Even if you have never been to San Diego you have most likely heard of The San Diego Zoo. It is not only a major local attraction; it is a World-renowned destination. If you live locally you can forget how much a treasure the zoo is. On a given day you may walk through the zoo and hear French, Russian, Norwegian and other languages reflecting the range of visitors it attracts and how far reaching its reputation has reached. Far from being over rated the zoo justifies it notoriety. The zoo displays over 800 species in a park that is meticulously landscaped with flora that reflect the many native habitats of the 3000 animals. While stationed here a visit to the zoo is a must, and annual passes are even better. This blog post will detail the logistics of a visit, the attractions, and tips for military families who plan to visit.
Location, Parking, and Logistics
The San Diego Zoo is in the northern corner of Balboa Park. It is close to downtown San Diego. It is easily accessible by car and has a large parking lot immediately outside the main entrance. Parking is free as the parking lot is a municipally run structure.
The zoo itself is very large. It can easily take an entire day to walk the whole expanse. It is best to wear comfortable shoes, wear sun protection, and bring layers. Mornings and early evenings are much cooler than the middle of the day. Shade cover is variable throughout the park, expect to be exposed to the sun unless you take the tour bus for an additional expense of $10 and sit on the lower level
There are restaurants, coffee shops, and stores with zoo merchandise throughout the park. There is no shortage of opportunities to buy a souvenir or a snack. There are tables with umbrellas, bathrooms with change tables and family changing rooms throughout the park. There is a small baby care center outside the first aid center near the entrance. The baby care center is an outdoor structure protected by canvas curtains and inside it has two benches and a change table –it is not something to go out of your way for as most bathrooms throughout the park offer convenient diaper changing amenities.
The food on offer is fast-food style so we recommend packing healthy snacks to supplement or your own lunch if you would prefer to avoid a chicken fingers and fries kind of lunch.
There is a bus tour and a gondola that transport guests throughout the park for an additional fee. At the end of a long day of walking you may want to splurge on the extra $8-12 to be transported back to the entrance. Annual pass holders ride free of charge.
Tickets and Military Rates
As of this writing, tickets are $54 a day for adults and $44 for children 3-11, and military dependents are given a 10% discount on these tickets when you present your ID at the ticket booth or purchase at an ITT office on base. Children under 3 are free. Active duty military members with ID are given free entry. Our suggestion if you live locally is to buy an annual pass. It is $112 for an adult and $54 for a child, so it pays for itself within two visits in a 12-month period. If you have one adult in the family that is active duty they will not need an annual pass, and children under three also do not need a pass so depending on your family an annual pass is a bargain for a years worth of family fun and outings. The annual pass also allows entry into the affiliated San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido. For local families the annual pass is a huge bargain and it includes unlimited bus tours and gondola rides inside the zoo. We recommend you take advantage of annual passes at least one year you live here.
The zoo is divided into geographical regions. Plants and animals that come from certain regions of the planet are displayed nearby giving a sense of traveling into their ecosystem. Every single exhibit is exceptional. The “best” attractions will depend on your specific interests. We especially love the Arctic animals and everything about the new Africa Rocks region of the park –the plant life is stunning and will transport you to South Africa and neighboring countries while you are charmed by waddling African penguins, warmed to the sight of leaping lemurs, or awestruck by pacing leopards.
The San Diego Zoo has rightfully carved a place for itself on the list of World destinations for families. We are lucky to live nearby and call it our own. If you have not already been to see so for yourself, plan to go this upcoming Spring Break and treat yourself to what the world knows to be one of the best places to introduce your children to the animals of the World. Have you been lately? Do you plan on going soon? Tell us about it in the comments, by email, or on our Instagram.