With the largest zoological membership in the world, the San Diego Zoo is home to 4,000 rare and endangered animals housed in 10 different ecosystems, from tropical rainforests to Arctic tundras in a 100-acre swath of Balboa Park. The zoo also has one of the largest endangered species research centers in the world, with scientists working in 35 countries, and is home to endangered and rare plants from throughout the world. The San Diego Zoo always tops the list of best things to do in San Diego and constantly makes the list of must-sees in this beautiful city. It takes hours to give the zoo its due; start early and pose for a family portrait sans ice cream and mustard stains by the flamingo pond at the entrance. Afterward, grab seats atop the tour bus and cruise the zoo's impressive hills in comfort as you get a grip on the layout. We've yet to cover it all in a day, but we never miss the gorilla troop, the Tiger Forest buried in jasmine and ginger, and the underwater views of river hippos. Walk downhill through the cool, shady Owens and Scripps aviaries and stop for lunch at the Treehouse Cafe (try the tri-tip sandwich). Once fortified, you'll be able to better tolerate the ever-present lines at the Giant Panda Research Station, home to five Giant Pandas. After the requisite oohs and aahs, ride the Skyfari Aerial tram back to the plateau near the entrance. Save plenty of time for browsing through the excellent shops, where we like to search for safari gear, books and gifts year-round (you can enter the shops without paying the zoo admission fee). If you have time, travel about 40 minutes north to the zoo’s San Diego Wild Animal Park, where rhinos, gazelles and giraffes roam almost free in a realistic African environment. Note the park will be renamed Safari Park in 2011.
- Open Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 09:00 AM to 09:00 PM
Animal Life, Educational
- Credit Cards Accepted: mastercard, discover, amex, debitcard, visa