The San Diego Zoo is one of the city’s best spots to visit. But if you find yourself a bit bored by constantly visiting the lions, tigers and bears (oh my!), explore the Zoo in a new way. Plan your next trip as a way to teach your kiddos about connecting with their five senses and observing nature. We’ve got your insider’s guide on what to see, hear, eat, touch and smell at the Zoo.

SDZooFlamingoPhoto Credit: Jayme J via TripAdvisor

Do You See What I See?
The Reptile House is the perfect place to slow down and look carefully to spot that snake or lizard that looks just like a log. Watching the flamingos over the seasons offers a great learning experience. In spring, see the males run and wildly flap wings, while females begin to sit on nests. See if you can spot the fuzzy gray chicks, and on your next visit, notice how those chicks begin to change color as they develop.

Does your kiddo need a break from the stroller? Do your feet need a rest? Stop and sit right next to the glass at an enclosure. Taking a wait-and-see approach for just a few minutes can lead to a exciting close encounter with an animal.  Talk about the color and texture of the animal’s skin, feathers or fur.

SDZooWaterfallPhoto credit: Ashley via TripAdvisor

Listen Carefully!
What can you hear by listening to the beautiful waterfalls abound in many areas of the Zoo? You can find them in Gorilla Tropics, Terrace Lagoon, Scripps Aviary, and the tapir exhibit. Listening to the rushing water is thrill enough for many kids even if the animals aren’t active. At various times each day, “rain” falls around the perimeter of Scripps Aviary. (Don’t worry – you won’t get wet!) Birds and kiddos will love experiencing this awesome rainforest experience.

Encourage kiddos the listen carefully as you can often hear the bells ringing at The Museum of Man’s Bell Tower throughout your visit to the Zoo. If it’s the top of the hour, count the bells together.

SDZoo5SensesImage Credit: Cherie Gough

What’s that Smell?
Whew! Those camels sure are stinky. Challenge your kids to use their noses to find other smelly creatures on your next Zoo visit. If animal smells just aren’t your thing, then check out the abundant herb garden just across the street from the camels. You will enjoy the tasty smells of thyme, rosemary and other herbs and flowers planted along the wall.

SDZoo5sensesImage Credit: Cherie Gough

Hands On!
What kid doesn’t love putting their hands on everything they see? The petting zoo is must-visit for those who only want to touch the animals. After petting the baby goats, ask your little one how an animal’s fur feels and compare it to pets at home. Stop by the bronze gorillas in Gorilla Tropics for a fun experience. Kids can compare their hand to a life-sized gorilla’s paw.For added fun, count the gorilla’s digits and your little one’s too. Be sure to snap a photo of your rugrat climbing on the gorilla.

giraffe zooImage Credit: Cassie N. via Yelp

Let’s Eat!
If you visit the Zoo in the morning, you may find orangutans and gorillas romping and leaping toward their snack. Ask your kids if they can find animals eating foods that are similar to their own snacks. For a real “taste” of how the animals eat, kids can feed a giraffe on the weekends from 12 – 1 p.m. for $10. Little ones will love watching these amazing creatures with long necks and tongues reach so close to them for a snack. The giraffe-feeding can get quite crowded, so be prepared to wait in a long line. But it’s worth it!

San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Dr.
San Diego, Ca
619-231-1515
Online: sandiegozoo.org

– Cherie Gough

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