The Zoo Safari Park is extension of the San Diego Zoo, which we wrote about recently on the blog. Like the zoo it is a destination worth going out of your way for. The park currently exhibits birds and animals from the African continent in large viewing structures. The unique thing that sets the safari park apart from the zoo is the massive enclosed territory they have where their African plains animals wander while the visitors sit inside a tram and view them as though they were on a safari in their wild habitat. It is a popular destination during Spring Break. They have a special butterfly exhibit on right now until April 15. It is an attraction that draws in a big crowd.
If you have never been to the Zoo Safari Park and you put the address into your GPS, you might ask yourself if you are going the right way. It is located east of Escondido and can be a bit of a drive depending where you are traveling. When you are close to the park you start to drive down small windy lanes with sparse houses or any buildings whatsoever. Just when you think you must have taken a wrong turn you will see a large sign come out of nowhere with a big rhinoceros welcoming you into the park.
A one day pass for an adult is $54 and $44 or children 11 and under. Children under 3 are free. If you buy your tickets at ITT on base the prices are $43.75 for adults and $35.75 for children. Active duty military are offered free admissions when they show their ID. The one day pass gives to access to the park, all the keeper talks, and free rides on the Safari Tram. There are a variety of additional experiences you can have at the park for an additional cost such as specialty safaris, carousel rides, a hot air balloon ride.
Reading those prices you might be adding up what a day at the safari park will cost for your family. It can be a lot for one day, and there are additional costs to consider. Parking is an additional $15 per vehicle. There is nowhere else to park except in the Safari Park parking lot. As mentioned before, the park is out in the middle of an undeveloped area of eastern Escondido. The parking lot is huge and can fill up quickly on weekends. The lot is so large they offer a tram service to take people to and from their cars if they are parked in the far lots.
Our MilMom tip for the Zoo and Zoo Safari Park: get an annual pass or membership! Since you have one active duty member in your household who gets in for free you only need a single-adult pass. The passes and memberships cover both the San Diego Zoo and the Zoo Safari Park. If you think you will go more than once in a year look at the cost of the annual pass or memberships –some of them come with perks like free parking, discounts, guest passes, discounts, and the Keeper’s Club (the lowest cost membership) will let you bring in an additional guest with you every time you visit the park.
If you are coming from the coast remember that it gets hotter in farther inland you go. Be ready for higher temperatures than you feel near the ocean. Bring hats, sunscreen, and light layers.
The park does not check bags or strollers or restrict bringing in your own food. Although there are plenty of food offerings in the park, there are also picnic tables where your can sit and enjoy your own food.
Good for little ones
There are a handful of children’s play areas in the park as well as a petting zoo. The petting kraal has goats and sheep that children can interact with and touch. There are brushes for children to brush the goats and hand washing stations outside the kraal when you are done. Next to the petting kraal is a fun and educational play area called the Village Playground. There are various small structures that make the area look like a village. Inside the village are oversized logs to stack and build and working water pump with gourds to collect water.
Up near the Tiger Trail there is the Camp Play Area. It is small and can get congested –there is no space for stroller parking, few benches, and no tables. The play area is small but has a slide and a rope net to climb.
Our favorite play area is just past the “Lemur Walk” (which by the way is a super fun experience where you can go into an enclosure and get up and close to ring tailed lemurs!) –the Samburu Jungle Gym. This play areas has plenty of stroller parking, lots of picnic tables, plenty of shade cover, a restaurant directly adjacent, and lots of fun structures for little ones to play on. It is a perfect place to park, eat snacks, get water, and let little ones burn up energy before or after the 30 minute loop of the nearby safari tram.
We could go on about the many special areas to experience in the park but this blog post would go one for pages. For now we will leave this as a brief introduction and hope it inspires you to go! If you have not been yet pick a day soon to take your family and enjoy this local attraction. Tell us your favorite attractions, tips, and tricks for bringing your brood to the Safari Park! We like to go on weekday mornings right after rush hour traffic when there are fewer crowds so we can take advantage of great animal viewing.