Passport to Balboa Park is a great deal on admission fees. Also check online for discounts.
Growing up in SoCal, I had been to this zoo many times before embarking on parenthood. It was a great zoo then, but I had no idea how awesome it is for kids until I toted my (then) two little ones through the doors for the first time.
Back that up, I actually noticed a difference just in the parking lot.
The zoo is the most relaxed family-friendly major park that I have been to with my little ones, and for this reason, we buy zoo passes every year.
Where should I start?
The parking lot: 99% of their spots are pretty close to the entrance (unless you are there on a holiday). Save your walking for inside the park. Best of all, parking is free.
The schedule: There are a few shows and timed attractions throughout the day, but for the most part, the zoo is a "take it at your own pace" place, which is fantastic as a mom with little ones who don't seem willing to GET GOING FASTER SO WE CAN MAKE THAT EVENT THAT MOMMY REALLY WANTS US TO MAKE IN TIME!! We leisurely stroll through the zoo, taking our time where our kids want to.
Play time: The zoo keeps the live animals as the main focus, but almost every major attraction has some sort of climb on statue for the kids to jump on and get some energy out. My little ones (and the others I see each time), gravitate towards these statues and could jump, climb and pose for pictures away on these all day. They make for a nice break, and for those with more hyper kids, they are a good way to break pace in the day.
Transportation: The zoo has a tour bus(additional fee), which doesn't stop, and is a nice break from walking if you are interested in hearing some zoo background. I have found it especially helpful in getting a young baby to sleep for a nap. They also have an express bus, which requires your bus pass, but stops and starts. You can use these buses like city buses, helping you get from point A to point B. Finally, they have the Skyfari Tram, adoringly referred to as the Sky Buckets in my family. It is an ariel tram that takes you to and from the furthest destination in the zoo. My little ones hate missing this treat, and for those kids totally used to rides and attractions everywhere, this is as close as it gets. The view from the top is amazing.
Prices: The zoo isn't incredibly cheap if you just show up one day and buy a one day pass. However, the year pass is the most reasonable I can find in any major park. It is about $25 for little kids, and $80 for two parents ($40/each). This is just slightly over the regular admission price. In addition, the annual pass gives you two free day tickets for friends, so the savings is even greater. The pass includes admission to the Wild Animal Park as well.
I've only been to San diego zoo once, and my first experience there was great. The price is really fair, and they have several activities which are quite enjoyable. Any kid r adult with have a great time here. There's girafe feeding, comedy tours that allow you to get some good laughs, tours, and of course theres the petting zoo where you can pet sheep and such. Theres also more. I recommend this zoo for to anyone.
Every time feels like the first time and somehow I always manage to get seperated from my husband so it is an adventure trying to find the other one. My four year I'm pretty sure only goes for the face painting but my two year is interested in the animals. It has a little playground which my kids have learned is the final stop for them to unwind before heading home. Worth the 2 hour drive even with the kids.
We had a wonderful trip to the San Diego Zoo with our 18 month old. He lasted all day without any crankiness, there was always something new to see or do. The petting zoo with the goats was his favorite. He also liked the play grounds to run and climb. Overall, it was a great experience.
It was great. Lots to look at and do. There was so many different animals and my kids loved taking the sky tram around and looking down on the animals as well. Look it up online first because we got a sizable discount on tickets by printing them out ourselves!
What a great place for a family outting. We visited the san diego zoo at least 5 times a year while living in California, because there is so much to do with children. My two year old enjoy running around and looking at the animals, and i enjoyed teaching him. Very clean, and the staff is helpful and fun to learn things from. Five stars all the way!
I visited the zoo with my children ages 5 and 7. Both of them loved the zoo, but there's no way we could have covered the whole zoo in one day. Our strategy was to ride the aerial tram to the top of the zoo where the polar bears are, and then make our way down towards the bottom. The express bus runs frequently, so get a map and figure out what you really want to see, and rather than walking between everything trying to hit it all, jump on and off the bus strategically. Favorite spots for my family were the polar bears, lions, giraffes, and flamingos. I HIGHLY recommend getting a pass that allows you to jump on and off the bus all day long.
Believe the hype; the San Diego Zoo lives up to its name. This huge and diverse jungle paradise harbors all of your favorite animals and offers young children many ways to burn off energy besides just walking around. Throughout the zoo you'll see animal structures prime for climbing, a petting zoo, and on the weekend from 9 a.m.–1 p.m., kids can meet zoo characters and pose for photos.
After reading other trekaroo reviews, I followed the advice of another parent and took the Skyfari aerial tram to the top of the zoo and worked my way down towards the entrance to minimize uphill walking. It was a great plan and worth repeating. Strollers are not allowed on the tram but there's plenty of stroller parking.
To help you make the most of your visit, the zoo provides moving sidewalks, a guided bus tour, and an express bus. My son and I even fanagled a ride from a passing golf cart. The zoo does a great job of helping its guests get to and fro; don't let its massive size scare you. I wore flip flops all day and was fine.
I lucked out during my visit because the line to see the panda's was short. I'd never seen live panda’s before and they're magnificent. I told my son (age 4) we were visiting Kung Fu Panda and he believed me. I also really enjoyed the giant turtles (my son called them Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and a curious orangutan that seemed to be viewing us instead of us viewing him. There are so many animals to see at the zoo, that even though we were there for 6 hours, I'm guessing we only covered about 25% of it.
ICE AGE 4D EXPERIENCE
One of the highlights of our day was the Ice Age 4D experience. Tickets are $6 each and the show is 15 minutes long;100% worth it. Technology is awesome! I even jumped from my seat once. The theater is conveniently located at the top of the Skyfari tram, so it's easy to get to.
Food and drink prices at the zoo are outrageous. Two ice cream cones cost me $11. Outside food and drink is permitted, take advantage of this. On the plus side, zoo parking is free and plentiful. If you have binoculars at home, bring them. The zoo has kiosks that sell toy versions for $8. Dress in layers, the day can get cool quick.
This review is based on a complimentary visit. I received no other compensation and was not asked to express a particular point of view. My opinions are entirely my own.
“What kinds of outings work well with not-quite-two-year-olds?” my wife and I wondered. We often bring our daughter to parks or take her to play with friends. And our daughter loves those things. But we figured it was high time for her first visit to one of Southern California's many attractions.
Disneyland will undoubtedly be fun, but the price-to-enjoyability-over-other activities-ratio seemed like it wouldn't make it worthwhile for another year or two. She'd probably have just as much fun digging in the sandbox and going on the slide at the local park. Same with just about any other amusement park we conjured up. Our then 20-month-old daughter just isn't old enough to maximize the fun factor.
But we knew she loves animals. After all, she had recently entered the phase of life in which she is grabbing hold of every opportunity to name her world, particularly, every giraffe, horse or cat that pops up in her picture books.
So when our friends and their three daughters mentioned that they had a San Diego Zoo (http://www.sandiegozoo.org/) membership and were planning to make a trip, it didn't take us long to figure out where we should go.
The 100-acre zoo was fantastic. It's easy to see why the San Diego Zoo is generally considered one of the best zoos in the world. Although it is home to more than 4,000 animals and 6,500 plant species, the habitats are spacious. The animals are easy to spot and well-cared for.
One of the highlights – given our connection to China – were the panda exhibits – one of the few exhibits at the zoo you have to wait in line to see because of their popularity. As we entered the line, I was excited that one year of Chinese studies meant I could actually read the Chinese characters for the panda's names, written at the entrance. Of the zoo's now four Giant Pandas (a baby was born just after we visited in July), we were able to see two: 白云 (Bai Yun or White Cloud) and 高高 (Gao Gao or Tall Tall). Unfortunately, we arrived while Gao Gao's cage was being cleaned, so we had to wait about ten minutes for him to arrive back in his cage. Then we only had a few minutes to snap a few photos before being urged on to make more room for other visitors to get a glimpse of the black-and-white bear as he lazily gnawed on sticks of bamboo.
Our daughter also loved other exhibits. She gazed adoringly at the orangutans. She eagerly pointed out the giant elephants. She giggled at how much bigger the giraffes are in person than in her picture books. She smiled as colorful birds whizzed past in the spacious aviaries.
She particularly enjoyed the polar bear and hippo exhibits, which allow you to look at the animals from multiple vantage points – both below the surface, through a giant aquarium-like window and above it.
It didn't hurt that the polar bear exhibit was also surrounded by faux-ice caves for kids to play in. Our daughter followed her older friends in and soon was emulating them as they popped their heads out of “holes” in the “ice.”
Previously, every time she saw a bear in a picture book, she called it a dog. On the ride home, she was identifying them correctly, also adding words like “snake,” “rhino,” “panda” and “zebra” to her vocabulary.
I can't find much to fault about the San Diego Zoo. One slight negative, however, is that it is a bit tricky to navigate the hilly terrain with a stroller. Thankfully, the zoo has installed moving sidewalks that weave up and down along the hills, making it a breeze to climb them if planned out correctly. The Skyfari aerial tram is also helpful for seeing the polar bears. However, since we couldn't bring strollers on the aerial tram, we didn't explore much further than the zebra exhibit in that section of the park.
Families planning a trip to the zoo can save money by purchasing zoo memberships. Members are entitled not only to unlimited entrances to both the zoo and the San Diego Safari Park (formerly known as the Wild Animal Park) for a year, but they also receive a pair of “Super Discount Admission Coupons” to use on guests (which reduce the gate price to $15, making them worth $27 if used on adults or $17 for kids). They also get a subscription to the ZOONEWZ magazine and several other discounts (http://donate.sandiegozoo.org/site/PageServer?pagename=MembershipSpecials ). Through a deal available to California residents, we bought a dual membership, which covers two adults from the same household for $109 (a single membership is $88). Since my parents were also along for the trip, buying the membership was a no-brainer.
Regularly, adult tickets are $42 apiece. Children ages 3-11 are $32. Admission for younger kids is free, so when you factor in the discount passes, buying a dual membership is much less expensive if more than four people. Since four $42 tickets would cost $168 and the total cost of a dual membership plus two $15 “Super Discount Admissions” comes to a grand total of $139, it saves money from the getgo (for two adults and two kids it would actually cost $148 – making it slightly more expensive to buy the membership). And, on top of that, we can go back again for free.
However, an even better deal is on the horizon: Kid's Free Days (http://www.sandiegozoo.org/zoo/faq/faq_membership_and_discounts). In honor of the Zoo's founding, from Oct. 1 through 31, 2012, kids ages 3-11 will get in free when accompanied by an adult. However, tickets to use the guided bus tour and Skyfari Aerial Tram (which are included with other ticket fees) cost extra.
Additionally, parking is always free at the zoo.
Another way to save a few bucks is to bring your own food and water. Yes, the San Diego Zoo is one of the few amusement parks that actually allows you to bring your own food. And when you're pushing kiddos around in strollers, it's easy to pack meals for the whole family.
My family lives not far from the Philadelphia Zoo, America's first zoo, so I thought we had seen a pretty good one. Having finally made it to San Diego's Zoo, which I had wanted to do for a long time, I can say THIS zoo is just first rate. For something the size that it is, it is kept wonderfully clean and easy to navigate. The maps are a big help, and there are staff members who readily and cheerfully assist you in how to get here and there. Staff members with great attitudes and knowledge they are willing and able to share makes a huge difference and I duly noted the abundance of this here.
My family visited at the end of June on a nice sunny day. We did not find it to be unusually crowded. The lines for things moved along nicely (no real waits) and most people were courteous and accommodating. We were able to see most of the zoo and were so amazed at the size of some of the animals and the huge variety. There are many benches placed throughout the zoo as well to rest if you're loking to take a break or two. I would also recommend sunscreen and/or a hat as it is outside.
One of the things we liked about this zoo is the amazing variety of animals. There are just so many to see! From elephants to pandas to giraffes to insects, reptiles, birds, fish, koalas, bears, tigers, and so much more! Every family member should be able to find a species they find fascinating or worth checking out! The zoo is also set up in a park-like setting with paved paths leading over bridges and through enclosures to different animal housings. There are also a variety of statues and information boards and things to look at and climb on to keep kids engaged and active. Nice photo opportunities as well!
We walked the zoo when we were here as we no longer need a stroller. We did not take the bus or the tram, but both sound like terrific options for those looking to mix things up a bit or for those with traveling companions who aren't able to walk as much of the zoo. That being said, we found it to be great exercise to walk and it allowed us the freedom to scoot to areas we were especially interested in quickly and easily. Bring your camers, as there are so many photo opportunities!
The San Diego Zoo is a wonderful way to spend your day. You could even come back for more than one day to see it at a more leisurely pace if you desire (or purchase a season pass if you're close by). We were amazed that the parking was free and the zoo so easy to get to. Having visited the Philadelpahia Zoo frequently, it was a nice change to an inner city setting, and wonderful to see so many more animals than are available to us even at a zoo this big! We loved it and would highly recommend including this on your To Do List, no matter what your age!
I'm proud to say that I finally visited the San Diego Zoo for the first time, even though I grew up in California. Even though I had heard of it's grandeur, I was blown away by the amazing animals, the clever enclosures, and the great interactions that my kids had with everything.
BUS TOUR: We started our day by hopping on the bus (after a 20 minute wait!), because of some great Trekaroo recommendations. It was the greatest introduction to the zoo and set the stage for a great day. We sat on the top and saw so many great animals up close within the quick 35 minute tour. Our guide, Wendy, was amazingly humorous and informative and I felt like we had seen most of the zoo first thing. That made the rest of the day more relaxing because we could take our time with everything else, knowing we probably wouldn't make it back to many of the exhibits.
TIPS for the bus: For best viewing, sit on the top, right-side, in the middle. Most of the animals to be seen (except the polar bear) can be seen on the right side.
REPTILE WALK: The new Reptile Walk opened July of 2012, and is located behind the Reptile House. My kids were thrilled with seeing 2 Chinese alligators, and HUGE galapagos turtles. We were rewarded by seeing California natives and amphibians such as lizards, turtles, frogs, and snakes. We couldn't get over the snake-necked turtles and watched them swim around for quite a while.
TIPS for the Reptile Walk: This is located behind the Reptile House. Plan to visit this area in conjunction with the Children's Zoo, and the Camp Critter Show located right next to it.
SKYFARI AERIAL TRAM: Thanks to Trekaroo reviewers, we planned on riding the tram to the top of the zoo and then to walk down. Perfect plan! My kids had a blast on the tram and we got to see lots of the zoo on our way. The polar bear exhibit was too crowded to see anything, so we headed downhill towards the Pandas. The line snaked for about 1 hour (it was the busy July month!) so we headed towards one of the escalators that led up to the orangutans and the aviaries. We hardly walked up hill all day!
NIGHTTIME ZOO: CHINA CELEBRATION: From June-Sept 3, 2012, there are lots of activities, exhibits, shows, and even a Pinterest and Instagram contest to enter. We enjoyed the Dr. Zoolittle: Explores Asia show in the Children's Zoo very much. It was hilarious and entertaining, and we learned a tiny bit about endangered animals. The Jasmine & Jade Jumpers were amazing trampoline acrobats that hopped around and up high and entertained us all. Seeing their high-calibur performance convinced me that all the other shows we missed were just as amazing.
TIPS: The shows start around 1pm and run at different times and many locations throughout the zoo until the finale at 8pm at Front Street. Check out the map for locations and times.
DINING: We devoured our cheeseburgers and kids meals at Poppy's Patio, even though we packed lots of snacks. So much walking and animal watching made for hungry kids and adults. We ate dinner at the Treehouse Cafe and found the pasta there to be pretty good and satisfying. The view was amazing too!
TIPS: Bring food to snack on. Save money by buying kid's meals and the $9.99 free refill souvenir bottle for sodas.
GENERAL TIPS: The month of July is one of the most crowded at the park, but we were still able to see most things and find quiet corners. The day was drizzly and grey in the morning and the tour guide said it is the best weather for seeing the big animals and cats. Don't be discouraged by any foul weather! It usually only discourages humans from coming out which can mean a better day at the zoo.
My favorite part of the day had to be the time we spent in the Insect House, also known as "Spineless Marvels" which is located in the Children's Zoo. This little building housed a full wall of leaf-cutter ants that were spellbinding. A see-through bee house entranced my little kids. I loved staring into the various tanks, looking for the bugs located inside, only to be shocked when they were right in front of my nose, so well camouflaged that I couldn't see them at first. A little spine-chilling, but at least I have a spine!
My family received complimentary passes to the zoo to review the new Reptile Walk and the Nighttime Zoo: China Celebration including bus tour, express bus and Skyfari Arial Tram tickets. I was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.
Everyone - 1 Senior, 2 Adults, 3 kids - 4,6,8 - loved this place - we have been to many zoos all over and this is by far one of the best. Its set up nice so you don't have to back track a whole lot to see everything. Lots of walking of course but places along the way to rest and lots of statues for the kids to climb and get their pictures. Only neg thing was the cost of snacks - really expensive - $45 for some cookies, chips and drinks
They have an abundance of animals and alot to see. Alot of up and downs and passage ways through the trees, my boys had a blast exploring. Walking the zoo is the best route. The bus tour is just an overview. I would pack a lunch or snack and spend the afternoon there.
I haven't been to the San Diego Zoo since I was the age that my son is now (3 years old), so I had no idea what to expect. I'd heard great things, and this zoo did not disappoint! It's the best zoo in the US for a reason- what a fabulous place. We went with our 3 1/2 year old and 2 year old, and had a great time today.
We came via trolley and bus, but parking is free if you have a car. Access was easy on public transport and we arrived from our hotel in Old Town fairly quickly. Buying tickets just took a moment, and we were inside picking up maps before we knew it. The admission desk person recommended starting out with the 35- minute guided bus tour that is included in the One Day Pass. My son was desperate to see monkeys, so we did the short Monkey Trail first instead.
After seeing a few animals and stopping to have a snack at one of the lovely and spacious eating areas, we did ride the bus around the zoo. If you're traveling with little kids who might not have the stamina to walk around the whole zoo, I hugely recommend doing the bus tour! We saw so many animals from a great vantage point and really felt that we got a good feel for the zoo.
After the bus tour we took the tram to the top of the zoo and walked downhill back to the start line. We saw more animals on our way, then ended up at the Children's Zoo area. Our kids loved the petting zoo and all the small displays- it was a great way for them to be able to see the animals at a level that worked for them.
We were using two strollers that we brought from home to transport our kids. For the bus tour we parked the strollers and for the tram we folded them up and brought the strollers along. Everything was very accessible all day and having the two strollers didn't slow us down a bit.
This is such an amazing place to visit- I can't wait to go back someday!
This has to be by far the funnest zoo that I have ever been to. There are a countless number of activities, exhibits, and animals to see. There is no way that any person of any age could get bored here. They have the cutest koala exhibits that you can go and see, and not to mention the sea lion exhibit. There's always something new going on that will no doubt attract your attention. There's great food and lots of places to just relax and enjoy the view if you need to rest.
This is the best zoo I have ever been too. HUGE and it has everything.
Perfect for kids too, everything is geared toward the kids being able to see the animals. Strollers are a MUST for younger kids as it is a BIG park, lots of walking.
Snacks and food were surprisingly not too badly priced either, so that was a plus.
Another bonus is that it is in San Diego so nice to visit all year around.
The San Diego Zoo is the best zoo we've been to! It's really big, so it can keep your family busy for a whole day. One of the best things about this zoo is that they have some pretty unique animals, such as pandas and koalas. We haven't seen those animals in any other zoos!
This is a world-class zoo but it is so big and so spread out that you need more than one day to see and experience it all. It has every kind of animal that you can think of to enjoy. I haven't been here with my own kids since they are so little but I went with my older nieces and nephews and they had a blast. Great place!
No visit to San Diego is ever complete without a trip to the world famous San Diego Zoo. The sheer variety and number of animals is unbelievable. Had visited many years ago but took the kids this time. Some things never go out of style. This is one of those places: FOR THE YOUNG AND YOUNG AT HEART!
What doesn't the SD Zoo have? Everything is there from reptiles to lions to polar bears to pandas to elephants. You can take the bus tour, however, I don't think you can see as much from it, so I would only do that if for health reasons you can't walk around the park. Bring a lunch for the kids and definitely bring a stroller since the place is so big.