- Hours: Open daily
- Reservations: Not required for general admission but needed for some special activities
- Cost: Admission charged and parking fee; read our hints for getting tickets
- Location: 35 miles north of downtown San Diego
- How Long: Allow a full day, and get there early to see it all
- Best Time to Visit:: Less crowded on weekdays in fall and spring. Special Festival of Lights and later opening hours mid-December through the first few days of January
- See It Now: Photo Tour
San Diego Zoo Safari Park Exhibits and ActivitiesThe San Diego Zoo Safari Park covers 1,800 acres and there's plenty to do and see. Check the daily schedules when you arrive to be sure you don't miss something you really wanted to see.
- Journey Into Africa: This 30-minute trip may be the closest many of us will ever come to seeing these wild critters in their natural environment. Typically, you will see lots of deer and antelopes, giraffes, several kinds of rhinoceros, elephants and other kinds of wild creatures, all roaming in a large, unfenced area. If you're anxious to get to it when you first arrive, the boarding area is at the far side of the park and you may feel like it takes almost as long to get there as it does to ride. It is not included in the General Admission ticket and other tickets allow only one trip, but you can buy individual tickets for it separately ($10 in 2008). If the park is busy and you have more money than time, you can also pay to get preferred boarding.
- Heart of Africa: In this area, you'll find okapis, giraffes, warthogs, ground hornbills, and cheetahs.
- Lorikeet Landing: Lorikeets are very colorful birds slightly larger than a parakeet. Stop at the entrance to their enclosure to buy a cup of lorikeet nectar. Hold it in your hand and the birds will sit on your finger and drink it up. This activity is highly recommended for anyone, but some children find all the fluttery birds a little scary.
- Nairobi Village: Here you'll find the Petting Kraal where you can get some hands-on time with the tamest critters, along with the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Nursery. There's also a daily bird show.
- Other areas of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park include the Lion Camp, Elephant Overlook, Condor Ridge, African Aviary, Hidden Jungle and the two-mile Kilimanjaro Safari Walk. If horticulture is your passion, you can indulge it at the Safari Park. Look for the unusual gardens spread along the trails.
Special ActivitiesThe San Diego Zoo Safari Park raises extra money with a number of fun activities such as Photo Safaris, Cheetah Run Safari, Balloon Safari (a 15-minute ride that goes 400 feet in the air), and special Safari Park tours. Their Roar and Snore sleepovers are an especially fun family activity. Extra admission is charged for these, and you can find all the details at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park website.
ReviewWe rate the San Diego Zoo Safari Park 4 stars out of 5. We especially like the tram ride and the wide-open spaces filled with animals. However, it's starting to look more like a theme park and less like a center of animal conservation, with a Sponge Bob Square Pants ride, face painting, henna tattoos and so on. It's not distracting enough yet to make us reduce the rating, but it is worrying trend.
Those who oppose the ideas of animals in captivity may not enjoy it and others may disagree with me for other reasons. Our poll lets you express your opinion, or just find out what others think.
Poll: What do you think of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park?
Hints for a Good San Diego Zoo Safari Park Visit
- The Safari Park is about a 45-minute drive from central San Diego. Admission is somewhat expensive, so to get the most for your money, plan well. To go in, walk to the tram, ride it and go straight back out takes 1.5 to 2 hours. Add it all up and you need to leave San Diego at least 3 hours before they close.
- In summer, ten to fifteen thousand people visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park every day. The temperature can be 20 degrees or more higher than near the water. Special after-dark hours during the busiest part of the summer make afternoon arrival a good option.
- In the winter, crowds are thinner, but hours will be shorter
- Ride the Balloon Safari early in the morning. If the wind starts blowing, they close it for safety.
- Walk, take the tram tour, then walk some more. Or to see the animals at their most active, take the tram early in the morning.
- Any time of year, bring sunscreen, hats and water. Bottled water costs 2 to 3 times what it does in a grocery store, so bring your own to save money.
- To make it easy, bring cash to pay the parking fee.
- It is not feasible to visit the San Diego Zoo in the same day as this park. It's too far away, and each one offers too much to do.
Here Is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Located?
San Diego Zoo Safari ParkThe San Diego Zoo Safari Park is about 35 miles north of downtown San Diego. Take I-5 north to Hwy 78 East, then go south on I-15. Exit at Via Rancho Parkway and follow signs to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road
See it on a map
Avoid local tour companies who offer ticket/transportation packages. They can cost as much as $25 per person more than the full ticket price with no chance for discounts, and your time is limited. Instead, rent a car Check rental prices.