Your little animal lovers are howling for a wildlife adventure. Good news: You can embark to a 100-acre destination full of 3,500 rare and endangered animals right in your own backyard. That’s right–the San Diego Zoo, located in Balboa Park, is an ideal spot to kick off your staycation. They’re offering up some mega fun activities this summer in honor of their Centennial celebration. Read on for 10 must-know tips for your visit to the San Diego Zoo and why we think it makes for the ultimate staycation outing.

Bonus: Buy your tickets before you visit by clicking here. 

San Diego Zoo

1. If you’re a local, the season pass is worth it. Get details on the pass here. 

2. First thing take the bus tour. (We prefer the top right side!) This 35-minute bus ride will not only give you a good idea of the zoo, but also provide you with a unique view of the animals. Bring a hat: the top-level has lots of sun.

3. Second thing: The Pandas. These amazing animals are only in four facilities in the United States (and they’re a critically endangered species so we think a visit to see them is an absolute must). The panda exhibit is the most popular exhibit at the San Diego Zoo, so go early to avoid the longest lines.


4. This year the Zoo is celebrating its 100th Birthday. In honor of the centennial celebration, the Zoo is hosting a wealth of festive events. Directly below are some of the highlights of what not to miss:

• Nighttime Zoo Exploration:
Experience the Zoo and its many sights and sounds under the cover of darkness throughout the summer. Most Saturdays they’ll celebrate a different animal’s birthday including the lion, jaguar, grizzly bear, tiger and more. At each party expect live music (think a brass band and rock tunes), a condor puppet with a 12-foot wingspan soaring through the crowd and Rex, a 10-foot-tall, 15-foot-long puppet operated by five puppeteers befriending families.

• The Lore Behind the Roar: San Diego History Center
Get amped up for your visit (or keep the animal party going) at the new exhibit in Balboa Park all about the San Diego Zoo. The exhibit will tell the story of the Zoo’s past, present and future with photos, stories, and hands-on displays and exhibits. Fun fact: it’s the largest exhibition in the center’s 72-year history at nearly 8,000 square feet.

• The Bus Tour Is Better Than Ever
Remember how the first thing you’ll want to do is take the bus tour? In honor of the Zoo’s 100th Birthday they’re making their bus tour bigger and better than ever. Additions include new graphics that feature historical and conservation panels, a short film in the Centennial Theater and cool insights into the Zoo’s global efforts to save species like the endangered Hawaiian honeycreepers.

5. Get a birds eye view of the Zoo on the Skyfari aerial tram. We suggest taking a one-way trip then walk back through the elephants and then by the giraffes. If littles (or you get tired) you can grab one of the express buses back to the entrance.

San Diego Zoo

6. Feed the giraffes. There’s a booth next to the giraffe’s to buy biscuits. A handful cost $10 and it’s well worth it. Just so you know: there are limited tickets with feedings only on Saturdays and Sundays.

7. Rent It! Strollers and lockers are available, but you can B.Y.O.S (bring-your-own-stroller) too!

8. Don’t forget hats and sunscreen! This might be a no-brainer but you’ll want sun protection at the ready whether you’re visiting during summer or winter.

9. Get there early or stay late to see the animals in action. Animals snooze and find shade in the heat of the day. Set out early-morning or early-evening when the animals are fed and are more active.

10. We like to eat at the Sabertooth Grill by the Elephant Odyssey. Bonus: you’ll find a nice covered outdoor eating area. Another option is Sydney’s Grill conveniently located near the giraffe feeding area. Note: You can bring food and water into the zoo (just not a whole ice chest!)

The San Diego Zoo
Balboa Park
2920 Zoo Drive
San Diego, Ca
Online: sandiegozoo.org


Do you have any must-know zoo tips? Let us in on them below!

—Nikki Walsh

all photos courtesy of San Diego Zoo