Downloading the San Diego Zoo mobile app to your phone can definitely enhance your day at this famous attraction. Having used its new version a few times around the facility, I’ll share how you’ll benefit most from it and what to be aware of.

And, there are a few ways you’ll want to use it before arriving.

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You can print or pull up your tickets on your mobile device normally. However, you can link tickets to the San Diego Zoo app so that you can access them easily at the gate. Just scan the ticket QR code to register them on the app.


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2. Learn About and Bookmark Must-See Animals Before You Go

Screenshot of how to learn about and bookmark animals you'd like to see.

San Diego Zoo spans over 100 acres which means there are quite a few animals and exhibits. I think it’s helpful to browse the animal list on the app and bookmark the ones your family is most interested in seeing. If you need help, I’ve put together a list of favorite San Diego Zoo animals and attractions.

As you pass by wildlife (or other attractions), you can tick them off your to-do list in the app. And, when you arrive at their enclosures, click on the information box to learn fun facts about their characteristics and how they live.

For example, I almost left the other day without seeing the Galapagos tortoises, but I’d bookmarked them on the app and knew they were only a 5-minute walk away from where I was.

3. Check to See What’s Open and Closed

Even before arriving, you’ll be able to see which habitats, restaurants, and other attractions are closed. This helps to manage kids’ expectations and so that you don’t go out of your way to try to see an animal that isn’t on view.

App screenshot showing what's closed at San Diego Zoo.

4. Plan Dining and Snacks

I’m a big fan of looking into what to eat before you get there. If you’re at the new hummingbird habitat but want a carne asada burrito at Sabertooth Mexican Grill, the app will tell you it’s a 15-minute walk away.

Or, maybe you’ve bookmarked Hua Mei Cones to try the churro sundae (a must when visiting San Diego Zoo with kids). Check the bookmark periodically as you roam the zoo to see how close to it you are.

If you’re completely unfamiliar with Zoo dining, the app has descriptions of what is on offer at the various outlets. You can read my tips for dining at San Diego Zoo for more information.

5. Map Out Time and Paths to Exhibits

Getting around San Diego Zoo is easier with the app. Maybe you’re on Hippo Trail but are wondering how exactly to get to the pygmy hippos. Click on directions to see where to go. The blue circle will move with you as you walk.

I will say that given how shaded with trees and curvy some of the paths are, sometimes the app doesn’t catch your walking stride with the utmost accuracy. I did get a little turned around on Hippo Trail. But in more open spaces, it works flawlessly.

6. Find the Exit

I’ll say it again — it’s a big zoo. The paths twist and turn in places, so it can be hard to know where the exit is. When you or the kids are ready to pull the ripcord and leave, tap on “Plan” then “Add Activities.” Swipe over to “Guest Services” and select “Exit.”

7. Make Member Reservations

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance members can very easily make reservations right on their phones using the app. It’s much easier than using a computer to find the link online.

Other Tips for Using the San Diego Zoo App

I still pick up a paper map at the entrance. It’s helpful to see the entire Zoo on one page, which is something you can’t do on a mobile device.

When apps are in use on your mobile phone, they tend to drain your battery. Carry an external charger with you. As a last resort, you can buy a charged Fuel Rod kit to charge your phone at the Mercado by Reptile House, Roar & Snore Store, Panda Shop, or Tuskers Trunk Store.

Most importantly, have fun!

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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