Updated: May 21, 2015
San Diego Zoo:I have been to the San Diego Zoo multiple times and it is worth the trip each time. The zoo is massive, so big that a shuttle bus is available to take you up and down the hills to all ends of the zoo. Walking is an excellent workout, but if you have small children, be prepared with a stroller so you don't have to carry them (they will get tired). The weather in San Diego is mild year round so anytime is best for a trip to the zoo. The variety of animals is superior to almost any other zoo I have been to including all the others on the west coast (San Francisco Zoo, Portland Zoo, Seattle Zoo, etc). The Panda bears are the big draw at the zoo with lines that often have a wait of 45 minutes just to catch a glimpse of the newborn babies. I usually plan our family trips to San Diego every few years with one day at the zoo, one day at Legoland and then the last day at SeaWorld. It offers a great mix of animals and fun so that everyone has something to look forward to.
As we mentioned above, due to the sheer size of the San Diego Zoo, it is recommended that you use their shuttle bus tour for viewing the animals. The Skyfari Aerial Tram is another excellent option for traveling up above the exhibits and getting to the Polar Bear Plunge area without all the walking. There is an excellent map of the San Diego Zoo HERE with all the attractions clearly labeled so you can plan your walk before you ever even visit. Zoo maps are available at the ticket office as well so don't worry if you forget to print out a map ahead of time. The Guided Bus Tour is a 35-minute ride on a double decker bus that takes you to about 75% of the zoo. Express buses allow you to jump on and off at various exhibits and catch the next bus 20 minutes later if you are ready to move on. There are restaurants and eating facilities located throughout the zoo so you never have to walk to far to eat or drink anything. Albert's is a full service dining experience next to the Gorilla Tropics. You can view their menu online HERE. The Treehouse Cafe is one of my favorite places to eat in the zoo with sandwiches, salads, BBQ ribs, and much more to choose from. Other spots to eat at are Canyon Cafe, Sydney's Grill, Flamingo Cafe, Raintree Grill, Children's Zoo Cupboard, Lagoon Terrace, and Safari Kitchen.
Driving Directions and Parking:The San Diego Zoo is located north of downtown San Diego on Zoo Drive in Balboa Park. The address is 2920 Zoo Drive in Balboa Park. Driving to the zoo from the San Diego downtown or metro regions is easy. If you are driving south on I-5 take the Pershing Drive exit and follow the signs. From Interstate 15 take State Route 163 south to the Park Blvd (also called the I-5 South) exit. Take your immediate left on Park Blvd and go north. The zoo entrance is off Park Blvd at Zoo Place. If you are coming from the south on I-5, take the State Route 163 north exit. At Zoo and museums exit follow the signs to the zoo entrance. A general map has been included below to give you a good idea of the location of the San Diego Zoo.
For complete details on driving directions from all areas, go HERE. Some hotels will provide courtesy shuttles back and forth from the zoo and you can always take the public transportation in San Diego to get to the zoo. The #7 bus line is what you want to be on and there is a stop along the way for the zoo. If you do choose to drive, Parking at the zoo is FREE which is good news to everyone.
Tickets, Hours and Coupons:San Diego Zoo Tickets - Admission to the San Diego Zoo is $42/adult and $32/child (3-11) - combination ticket for the zoo entrance, Guided Bus Tour, Express Bus, and Skyfari Aerial Tram. There are 2 day park tickets available, but 1 full day at the zoo should be enough to see everything.
San Diego Zoo Hours - The zoo is open every day of the year (including holidays) and hours vary from season. Summer hours are 9AM to 8PM while springtime has the zoo closing at 4PM. Be sure to check the official zoo hours online HERE before planning your trip.
Discounts and Coupons - Your biggest discount to the San Diego Zoo for tickets comes during the month of October. Kids are FREE in October as long as they are accompanied by an adult. Another way to get discounted tickets to the zoo is to buy a Southern California Citypass that includes entrance to the Zoo, SeaWorld, Universal Studios, and a Disneyland Park Hopper Pass all for around $250+. If you plan on doing all those attractions, the ticket is well worth the cost. Of course being a member at the San Diego Zoo means you can get in for free year round. One last option is to check Mousesavers.com regularly before you leave on your trip. They update their website with the latest discounts and coupons available for the San Diego Zoo. You can get more details HERE. There is a current $4 off coupon that you can print out on their website. Some hotels offer room rates that include a FREE zoo ticket, check the web for current offers.
Animals - Panda Cam:What kind of animals are at the San Diego Zoo? The animal exhibits are many - Monkey Trails, Polar Bear Plunge, Tiger River, Gorilla Tropics, Sun Bear Forest, Giant Panda Research Station, etc. The top animal attractions are the lions, bears, kangaroos, camels, giraffes, polar bears, hippos, tigers, gorillas, chimps, reptile house, apes, rhinos, elephants, and the famous Panda bears. Thanks to the internet you can go online and watch the Panda Cam for live footage of the pandas in the zoo. Point your web browser HERE and watch the Panda bears at the San Diego zoo play. You can even download wallpaper and screensavers from that page.
Hotels near San Diego Zoo:The zoo in San Diego is conveniently located no matter where you stay, but we recommend the 5 hotels below for their location and service. There are some hotels that will offer a San Diego Zoo package when you book so be sure to ask for discounted tickets or coupons.
- Courtyard San Diego Downtown - 530 Broadway Street, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone # (619)446-3000. In the Gaslamp Quarter. You can find them online HERE
- Embassy Suites San Diego Bay-Downtown - 601 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA, Phone # (619)239-2400. Great location for easy access to waterfront and Zoo. Website located HERE
- Residence Inn San Diego Downtown - 1747 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone # (619)338-8200. In the heart of downtown on the waterfront. Website located HERE
- Days Inn San Diego - 3350 Rosecrans Street/I-8, San Diego CA 92110, Phone # (619)224-9800, Website located HERE
- Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina - 1380 Harbor Island Drive, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone # (619)291-2900, Website located HERE