San Diego Zoo
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2920 Zoo Dr · interesting places nearby
San Diego Zoo information
This justifiably famous zoo is one of SoCal’s biggest attractions, showing more than 3000 animals representing more than 650 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.
Arrive early, as many of the animals are most active in the morning – though many perk up again in the afternoon. Pick up a map at the entrance to the zoo to find your own favorite exhibits.
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.
The koalas are so popular that Australians may be surprised to find them a sort of unofficial symbol of San Diego (they're featured in the Conrad Prebys Australian Outback exhibit), 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.
Other bioclimatic environments include the 7.5-acre Elephant Odyssey ; Tiger River , a re-created Asian rainforest; Gorilla Tropics , an African rainforest; 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 Africa Rocks , an 8-acre exhibit for African plants and animals, opening in 2017.
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.
And, of course, the zoo is made for kids, from animal shows 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.
To leave the zoo and return the same day, get a hand stamp from the information booth near the entrance. 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.