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#6. Visit the San Diego Zoo
Things to Do in San Diego

Watching the Hippos at the San Diego Zoo

©2010 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
The San Diego Zoo is top-rated everywhere, consistently included on various top zoo lists and active in animal conservation. The San Diego Zoo put its first animal on display in 1916, a Kodiak bear named Caesar. Today, the San Diego Zoo is a far cry from the zoos of yesteryear where animals were simply displayed in cages. Instead, you'll find them in the most natural settings possible, at the same time giving visitors opportunity to see them up close.

Undoubtedly the zoo's most popular inhabitants are the Giant Pandas. Basi and Yuan Yuan arrived on loan from China in 1987 and the first breeding pair took up residence nine years later. Since then, several panda cubs have been born to female Bai Yun, each of the cute, little, black-and-white creatures becoming an instant hit, drawing huge crowds and celebrating their birthdays with "cakes" made of ice.

Pandas are far from the only thing you can see, though. Besides our favorite California Condors, koalas and albino boa constrictor, more than 4,000 rare and endangered animals live on the zoo's 100 acres - and although few visitors may notice, there's also a prominent botanical collection, with more than 700,000 exotic plants.

Besides the animal displays, the zoo offers family sleepover events, evening entertainment in summer and activities in every season. And somehow, even on the busiest days it never seems overcrowded.

The San Diego Zoo is east of downtown San Diego in Balboa Park. You'll find plenty of parking if you drive - or check schedules for the Metropolitan Transit System, whose Route 120 and Route 7 buses go through Balboa Park. The Hop On-Hop Off Trolley stops here as well as other sights, and it's a good way to get around town without driving and parking hassles. You can order your trolley tickets from kijubi.com.

Pros and Cons

What we like best about the San Diego Zoo is that it's always getting better. Every time we visit, something has been improved, expanded or otherwise upgraded and the experience grows more pleasant.

On the downside, it's a big place that can exhaust you - and it can be hot in summer. And if you dislike the idea of animals in captivity, this isn't the place for you.

More About the San Diego Zoo

If you're convinced you want to go, buy your tickets online ahead of time. You can save a little money and you won't have to wait in line. You can also get your ticket for the Safari Park at the same time.

If you need more information, check the Complete Guide to Visiting the San Diego Zoo. It will tell you about hours, how to get tickets, admission discounts, how to get there and the best time to go.

Take a photo tour of the San Diego Zoo to see what it's like.

See where it is on a map. It's a blue-colored pin with a dot in the middle, partly hidden by a turquoise one.

Don't Take Our Word For It

See how others rate the San Diego Zoo - from Yuck! to Awesome! For your reference, everyone's taste is different and our readers are a fussy bunch, with the best-rated attractions getting about 60% Awesome votes
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