San Diego Zoo and Safari Park
- Type: Zoos and Aquariums
- Time to Spend: Half Day to Full Day
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When seeing the wilderness for the first time, Melman the Giraffe from the film Madagascar says: "White sandy beaches, cleverly simulated natural environment, wide open enclosures… I'm telling you, this could be the San Diego Zoo." This 100-acre establishment is one of the most famous zoos in the country, known for its expansive natural habitats. About 4,000 critters call the San Diego Zoo home, from pandas to elephants to polar bears. And while you're here, don't miss your chance to explore the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park, which is north of the San Diego Zoo in Escondido. Here you can see some of Africa's most beloved animals -- including lions, elephants and cheetahs -- roaming free (well, relatively).
You'll need plenty of energy to see everything this zoo has to offer. Exhibits are linked by an expansive series of trails like the Monkey Trails and Forest Tales walk, where you'll come face to face with our closest relatives in the animal kingdom as well as colorful African and Asian birds on a tree-top trail. A few miles north, the Safari Park also offers several walking tours like the Kilimanjaro Safari Talk. But if your feet grow weary while exploring the parks, both the zoo and the park offer guided bus tours. The zoo also features a Skyfari aerial tram, from which you can get a bird's-eye view of the habitats. When it comes time to refuel, there are several eateries scattered throughout both the zoo and the park.
The San Diego Zoo is located in the northwest corner of Balboa Park, while the Safari Park sits several miles north in Escondido. The city operates transporation between the two facilities. Both are open every day at 9 a.m. until 5 or 6 p.m., depending on the season. During special events, the zoo often stays open until 8 or 9 p.m. Admission may seem steep -- $42 for adults and $32 for kids -- but recent visitors say that the experience is well worth the price. You can also purchase multi-day and multi-park tickets or more unique options, like a zipline tour. For more information, check out the zoo and park's website.