have passes and can go again as many times as we'd like throughout the year.

    There are restaurants in the Zoo, from snack shops to full service dining, but also, you are allowed to bring in your own picnic and they offer lockers to store stuff in, which can help out with the cost of a visit.

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    • Jungle and Rain Forest

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    San Diego Zoo: go wild!

    by goodfish Updated Nov 28, 2013

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    This is probably San Diego’s #1 attraction and probably the most expensive as well - tickets for a family of four plus meals and souvenirs for the kiddies will cost you a bundle - but considering it’s an all-day affair, it’s the one you’ll want to save your pennies for.

    The park is huge and has every sort of creature that walks, crawls, flies or swims. Getting around can be accomplished on foot or by hop-on-hop-off express buses which stop at 5 different locations. You may also take a 35-minute narrated bus tour to get your bearings before heading off on your own: both buses are free with your entry tickets.

    The zoo has a very good website but here’s some top-line info:

    • Entrance is included on the GO San Diego pass. Families who intend to spend enough time in the area to visit multiple attractions may want to give this a look but do the math before you purchase. Considering that it really takes the better part of a day to see the zoo, a one-day pass isn’t a good value if you can't fit in anything else, nor is it a good idea to rush your visit - or wear out your little people - trying to do so. Some of the attractions on this pass are considerable distance from the city center - or not in the city at all - so will take time to get to, especially if you do not have a car, so research locations very carefully before you buy:

    http://www.smartdestinations.com/san-diego-attractions-and-tours/_d_Sdo-p1.html?pass=Sdo_Prod_Go

    • If your child is young enough to need a stroller, lightweight, fold-able “umbrella" types are recommended if using the HOHO buses to get around. Strollers may also be rented at the park as well as electric scooters and wheelchairs for visitors with mobility challenges. Parts of the grounds are very hilly so be prepared!

    • Overcast days are better than very sunny ones as some of the animals will be more active and visible instead of lounging in hidden, shady areas

    • Small children will likely not make it all day without a nap so do some reading about those sections yours will most enjoy and plan to see those first. Moms and dads can visit other parts while youngsters are snoozing in the stroller.

    • Concessions for food and drink are located at many places throughout the park but they are expensive (see my tip under “Tourist Traps”). Save the $$ by packing your own lunch and beverages/snacks. Lockers (fee) are available for any excess you don’t want to carry around all day.

    • Pets and smoking are not allowed

    • Parking is free, and public transit from the downtown is also available but you may want to consider a cab for quickest, easiest access if you don't have a car. We walked from our hotel near Little Italy but we’re also used to doing long distances on foot so I wouldn’t recommend hoofing unless you’re up to it. See this site for public transit info:

    http://www.sdmts.com/Bus/pointsofinterest.asp

    • Children under age 3 are free; seniors over 60 and AAA members can receive a 10% discount on tickets purchased at the gate; active members of the U.S. military may receive a complementary 1-day pass. See the website for details on all discounts.

    • Some zoo activities are not covered by standard admission so reference the website for listings and prices

    • For a great bargain visit the zoo in October when children ages 3-11 are admitted for free! This is a huge cost saving for bigger families, and applies to San Diego Safari Park as well. Narrated bus tours are not free during this time so tickets much be purchased separately if wanting to do those.

    • EVERYONE wants to see the pandas so lines there can be long: make a beeline for Panda Canyon when the gates open in the morning to avoid standing around in the queue. For a park map:

    http://www.sandiegozoo.org/zoo/zoo_map

    General information: http://www.sandiegozoo.org

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  • tampa_shawn's Profile Photo

    San Diego Zoo - Panda and babies

    by tampa_shawn Written Nov 24, 2013

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    If you are coming to the zoo to see the Panda's you may want to plan a bit because the line to the Panada's can be long. Arrive early and go straight their or visit on a slower day (during the week if possible, or Sunday)

    You will find that some days you can walk right up to the Panda's other days you have a 45 minute wait.

    The zoo has an active breeding program to help endangered species. If your day and time is open, you might want to look at the various cams on the zoo's website to see if any of the babies are out before leaving and go their first. When their are babies out on display, it is up to the mom to determine when and how long... so their schedule is erratic.

    Also sit down and take some time to enjoy the animals... you will be surprised how interactive they are.

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  • tampa_shawn's Profile Photo

    More to see at the zoo

    by tampa_shawn Written Nov 10, 2013
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    Check out the zoo online before going to plan your day.
    I like scheduling my visit around some of the shows and bringing a few snacks so I can rest at the best venues.
    The back of the map will also give you a list of what to do. Favorite shows/events/keeper talks include the Sea Lion Show, Dr. Zoolittle Explores Australia, maned wolves, pangolin presentations, and lion or jaguar enrichment. I also really enjoy taking a break in front of the pandas, elephants and the polar bears.

    There are also some 4D theaters but these cost extra

    Always check zoo page for who was born recently. If/when the babies are displayed it is always special so you want to plan those into your schedule.

    When you are at the zoo be sure to check out the plants. Most of them are named and a lot of them are totally unique and special. The zoo specialized in arid and succulents from around the world.

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  • tampa_shawn's Profile Photo

    Big Zoo

    by tampa_shawn Written Nov 10, 2013
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    The San Diego Zoo is huge. I have an annual pass which I highly recommend if you are going to be here awhile.

    If you only have one day I would recommend purchasing BOTH bus tours. If you get both together you get a discount. The first is a 2 hour tour around the park and the second is one of those on and off bus passes. I haven't got the passes yet, I going to wait until I have visitors.

    The other thing go know is that the zoo is quite hilly in places so be very careful if you are on a wheel chair or using a stroller.

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  • Jefie's Profile Photo

    San Diego's world famous zoo

    by Jefie Written Oct 30, 2013

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    Giant panda munching on bamboo sticks
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    This zoo hardly needs any introduction. Starting out from a collection of exotic animals left behind after the Panama-California Expo, the zoo's collection has grown to include nearly 4000 animals and has earned a world-wide reputation. The zoo's most famous residents are without a doubt the giant pandas - there was a 45-minute waiting line to see 1-year-old Xaio Liwu, the latest addition to the zoo's panda family. Other exhibits weren't nearly as crowded thanks to how big the zoo is. I had misread the opening hours information so we only had 4h to tour the zoo, but with Sylvain navigating us from one habitat to the next, we managed to get in done; however, I would recommend setting aside an entire day to make the most of your visit.

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    San Diego Zoo

    by Agraichen Written Jan 23, 2013

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    The San Diego Zoo is in my opinion one of the MUST SEE places in San Diego. The park is relatively large but is easily covered in a day. Surprisingly the restaurants are quite good. There are the typical "fast food" type venues, but there are also regular restaurants with pretty good menus.

    The zoo is open every day, including holidays.

    Current Hours (now through March 10):
    9 a.m.–5 p.m.
    Winter Hours (March 11–22):
    9 a.m.–6 p.m.
    Spring Break Hours - Play Days (March 23–April 7):
    9 a.m.–7 p.m.
    Spring Hours (April 8–June 14):
    9 a.m.–6 p.m.
    Spring Hours (June 15):
    9 a.m.–5 p.m.
    Spring Hours (June 16–20):
    9 a.m.–6 p.m.
    Summer Hours - Nighttime Zoo (June 21–September 2):
    9 a.m.–9 p.m.

    Tickets can be purchased online ahead of time at:

    http://www.sandiegozoo.org/tickets/zootickets.html

    Cost as of this posting is:

    Child 3-11 $34
    Adult 12+ $44

    Tickets include unlimited use of the Guided Bus Tour, the Express Bus, and the Skyfari Aerial Tram that takes you over the park from one end to the other. Lines tend to be long at the end of the day for people not wanting to walk back to the exit.

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  • travelgourmet's Profile Photo

    What's new at the San Diego Zoo

    by travelgourmet Updated Nov 30, 2012

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    Entrance to 12.000 years of animals
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    It finally became a reality. The Elephant Odyssey at the San Diego Zoo. See what the past 12,000 years has done to the animals. Discover the extinct animals and then see their relatives of today, live. Elephants, jaguars, lions, condors, sloths, camels, snakes, tapirs, and more have room to roam in this 7.5 acre exhibit.

    I must have spent close to one hour just watching the guanacos, closely related to the camel. One of the guanacos was as interested in me as I was of him. From the far part of the open space to right in front of me, a display of friendliness was seen between the two of us.

    Another great time was had watching the capybaras. At first I thought it was a huge beaver because it was swimming in a large pond. But, looking up to the land portion of the exhibit, I saw the tail was not that of a beaver. The capybaras are found in Central and South America and are members of the Rodent Family. They are such fun to watch and in the water they seem to be free as can be.

    A surprise was seeing condors. Wow. They haven't been in too many zoos and these condors I looked at seemed right at home in their large aviary. Seeing the pink neck was super special as this is the largest flying land bird in the Western Hemisphere and not easy to spot the stretched up neck, as they are still rare to see.

    Okay, Elephant Odyssey must mean elephants and there are about 8 or 9 that I saw, but still disappointed about the massive cages for feeding or washing or sleeping or just holding cages. Yes, there are many different areas for the elephants to roam but it seemed like the zoo was letting only 1-2 elephants into an area at a time. Other than that, the Elephant Odyssey was wonderful to see for all the open space given to the animals, but still more needs to be done to open up the area to the animals.

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  • dln6874's Profile Photo

    San Diego Zoo

    by dln6874 Updated Apr 4, 2011
    Panda

    The San Diego Zoo is known as one of the best in the nation. They have a wide range of species at the zoo, and they all seem to be treated well. I am preparing to go to S.Africa later this year, and being in the zoo got me excited about the upcoming trip. I enjoyed the zoo so much, I only wished my 2 nieces could have been there with me. I am sure they would have enjoyed it very much.

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  • winnietankl's Profile Photo

    The world greatest zoo

    by winnietankl Updated Sep 3, 2010

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    San Diego zoo is located in beautiful historic Balboa Park. It opens daily at 9am but closing times vary by season. It has more than 4,000 rare animals including pandas, hippos, koalas, polar bears, gorillas, orang utans, camels, elephants, tigers and a lot more. You can buy a 1 day pass which includes admission and unlimited use of guided bus tour, express bus and skyfari aerial tram. Be sure to reach there early as it is not so crowded and easier to find a parking space too. There are a few restaurants and a zoo gift shops.

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    San Diego Zoo

    by Yaqui Updated Apr 25, 2010

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    I recently revisited this wonderful zoo with my sister and her Grandson Shamus. It was such a beautiful day and we so enjoyed ourselves. Every time I visit, I am always amazed in how the park is kept. They are continually changing exhibits to accomdate what ever type of animals they have. It is very educational and enlightening to know how type of species of animals share our earth with us. I think zoo's are great because it give us and our future generation a view to the picture window of what life exists along with us and how we all need to respect our planet! They do have tour buses avialable for those who cannot walk through the whole park. Just make sure you wear very comfortable shoes. The park is huge!

    Oh, if yourself or anyone of your guest needs assitance, please check into "Guest Services" to see what type services it has to offer you!

    Summer Hours - Nighttime Zoo (June 25 thru September 5):
    9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    (grounds close at 9 p.m.)

    Fall Hours
    (September 6 thru October 2):
    9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    (grounds close at 6 p.m.)

    Winter Hours
    (October 3 thru April 7):
    9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    (grounds close at 5 p.m.)

    Related to:
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    World Famous Zoo and Park

    by Babzz Updated Feb 21, 2010

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    Must see the zoo when in San Diego - it's like the Statue of Liberty in NYC, Eiffel Tower in Paris, Niagara Falls in, um, Niagara Falls! You get the point... The landscaping at the zoo is phenomenal. If you can only do one or the other, I would recommend the Wild Animal Park because of its unique feature of allowing visitors to take a safari and view "free-roaming" animals. However, I recommend doing both because the Zoo has a wider variety of animals and is also stunning. That's all I'm going to say about that because there is plenty of information online and, no doubt, from other VT members about the zoo (including a map of the grounds).

    Related to:
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    • Safari

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  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    San Diego Zoo

    by Dabs Updated Nov 8, 2008

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    Flamingos
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    We debated for a bit over whether to go to the San Diego Zoo or the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the zoo won even though we had been there on a previous trip, it was just simply easier to get to from where we were staying. It was a good choice, I think this is the nicest zoo I've ever been to and is consistently ranked at the top for zoos in the US.

    Admission is not cheap, $28 for adults, $34 for the best value tickets that includes the aerial skyride and guided bus tour, the best value ticket is a better option for those folks that aren't able to walk long distances, some of the park also has fairly steep inclines. Our hotel had a slight discount on the best value tickets ($31) and there are discount options for multiple day passes that include Sea World and/or the Wild Animal Park. And once you get inside, food, beverages and souvenirs are pricey too, for a soda it was almost $4 but they give you a plastic souvenir cup and refills are then much cheaper. A family might consider packing a cooler and going back to the car for lunch.

    What's particularly nice about this zoo is the more natural barless habitat that the animals are housed in and the lush greenery that you walk through to get from exhibit to exhibit, the flora and the fauna are both well attended to at this zoo. My favorite stop was to see the pandas, San Diego is one of only four zoos in the US to have them (Atlanta, Memphis and Washington DC are the other three). There was a pretty big queue to see them but it goes fairly quickly as they ask you not to stop on the lower level, you can stay as long as you want on the upper level.

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    private tour

    by jjransom Written Jul 21, 2008

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    My family and I just took a trip to the San Diego Zoo. If you go to the Zoo plan on at least 2 days. Three if you like to read all the little signs about each attraction. The Zoo is on a hill, so be prepared to walk a lot. They rent sit-on scooters and wheelchairs if you need one.
    Now back to the reason for my tip. My wife arranged for us to take a behind- the -scenes, private tour. This was expensive, about $350.00 for the family, but it was worth it. We were able to go into the back of some areas where the public is not alowed. We fed the agapi and giraffs and camels. The tour took about 2 hours and the guide was very personable. I would have looked at the price and never taken this tour, but after going on it I think it was worth it as a once-in-a-lifetime event. My wife knows what a cheapskate I am and plans these things without my knowledge, so I don't freak out about the money.

    Sorry no photos. I forgot the camera.

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