San Diego Zoo

Location (Click Photo)

This justifiably famous zoo is one of SoCal’s biggest attractions, showing more than 3000 animals representing over 800 species in a beautifully landscaped setting, typically in enclosures that replicate their natural habitats. Its sister park is San Diego Zoo Safari Park in northern San Diego County.

San Diego Zoo
The zoo originated with the Panama California Exposition of 1915–16, which featured an assortment of animals in cages along Park Blvd. Local legend has it that Dr Harry Wegeforth, hearing the roar of one of the caged lions, exclaimed, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a zoo in San Diego? I believe I’ll build one!’ The Balboa Park canyons in which the zoo was eventually built helped to separate different species and prevent the spread of disease. By the end of WWII the San Diego Zoo had a strong worldwide reputation, and helped to rebuild collections of European zoos that had been devastated by the war.

San Diego Zoo, Safari Pak
The zoo is located in the northern part of Balboa Park. The (free) parking lot and the zoo fill up on weekends. Bus 7 will get you there from Downtown. To leave the zoo and return the same day, get a hand stamp from the information booth near the entrance. Discount admission coupons are widely available in local magazines, newspapers, hotels and information center kiosks. Combination tickets cover unlimited admission for five days to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and SeaWorld. They cost $70/50 per adult/child for the zoo and wild animal park, or $121/99 for all three.

Arrive early, as many of the animals are most active in the morning – though many perk up again in the afternoon. The guided double decker bus tour gives a good overview of the zoo with informative commentary: sitting downstairs puts you closer to the animals. Once you’ve made the loop, your ticket remains good for an express bus service in the park, a big help if you’re unable to walk far. The Skyfari cable car goes right across the park and can save you some walking time, though there may be a line to get on it. Either way, you’re going to do a lot of walking: carry quarters for the electric foot massagers located around the park. Inquire about facilities for disabled visitors.

Pick up a map at the entrance to the zoo to find your own favorite exhibits. The koalas are so popular that Australians may be surprised to find them a sort of unofficial symbol of San Diego, and the giant pandas run a close second. The Komodo dragon , an Indonesian lizard that can grow up to 10ft long, looks fearsome and strides menacingly around the reptile house. Bio climatic environments include the new 7.5 acre Elephant Odyssey ; Tiger River , a re created Asian rain forest; Gorilla Tropics , an African rain forest; and the Sun Bear Forest , where the Asian bears are famously playful.

Absolutely Apes is devoted to the apes of Indonesia, including orangutans and siamangs climbing in lush forests. The large, impressive Scripps Aviary and Rainforest Aviary have well placed feeders to allow some close up viewing. And you can walk right beneath 100 species of winged creatures inside the Owens Aviary . Finally, don’t miss the African Rock Kopje (outcrop), where klipspringers (small antelopes) demonstrate their rock climbing abilities. The zoo gardens are renowned and some of the plants are used for the specialized food requirements of particular animals. Pick up a brochure for the self guided botanical gardens tour.

Download PDF Map (Click Photo)
And of course the zoo is made for kids, from animal shows in at least two venues, to a children’s zoo exhibit (where youngsters can pet small critters). Both children and adults will enjoy the animal nursery, where you can see the zoo’s newest arrivals. Babies are born every spring and summer.

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