Exploring San Diego 1: Zoo and Safari Park

Off Site/Parties, San Diego Comic Con '13, SDCC Tips/Info
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Photo taken on Feb. 6, 2013, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

We know you’re looking forward to 4 days of non-stop Comic-Con goodness, but what happens if you are traveling with others who are looking forward to a more traditional vacation experience?

What if you are coming to town early, or staying late, and would like to see more of what sunny San Diego has to offer?

Well, no matter what, you’re in luck, San Diego has dozens of great attractions and I’m going to highlight a few that I think are worth your time and money.

The San Diego Zoo
Everything you have heard about the San Diego zoo is probably true. It is huge and it is beautiful. And they have pandas, glorious pandas!

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Photo taken on Jan. 23, 2013, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

The zoo is located a very short drive from the downtown area. Each time I have taxied to the zoo it has cost about $15.00 (plus tip.) Some hotels offer shuttle service to and from the zoo, so make sure to ask about that. If you’re driving yourself, parking is free!

If you don’t want to tax your feet too hard I suggest mulling over their selection of exhibits online and planning a strategy based on what you’d like to see. It’s hard to see everything in one day (unless you sprint) so pick a few faves and focus on them.

Tickets to the zoo are $44.00 for adults and $34.00 for children ages 3 – 11, and can be bought online (one less line to stand in!)

During the summer, the zoo is open from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm

The zoo offers several other experiences that are included in your paid admission.

  • Guided Bus Tours are a 35-minute adventure in a double-decker bus that covers nearly 70% of the zoo. This tour is narrated and runs from 9:30 am – 4:00 pm.
  • Express Bus access is also included in admission price. Hop on an off the bus at 5 different stops around to zoo to minimize time on your feet and maximize what you see. Buses run about every 15 minutes, starting at 10:30 am until zoo closing.
  • The Petting Zoo is always a favorite with young kiddos, it’s open 9:30 am – 4:30 pm.
  • The Skyfari Aerial Tram gives you a view from above the treetops, from one end of the zoo to the other. You’ll be able to get some stunning photos of the surrounding area, too!
  • Not for the squeamish, the Insect House is open from 10:00 am – 4:30 pm.
  • Zoo character meet and greets are available, but only on the weekends.

For a modest charge there are a few other zoo experiences you might want to consider.

  • Ice Age 4D Experience runs daily and mixes HD 3-D with sensory effects like mist, wind and snow. General admission is $6.00.
  • During the summer the Balboa Park Miniature Train runs from 11:00 am – 6:30 pm and takes you on a 3 minute ride around Balboa Park. Tickets for this ride are $3.00 each for ages 1 and older.
  • On the weekends you can help feed the giraffes some lunch from 12:00 pm until 1:00 pm. $5.00 is the cost for 3 tasty biscuits but you must buy tickets early, they go on sale at 11:00 am.

If you are looking to roll like a VIP at the zoo you should consider one of their interactions. The Backstage Pass is a 90 minute experience with access to trainers and animal ambassadors. There is a $99.00 charge for this experience, in addition to admission.

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Photo taken on Feb. 9, 2013, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo

A leisurely 40 minute drive north of San Diego is the Safari Park, a sister property of the zoo. The Safari Park is a huge open air savannah-like area where instead of small exhibits, the animals live in large open enclosures. The animal residents include meerkats, cheetahs, elephants, tigers, lions, warthogs and many, many more.

The basic entrance fee is $44.00 for adults and $34.00 for children 3 to 11. This is called the ‘African Tram Safari” which is just what it sounds like; an open aired tram vehicle will take you around the park. You’ll be able to see them, but mostly from afar.

In addition to the Tram Safari, your admission included various activities in the park.

  • Jameson Research Island interactive water park
  • Savanna Cool Zone mist area
  • African Village Playground
  • Frequent Flyers Bird Show at 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm
  • Elephant Keeper Talk at 1:30 pm
  • Lorikeet Landing (watching is free, lorikeet food available for purchase)

If you hanker for a closer view of the parks residents, you can upgrade your ticket to either the Cart Safari ($70-$80 additional) or the even more personal Caravan Safari, which promises “up close” meetings with rhinos and giraffes ($130 – $140 additional.)

For more excitement there are Safaris that include zip line rides, jungle ropes course, watching cheetahs run and behind-the-scenes areas, all for additional charges, each.

If it sounds a little confusing, it is. If it sounds expensive, it is. If it sounds totally worth it, IT IS! The web site offers a little help with options and planning. They are open every day of the year, with their summer hours being 9:00 am – 7:00 pm.

Parking at the Safari Park is $10 per vehicle

If you are considering going to both parks, or would like multiple days at either park, you can save yourself a little bit of money by purchasing the 2-Visit Pass which is $79.00 for adults and $61.00 for children ages 3 – 11. You’ll get either 2 days at the zoo, 2 days at the safari park, or one day at each.

Here are some websites to bookmark for helping you plan your visits:

The San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo Map

The San Diego Zoo Panda Cam

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Safari Park Map

Safari Park Elephant Cam

Buying Zoo & Safari Park Tickets Online

“All San Diego Tours” Zoo Transportation And Admission Offers

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