Monday, October 27, 2014

Sights to See: Balboa Park part 4--San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California


SAN DIEGO ZOO  2920 Zoo Dr., (619) 231-1515.  Opens at 9; closing hours vary, in summer 9-8.  $46, 3-11 $36; price includes guided bus tour, express bus, and Skyfari aerial tram.  Free parking.  The city's most popular attraction, this famous zoo is known for its large, diverse, and rare collection of animals--most of which are housed in attractive habitat enclosures.

giant panda in tree at San Diego Zoo in California
It is home to almost 4,000 rare and exotic animals, including giant pandas from China, koalas from Australia, pygmy chimpanzees from Central Africa, and Komodo dragons from Indonesia.  Natural habitats include Gorilla Tropics, Sun Bear Forest, and Tiger River--a 3-acre simulated ecosystem in which you’ll walk along pathways past plants and animals living much as they would in their natural habitat.  Your kids will go ape at Polar Bear Plunge and at the swimming hippo exhibit in Ituri Forest, where those animals can be viewed swimming under water.  The Owens Rain Forest Aviary simulates the sights and sounds of a Southeast Asian jungle and gives you a close-up look at more than 200 birds.  This zoo is also a botanical garden with more than 6,500 species represented, including many unusual tropical and subtropical plants and flowers.  Since it covers 100 acres, it is wise, especially with young children in tow, to begin a visit with the 40-minute bus tour and then return to areas of particular interest.  Note that the line for the sun-exposed upper deck of the bus is much longer than for the more comfortable covered lower deck, which also puts you at eye-level with the animals.  The Skyfari Aerial Tramway will also give your family’s tootsies a rest.  Be sure to allow time for the kid-pleasing trained seal show and the Children's Zoo, which has ducks running loose for kids to meet and features a popular animal petting area.  For a fabulous souvenir, let your kids pick out a favorite animal in stuffed format.  A zoo coloring book is a good choice, too.  Buy desired items when you see them at the small gift stands spread throughout the zoo, as the gift shop by the main gate does not stock everything.  If you’re traveling with a baby, note that changing tables are not only provided but are available even in the men’s bathrooms!, so Daddy--you can help out.  Rental strollers are also available.  In summer, the zoo stays open  late, letting you see the nocturnal animals in an active state.  Kids in kindergarten through grade 12 can enroll in special summer day camps.

Watch the giant pandas live via webcam.

BALBOA PARK:  PART 1--attractions
BALBOA PARK:  PART 2--museums
BALBOA PARK:  PART 3--restaurant

More things to do in San Diego.

More information about San Diego.

Things to do in nearby La Jolla. 

More ideas for travel adventures in California and the U.S. and around the world.

image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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