comScore
Welcome to the San Diego Zoo picture in San Diego
Getting around the San Diego Zoo picture in San Diego
San Diego Safari Park picture in San Diego
Safari at San Diego Safari Park picture in San Diego
Welcome to the San Diego Zoo picture in San Diego
Getting around the San Diego Zoo picture in San Diego
San Diego Safari Park picture in San Diego
Safari at San Diego Safari Park picture in San Diego

Key Info

Price & Hours

  • $52 for adults; $42 for kids 3-11
  • 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily

Details

  • Zoos and Aquariums Type
  • Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend

Local Experts Scorecard
Based on 8 interviews

  • Must-see
  • Recommended
  • If You Have Time

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

This 100-acre establishment is one of the most famous zoos in the country. The San Diego Zoo is not only one of the largest zoos in the USA but also houses one of the largest collections of rare and endangered animals in the world (3,500 to be exact). Giant pandas, giraffes, elephants, polar bears, and koalas (the largest collection outside of Australia) are just a few of the many animals that call the San Diego Zoo home. The exhibits are linked by an expansive series of trails such as the Monkey Trail, Hippo Trail or Tiger Trail. On these designated pathways, you'll come face to face with numerous exciting creatures including hippos in the Lost Forest, arctic foxes in the Northern Frontier, rhinos in the Urban Jungle or gators in the Wegeforth Bowl. You'll need plenty of energy – and a map – to see everything the zoo has to offer. Should your feet grow weary while exploring, the zoo offers a 35-minute guided bus tour of the park. There's also the Skyfari aerial tram that transports visitors from one end of the park to the other, offering a birds-eye-view of the exhibits below in between. In addition to plenty of animals to see, the zoo also hosts animal shows and animal encounter programs daily as well as 4-D movie theaters with educational films about the wildlife. 

If you want more of the zoo, head about 32 miles north to the Safari Park in Escondido. Here you can view some of Africa's most beloved animals – including lions, elephants and cheetahs – roaming free (well, relatively). There's also meerkats, zebras, gorillas and bald eagles, to name a few. True to its name, the park offers a variety of different safaris, including a zipline safari and a caravan safari.

Travelers almost unanimously agree that the San Diego Zoo is the best zoo they have ever been to. Recent visitors to the park were impressed with the vast amount of animals to see, the various things to do and how close they were able to get to the animals. Many said with all that's available, a day wasn't enough to see everything – the park is really that big. Travelers say bring really good walking shoes, as the distance between some exhibits is as much of a 20 minute walk. Some recommended hopping on the Kangaroo bus (for an extra fee) that stops at four different places in the park or taking the Skyfari just for the views alone. Even though there is lots of walking involved, and some admitted admission is steep, visitors say the experience was more than worth it. The same sentiment is shared for the Safari Park. Visitors say it is an inconvenient trek, but the unique habitat created for the animals is very fascinating to see. Some travelers even went so far to say that it felt like they were on a real African safari. 

The San Diego Zoo is located in the northwest corner of Balboa Park. Hours for both the zoo and park vary by season, so consult the zoo's website for the most up-to-date information on opening and closing times. Admission is a bit pricey – $52 for adults ages 12 and older $42 and for kids ages 3 to 11 – especially for families. You don't need your own set of wheels to reach the zoo; the Rapid 215 and Route 7 (which stop at Broadway downtown) bus stops there. However, if you're hoping to visit the Safari Park, you'll either need to drive or take a taxi as the city doesn't offer an efficient mode of public transportation between the zoo and park. Parking at the zoo is free.

Hotels Nearby

  • Thing to Do
  • Hotel
Inn at the Park

Inn at the Park ...

  • 0.7 Miles Away
  • 3.0-star Hotel Class
Sommerset Suites Hotel

Sommerset Suites Hotel ...

  • 1.0 Miles Away
  • 2.5-star Hotel Class
See all hotels in San Diego »

More Best Things to Do in San Diego

Balboa Park picture in San Diego
Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Welcome to the San Diego Zoo picture in San Diego
Zoos and Aquariums Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Torrey Pines Cliffs picture in San Diego
Beaches, Hiking, Parks and Gardens Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Coronado Beach picture in San Diego
Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
USS Midway Museum picture in San Diego
Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
View from the Cabrillo National Monument picture in San Diego
Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Welcome to the Gaslamp Quarter picture in San Diego
Entertainment and Nightlife, Neighborhood/Area Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Maritime Museum picture in San Diego
Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
SeaWorld picture in San Diego
Amusement Parks, Zoos and Aquariums Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Mission Beach picture in San Diego
Beaches, Recreation, Neighborhood/Area Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Sunset Cliffs picture in San Diego
Hiking, Recreation, Swimming/Pools Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
La Jolla Cove picture in San Diego
Beaches, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Swimming/Pools Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
La Jolla Shores picture in San Diego
Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
|

#1 Balboa Park Home to the renowned San Diego Zoo. this 1,200-acre park is the city's cultural hub. Located in downtown San Diego (about 2 miles north of the city center ... Read more » f11photo / Getty Images

#2 San Diego Zoo and Safari Park This 100-acre establishment is one of the most famous zoos in the country. The San Diego Zoo is not only one of the largest zoos in the USA but also ... Read more » fortherock / Flickr

#3 Torrey Pines State Reserve Want to see what San Diego looked like at its founding? It's at the Torrey Pines State Reserve. This oceanfront reserve features 1,750 acres of unspoiled land, protecting ... Read more » Lisa Field / Courtesy of SanDiego.org

#4 Coronado Beach Compared to Mission Beach, this popular shoreline boasts fewer sunbathers and calmer waves. Just across the bay from San Diego, Coronado Beach is popular with families and couples alike thanks ... Read more » slobo / Getty Images

#5 USS Midway Museum San Diego is a big military town. You'll likely see bases scattered about while exploring the city, especially around parts of the San Diego Bay. The USS Midway is ... Read more » ATOMIC Hot Links / Flickr

#6 Cabrillo National Monument The southernmost tip of Point Loma is where you'll find the Cabrillo National Monument. The statue depicts Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who, in 1542, was the first European explorer to ... Read more » russellstreet / Flickr

#7 Gaslamp Quarter The Gaslamp Quarter's 16 blocks are peppered with Victorian-style buildings that now house a variety of shops, art galleries, theatres and trendy restaurants, not to mention plenty of bars ... Read more » John Bahu / Courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority

#8 Maritime Museum of San Diego The Maritime Museum offers a hands-on look at San Diego's days as a bustling seaport. You can tour all types of historic vessels, from sailing ships to submarines, including ... Read more » Stacy / Flickr

#9 SeaWorld San Diego Though you may spot wildlife at any one of San Diego's beaches (especially Pacific and Mission Beach) none put on quite as good a show as the performers at ... Read more » Radius Images / Getty Images

#10 Mission Beach and Pacific Beach Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are one giant, connected shoreline in San Diego. While not as pristine as Coronado Beach, the area is just as popular thanks to all the ... Read more » John Bahu / Courtesy of SanDiego.org

#11 Sunset Cliffs Next to the Cabrillo Monument, travelers say this is the next best place for ocean views in Point Loma. Situated a little more than 9 miles due west of downtown ... Read more » Zlatko Unger / Flickr

# La Jolla Cove La Jolla Cove is the jewel of La Jolla. Located across the water from La Jolla Shores, La Jolla Cove may not be much in terms of a beach, but ... Read more » pilgrims49 / Getty Images

# La Jolla Shores Known for its gentle waves and active beachgoers, La Jolla Shores is an ideal place to relax for a few hours. Locals and tourists hit this beach to surf, see ... Read more » Courtesy SanDiego.org

Balboa Park picture in San Diego
Welcome to the San Diego Zoo picture in San Diego
Torrey Pines Cliffs picture in San Diego
Coronado Beach picture in San Diego
USS Midway Museum picture in San Diego
View from the Cabrillo National Monument picture in San Diego
Welcome to the Gaslamp Quarter picture in San Diego
Maritime Museum picture in San Diego
SeaWorld picture in San Diego
Mission Beach picture in San Diego
Sunset Cliffs picture in San Diego
La Jolla Cove picture in San Diego
La Jolla Shores picture in San Diego
Balboa Park picture in San Diego
Welcome to the San Diego Zoo picture in San Diego
Torrey Pines Cliffs picture in San Diego
Coronado Beach picture in San Diego
USS Midway Museum picture in San Diego
View from the Cabrillo National Monument picture in San Diego
Welcome to the Gaslamp Quarter picture in San Diego
Maritime Museum picture in San Diego
SeaWorld picture in San Diego
Mission Beach picture in San Diego
Sunset Cliffs picture in San Diego
La Jolla Cove picture in San Diego
La Jolla Shores picture in San Diego

Balboa Park is home to numerous gardens and museums, not to mention one of San Diego's biggest attractions, the San Diego Zoo. f11photo / Getty Images

The San Diego Zoo is not only one of the largest zoos in the USA but also houses one of the largest collections of rare and endangered animals in the world (3,500 to be exact). fortherock / Flickr

The detailed cliffs and rock formations that permeate the Torrey Pines are one of the most striking geological features of the state reserve.  Lisa Field / Courtesy of SanDiego.org

Coronado is considered one of the best beaches in California for its calm waters, wide sands and incredible sunsets.  slobo / Getty Images

The USS Midway is the longest-serving Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century. The museum features 60 exhibits and 29 aircraft. ATOMIC Hot Links / Flickr

This monument is dedicated to Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the first European explorer to navigate the Californian coast. russellstreet / Flickr

This 16-block neighborhood in downtown San Diego earned its nickname from the numerous gas lamps that were installed here in the late 19th century. John Bahu / Courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority

At the Maritime Museum you can step aboard the world's oldest active sailing ship, the Star of India (pictured here). The Star of India first set sail in 1863 and has since been around the world 21 times. Stacy / Flickr

In addition to its popular animal shows, SeaWorld has many exhibits that offer the opportunity to interact with the animals it calls home, including dolphins and stingrays. Radius Images / Getty Images

Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are great beaches to soak up some rays or test your surfing skills. You'll also find a bustling boardwalk with bars, restaurants and shops. John Bahu / Courtesy of SanDiego.org

A beloved spot among locals and travelers alike, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is often considered one of the most beautiful places in San Diego to catch a sunset. Zlatko Unger / Flickr

Located across La Jolla Shores, La Jolla Cove is beloved by locals and visitors for its postcard-worthy scenery.  pilgrims49 / Getty Images

La Jolla Shores is popular for water sports enthusiasts and sunbathers. Courtesy SanDiego.org

×

See full list of Best Things to Do in San Diego »

Explore More of San Diego

Find the Best Price

Enter your check in and check out dates to find the best price

PriceFinder powered by TripAdvisor Primary Logo