Why a Trip to the San Diego Zoo is Worth the Trek

Why a Trip to the San Diego Zoo is Worth the Trek

As a family of four with two young kids, we absolutely love all the animal friendly amenities Orange County has to offer. We’re frequent visitors of Irvine Park in Orange with the petting zoo and pony rides, and we’re annual pass holders of the Santa Ana Zoo. We love going to Crystal Cove to visit the tide pools as well as just about any park with a duck pond. But there’s one wild destination that OC can’t beat: The San Diego Zoo.

Billed as one of the largest zoos in the world, it boasts 100 acres of sprawling wildlife habitat and is home to 12,000 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies.

According to US News & World Report, visitors almost always agree that the San Diego Zoo is the best zoo they’ve ever visited. We at the OC Mom Collective agree and we will tell you why. 


Shows and Exhibits Are Fun and Interactive

Like many zoos, the San Diego Zoo offers several activities for the whole family. From a variety of play areas for kids to climb and explore, to the zoo’s 4D Theater showing and the botanical garden tour, there’s something for everyone on your trip.

Our favorite was meeting Zola the Aardvark at the Africa Rocks Stage, where we serendipitously ended up 20 minutes before the show as we stopped to eat. It was lunch and a show as my kids oooh’ed and awww’ed over their new friend. My kids truly couldn’t get enough of this normally nocturnal mammal slurping up insects and burrowing about on the stage.


Attractions Are a Must-Do

The Skyfari® Aerial Tram is a unique experience offering visitors an aerial view of the zoo and surrounding Balboa Park. It’s not for the faint of heart, however. It lines the sky at 40 feet above ground and takes about 20 minutes to take riders from one side of the park to the other. 

Another favorite is the Guided Bus Tour, a 35-minute round-trip adventure through the zoo on a colorful double-decker bus. Perfect after a long day of walking one of the zoo’s several trails, the bus tour is included with the cost of admission and makes multiple stops throughout the grounds.

Looking to be a little extra with your visit? You can pay for exclusive encounters like the Discovery Cart Tour, a private guided tour in your expedition cart, or the Animals in Action Experience, an up close and personal visit with some of the zoo’s most exotic felines. If you’re feeling extra fancy, you can book the San Diego Zoo for a private event and help save species worldwide with your party!


Great Selection of Food and Drink

From restaurant dining to casual eateries, the zoo has a lot of options for foodies like myself. My one critique is that many of the dining options were out of items we were hoping to try and the prices are pretty steep, especially for our party of six. 

Luckily, you are able to bring in your own food or drink, and since we were planning to be there the entire day, we packed enough sandwiches to get us through lunch and enjoyed dessert and cocktails instead. 


Centrally Located and Easy to Find

One of the last amusement parks yet to have guests pay for parking, and not need a tram to get to the front gates, the San Diego Zoo is a straight shot south from OC and centrally located in Balboa Park. If you’re planning to stay the weekend, which we’ve done in the past, you can conveniently visit SeaWorld San Diego in Mission Bay or take a ride on the Coronado Ferry

If you’re looking to satisfy your thirst for curiosity, the area is home to several world-class museums including the Maritime Museum of San Diego, Women’s Museum of California and the The Japanese Friendship Garden.


You Can Visit The San Diego Zoo Safari Park Too!

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is about 35 miles north of the zoo but offers expansive habitats of animals in the wild. Safari tours offer savanna views of African and Asian animals, trails take visitors on treks to experience Australian and North American habitats and there are even opportunities for up-close encounters and unique behind-the-scenes perspectives.

With many of the same exciting attractions, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park hosts interactive animal encounters, exploratory play areas and even an unbelievable balloon safari. 


Can’t Make the Drive Down to San Diego? 

The San Diego Zoo offers Live Cams so you can visit some of your favorite animals virtually. Catch up with koalas and bounce around with the baboons, all from the comfort of home or on the road. You can catch the live cam while it’s daytime in San Diego and once it’s dark, you can view the rebroadcast of that morning’s stream.

You can also follow the San Diego Zoo on Facebook or Instagram to keep in touch with all your new furry and feathered friends as well as your new reptile and aquatic acquaintances. Their feeds are sure to fill your hearts with enough joy to last you until you’re able to make the trek yourself.

Have you been to the San Diego Zoo? Do you think it’s worth the trek? 

Why a Trip to the San Diego Zoo is Worth the Trek PIN