The San Diego Zoo is a perennial favorite San Diego attraction for animal lovers of all ages. Located in the northern part of Balboa Park, the Zoo is home to 3,700 animals from 650 different species. A visit to the San Diego Zoo is a must-do activity for any San Diego vacation! For the full Southern California animal experience, we also recommend paying a visit to the expansive San Diego Zoo Safari Park – a stunning 1,800 acres of African and Asian wildlife.
First, some tips for visiting the San Diego Zoo. The Zoo encompasses approximately 100 acres of rather hilly terrain, so plan for active walking or take advantage of the Skyfari Aerial Tram or Express Bus to shuttle from point to point. Due to its size, the number of unique exhibits, special programming, and animal experiences, it’s impossible to see everything in one day. We recommend planning for two different visits to get the full San Diego Zoo experience. Insider tip: Don’t forget to check out the San Diego Zoo website and experiment with the Plan Your Day feature. It allows you to select animals and exhibits you want to see, and create a customized itinerary and map to help you navigate the zoo when you visit.
Of course, you’ll need to think about what you want to see in advance of your visit. There are so many new and exciting things to explore this summer at the San Diego Zoo that you won’t want to miss any of it! Pay a visit to the Zoo’s superstars in Panda Canyon, Giant Pandas Bai Yun, Gao Gao, and their young cub Xiao Liwu (he’s about 2 years old now). Pandas are the most active early in the morning and late evening, so plan your visit accordingly. San Diego is a bit hot for them in the summer and you’ll most likely find them napping in the shade or their air-conditioned indoor space during the afternoon. You can also opt to participate in an early morning Pandas Tour, although this comes at an additional cost.
We especially recommend checking out the San Diego Zoo’s brand new Australian Outback exhibit, featuring a large koala colony, camels, hundreds of exotic birds, Tasmanian Devils, and 7 different marsupials including the adorable Wallaby. If you’re interested in making an entire day of it, stick around later in the evening to enjoy the “Koalafornia Dreamin’” experience, complete with animal demonstrations, musical and dance performances, and special kid-friendly presentations. A visit to this exhibit is a rare chance to enjoy the charms of wild Australia in sunny Southern California!
Other popular exhibits at the San Diego Zoo include: the Lost Forest, filled with a variety of creatures from monkeys to hippos; the Elephant Odyssey, featuring both African and Asian elephants; and the Discovery Outpost, a kid-oriented section populated with feathered and winged critters of all shapes and sizes. If you do get a chance to stop by the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, be sure to check out their exciting new Tiger Trail, an unparalleled, up-close-and-personal experience with these majestic and ferocious creatures. Save on your visit to both attractions with a Go San Diego Card or Go Select San Diego Pass, both of which include handy extras like unlimited use of many trams and buses.