Updated June 2020
Now that school is out, summer is the perfect time to plan a family trip to what may be the most well-known zoo. Everyone has missed visiting the San Diego Zoo! You’ll find everything you need to know in our Guide to the San Diego Zoo — from parking to dining to everything you must see.
San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Dr. (in Balboa Park), San Diego, CA 92101
The Zoo will be opening at 9:00 am on June 20th. Keep in mind, the Zoo will be operating at less than 50% capacity as it re-opens. It is recommended families arrive during less-busy times. Guests will be admitted one-by-one and counted. Once the Zoo’s attendance limit has been met, waiting guests will be admitted inside on a “one-out, one-in” basis. Check the website for the latest information regarding hours.
The San Diego Zoo may be regarded as the most famous zoo in the world. You’ll find “100 acres of lush, naturalistic habitats and unique animal encounters” here. The Zoo is “home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals representing approximately 660 species and subspecies and a prominent botanical collection with more than 700,000 plants.”
The Zoo is divided into several different zones including Africa Rocks, Lost Forest, and Elephant Odyssey to name just a few. Each zone provides families the opportunity to observe a wide variety of animals, some more familiar than others. (Who knew there were African penguins?)
Several different ticket options are available depending on what you want to see and how long you plan on being in the San Diego area. Families may opt for a one-day Zoo visit or purchase a multi-day/multi-park option allowing them to also experience other popular San Diego-area sites.
It is recommended that tickets be purchased online before visiting. A one-day pass is $58 for visitors 12 and older; $48 for children ages 3-11).
Membership opportunities allow families to receive unlimited admission to both the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. In addition, members receive shopping and dining discounts, invitations to members-only events, and more. Check the website for details; some restrictions apply with certain prices only available to families residing in certain zip codes.
Parking at the Zoo is free. The website states that during the initial re-opening, Zoo parking will be limited.
Keep in mind, that during the re-opening phase, restaurant options and hours may be limited. Generally, however, families will find many dining options scattered throughout the Zoo, so it may be a good idea to look at the options beforehand to get a sense of what your family would like to eat and then make sure you’re in that area of the Zoo at meal time. Menus range from casual (hamburgers, chicken fingers) to fresh California cuisine (wraps, salads), “Asian favorites” (orange chicken, egg rolls), and much more.
Albert’s, defined as a “Restaurant in a Treehouse,” is located in Lost Forest and offers full-service dining while families sit outside overlooking a private waterfall. Albert’s menu includes beef and chicken entrees, seafood specialties, salads, and a children’s menu. (Albert’s also allows families to make online reservations).
The San Diego Zoo is located within popular Balboa Park. Balboa Park is “home to more than 16 museums, multiple performing arts venues, lovely gardens, trails, and many other creative and recreational attractions.” You’ll find 1,200 acres to explore, though, after a day at the Zoo, your family may opt to explore other areas of Balboa Park on another day. Areas of Balboa Park are re-opening; check the website for the most up-to-date information.
Additionally, many visitors to the San Diego Zoo also wish to explore the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (previously known as the Wild Animal Park), also reopening on June 20th. The Safari Park is located about 35 miles away from the Zoo in the city of Escondido. “The 1,800-acre Safari Park is home to more than 2,600 animals representing more than 300 species, many living in wide, open field enclosures.” Families will observe “herd-style animals from the plains and savannas of Africa and Asia that normally roam together in the wild, such as rhinos, giraffes, and antelope.” When our family visited a few years ago, we truly felt as if we were on a mini-safari! It is recommended that families not try to visit both the Zoo and the Safari Park on the same day. Read Sarah’s Review of the Roar and Snore sleepover at Safari Park.
LEGOLAND, in nearby Carlsbad, is also only about 35 miles away. Click here to read our Guide to LEGOLAND California.