Disclosure: This post is part of a hosted stay. Our admission was complimentary for review. All opinions are my own.
A few weeks ago, we escaped the Boston winter and headed out on a family vacation to San Diego. Our first stop? The famous San Diego Zoo, where my kids were eager to see turtles, cheetahs, koalas, and their other favorite animals. We visited during a busy time – the Sunday of the President’s Day Weekend, so we definitely learned some tips for visiting.
Tips for Visiting the San Diego Zoo
Create a plan
When we visit our zoos at home, we just show up, enter the zoo, grab a map, and go. But I definitely recommend creating a plan for your visit to the San Diego Zoo. It’s enormous, and there are lots of different experiences available. If your kids are old enough, pull up the zoo map online, and plot out your plan.
Arrive early and start at the back
These are my standard tips for visiting attractions with kids, and they worked well here. Although we arrived 30 minutes prior to opening, there were still many guests already there. You’ll be able to purchase tickets before the zoo opens, saving time. The panda exhibit is typically the most busy, so be sure to visit them early in the day.
Know the ticket types
There are a lot of different options for tickets – including a standard pass (which is what we had) and a pass plus (includes a 4-D theater ticket). In addition, you can purchase different experiences, including backstage passes, a morning event with the pandas, and breakfast with the koalas. Since some of these occur before the zoo opens, it’s a good idea to take a look at them before you go, so you don’t miss out.
Utilize Skyfari and double-decker buses
A double-decker bus tour that can take you throughout the zoo if offered. It’s a good way to see the zoo and decide which exhibits you want to return to. On the day we visited, the bus tour started 30 minutes after opening. We ultimately decided against the bus, because we were there at opening and wanted to get started immediately. But if it’s running right when you show up, it’s a great option.
The Skyfari, which runs from one corner of the zoo to another, is not only a fun ride, it’s also a great way to get around the zoo with less walking. Admission is included with some tickets, or you can purchase it for an additional fee.
I noticed that most of the food kiosks at the zoo opened for the day at about lunchtime. So, have a big breakfast and bring along a snacks if you’ll need them before lunch. At lunchtime, there were loads of options, with plenty of meal choices. If the zoo happens to be crowded, I’d recommend eating lunch either early or late (before or after the crowds).