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San Diego Zoo

2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, California

The world-famous San Diego Zoo is known for its wide variety of animals, housing more than 3,700 animals representing over 800 species. The zoo occupies a beautifully landscaped 100 acres (40.5 hectares), typically in lush enclosures that replicate their natural habitat. San Diego Zoo is considered to be one of the best and well-known zoos in the world, and is a must-see attraction in sunny Southern California.

The San Diego Zoo is nestled in Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre (486-hectare) urban park filled with loads of cultural and other attractions. Purchase San Diego Zoo tickets in advance and in conjunction with other Balboa Park sights to avoid lines, or with transportation within San Diego or nearby parts of Southern California.

Once inside, explore the zoo’s bioclimatic zones and animal habitats independently or take a guided bus tour for an overview of the space. For a bird’s-eye view of the San Diego Zoo’s wildlife, hop aboard the Skyfari Aerial Tram. Those with kids can head to the Children’s Zoo to spend time at the Petting Paddock.

San Diego Zoo tours are a good way to deepen your knowledge of the animals in the park. For a good overview, sign up for one of the zoos. "Discovery Cart Tours,” which involve riding around in a large cart with a guide. Animal encounters and special experiences are ideal if you want exclusive access to parts of the zoo most people don’t get to see. Free shows and presentations are offered throughout the day, while other experiences, including the 4-D theater and carousel, cost extra.

  • Children younger than 3 visit free with a paid adult and you can buy discounted tickets for those ages 3–11.

  • The zoo is wheelchair accessible, and wheelchairs are available to rent. Mobility scooters are allowed (just check in advance for details on safety restrictions). There’s also a free shuttle bus service for travelers with limited mobility.

  • As the San Diego sun is typically shining, it’s best to wear sunscreen if you plan to be outdoors for most of the day.

  • Many visitors combine a visit to the zoo with the San Diego Safari Park, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) away.

  • You can rent strollers and lockers at the zoo.

  • Wi-Fi is free throughout the zoo and Balboa Park.

The San Diego Zoo is located in the northwestern corner of Balboa Park, near the San Diego Museum of Art. Parking is plentiful and free, but note that lots can fill on weekends. Once inside, you can walk, take a bus, or take the Skyfari cable car to easily get around the zoo.

The zoo is open daily, typically from morning until early evening, though timings depend on the season. The best time to visit is in the morning, when the animals are most active. Feedings often also take place at this time. To avoid crowds, try to visit on a weekday.

Zoo highlights include the Tiger River bioclimatic exhibit, which realistically re-creates an Asian rainforest environment, and Gorilla Tropics, which does the same with an African rainforest. The koalas are some of the most popular animals to see—and the zoo says theirs is the largest colony outside of Australia.

Polar bears and rare giant pandas are other favorites, as is the Absolutely Apes habitat, which has orangutans and siamangs climbing in lush forests. Finally, don’t miss the African Rock Kopje, where klipspringers (small antelopes) dash around the rocky landscape.

There are various ticketing options for the San Diego Zoo, and costs vary depending on when and where you buy them. Advance online rates for adults are typically around US$70 per person, while kids can visit for around US$60. Booking 2-visit or multi-day passes grant access to the Safari Park and typically offer discounts.

Every October is Kids Free Month at the San Diego Zoo, when children 11 and under can enjoy free admission when accompanied by a paying adult. February is Free Seniors Month, when visitors 65 and above get free entry to the Safari Park.

Yes. You can visit the San Diego Zoo without an advanced reservation and purchase same-day tickets upon arrival. Book your tickets online before your trip to get the best rates and ensure a smooth visit.

During the month of October, all children 11 and below can enjoy free entry to the San Diego Zoo. Meanwhile, February is Free Seniors Month at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and all visitors 65 and older receive free admission.

Yes, free parking is available in the lot directly in front of the San Diego Zoo. If that lot is full, you can take advantage of additional free parking available throughout Balboa Park, the 1,200-acre (486-hectare) public park housing the zoo and other city attractions.

There’s no bad time to visit the San Diego Zoo, but if you want to beat the crowds, it’s best to try weekday mornings. Weekends, summer, and school holidays can be very hectic. To take advantage of the zoo’s open-air attractions, visit on a good-weather day.


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