San Diego Zoo - one of the largest zoos in the United States

Lo zoo of San Diego in Balboa Park is one of the largest and most progressive zoos in the world, with over 4000 animals representing 650 species. The zoo remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city ​​of San Diego and it is one of the few zoos in the world that can boast the presence of a panda among its attractions. It is privately operated by San Diego Zoo Global, a non-profit organization, and its 100 acres (40 hectares) of parkland and ownership of all animals, equipment and other assets rests with the City of San Diego.

The San Diego Zoo is not only one of the largest zoos in the United States, it is also home to 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 inhabit the San Diego Zoo.

The animal habitats are connected by a number of trails such as the Monkey Trail, Hippo Trail or Tiger Trail. On these designated trails, you will come face to face with numerous exciting creatures including hippos in the Lost Forest, Arctic foxes in the Northern Frontier or rhinos in the Urban Jungle.

The zoo is developed in several levels, on hilly terrain, and is huge. The zoo offers a 35-minute guided bus tour of the park. There is also the aerial tram Skyvari which transports visitors from one end of the park to the other, offering a panoramic view from above of the exhibits below. In addition to the many animals to see, the zoo is also home to shows and daily pet dating programs as well 4-D cinemas with educational films about wildlife.


The San Diego Zoo in a few numbers

Opened in 1916 (it celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016), the zoo of San Diego it was born almost by chance. After the great “Panama-California” exhibition in 1915, which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, the exotic animals presented remained on the ground. So an association was created for their care, which in turn gave life to the zoo.

Today, spread over 40 hectares, the zoo has around 3.500 animals belonging to more than 650 species, some of which are very rare such as the panda, the Tasmanian devil and the koala. For the latter, the zoo also has its own eucalyptus plantation to provide for their diet. The park has left out nothing, not even in terms of landscape, as over 700 exotic plants have become an integral part of the decor.

What to see in the San Diego Zoo

Beyond its mission to safeguard and protect endangered species, the San Diego Zoo was above all a pioneer in thinking about one zoo "without" cages, preferring to recreate the natural habitats of animals. The size of most of the enclosures is often impressive, giving visitors many opportunities to see the animals (through cracks, from the top of the enclosures, from the bottom…). The park is organized in "worlds" corresponding to different animals of the globe. The Monkey Trails and the Forest Tales  - Monkey Trails mainly displays monkeys such as the vervet, cercocebo and mandrill, but also showcases many other species of rainforest animals in Asia and Africa. You'll also find the clouded leopard and pygmy hippos here. Many species of turtles and fish can be seen in a number of water / land exhibits, all with underwater viewing areas. The African aviary is home to many colorful birds, while, in the smaller exhibits, there are many reptiles and amphibians such as turtles, green mambas, and many species of arthropods such as scorpions. Monkey Trails uses an elevated walkway to observe the animals climbing trees.

Bai YunPanda Research Station - The San Diego Zoo is one of four zoos in the United States that have giant pandas on display, and is the most successful in terms of panda breeding. The first two giant panda cubs in US history were born at the San Diego Zoo, and both were relocated to China in 2004 and 2007. Since then, three more giant panda cubs have been born. In addition to being able to view this rare animal species, the nearby Giant Panda Discovery Center features interactive exhibits that allow the visitor to experience first-hand what the animals smell and feel. Polar Bear Plunge - Recently renovated in March 2010, it is home to over 30 species representing the Arctic. The main animals in the area are the three polar bears and the reindeer or caribou. A large moat separates the bears and caribou, but to guests it appears that they are in the same space, making it more like nature. Polar bears can also be seen from an underwater viewing area. Further along the trail is the Arctic Aviary which is home to more than 25 species of ducks.

Gorilla Tropics - Here we perceive an extraordinary simulation of an African rainforest. Spanning 1 hectare, Gorilla Tropics transports you to the sights and sounds of Africa, surrounded by thousands of native plants and enhanced by the audio of real African rainforest sounds. The highlight of the exhibit is the 720-square-meter enclosure of a group of western lowland gorillas.

Ituri Forest - Based on the real Ituri forest in Africa, this space is home to several animal species from African forests. Animals such as Allen's swamp monkey, vervet monkey, spotted-necked otters, and the giant African buffalo can be found coexisting within the exhibit. One of the highlights of the African adventure are the okapis. These giraffe relatives are rarely seen in zoos and are barely found in the wild. The hippo exhibit includes an underwater viewing area and several species of exotic fish. Over 30 bird species reside in the forest, including the Congo peacock.

Elephant Odyssey - The main feature of the exhibit is the 2,5 acre elephant habitat. The herd comprises one male and eight females and merges the herd of one of the African and two Asian elephants with the four Asian elephants of the Wildlife Park. Elephant Odyssey also features a glimpse of the past with the Fossil Portal and life-size statues of ancient Southern California creatures such as the Colombian Mammoth, Saber-toothed Tiger, American Lion, and Giant Sloth. Elephant Odyssey's other animal exhibits include African lions, jaguars, tapirs, sloths, camels, horses, rattlesnakes, and for the first time at the Zoo, the California condor.

Reptile - The reptile house at the San Diego Zoo has wowed visitors for generations. A walk around its perimeter allows you to see an incredible collection of pythons, cobras, boas, turtles, rattlesnakes, Gila monsters and Komodo dragons up close.

Childrens Zoo - Although the Children's Zoo is within everyone's reach, the main activities are designed for young visitors. The popular Petting Paddock gives children the chance to feel a sheep's wool coat or comb a goat. Children can observe the nursery from the large panoramic windows and see how the baby animals are fed and pampered.

Scripps Aviary - Walking through the San Diego Zoo Aviary means entering a lush African rainforest, complete with waterfalls and exotic plants where you can spot some of the more than 200 colorful African native birds.

How to get to the San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is located in the northwest corner of the Balboa Park. If you arrive by car you can take advantage of the free parking at the zoo. If you don't have a car you can reach the zoo by public transport. There Rapid 215 and Route 7 they stop at the Zoo and are easily accessible downtown by Amtrak and COASTER trains at the Santa Fe Depot, downtown hotels, the cruise ship terminal, Blue, Orange and Green Line trains, and other MTS bus lines. 

Address: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, 92101

San Diego Zoo Opening Hours

The zoo is open every day of the year, including all holidays. In late summer / autumn the zoo opens from 9am to 21pm, while in autumn and winter: from 9am to 00pm. The schedule changes for the holiday season. You can check the opening hours on the day of your visit on the official website.

San Diego Zoo ticket price

Pass for 1 day - Includes: San Diego® Zoo visit, guided bus tour, Kangaroo Express bus, Skyfari aerial tram and all scheduled shows
Adult (12 years and older) - $ 54
Children (ages 3-11) - $ 44

Pass for 1 day plus - Includes: All the features of the 1-day pass, plus the choice of a 4-D theater experience
Adult (12 years and older) - $ 60
Children (ages 3-11) - $ 50

2 – Visit Pass - Includes: A visit to the San Diego Zoo and a visit to the San Diego Zoo Safari -or- Two visits to the San Diego Zoo -or- Two visits to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Adult (12 years and older) - $ 86,40
Children (ages 3-11) - $ 76,40

San Diego Card - is an all-inclusive 3-day sightseeing pass with free admission to the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld San Diego and 35 other attractions.
Adult (12 years and older) - $ 209
Children (ages 3-11) - $ 189

San Diego Zoo -

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