Nighttime Zoo at the San Diego Zoo showcases a different side of our most famous attraction with special live entertainment and extended summer hours. And the best part is that it’s all included with admission! However, there are a few things you need to know before you go to make the most out of your visit.

Why I Love Nighttime Zoo

I love this event because if you go to the Zoo in the afternoon, you’re in less of a rush to leave. It’s cooler (literally) in the evenings on warmer days.

Plus, during most summer evenings, it doesn’t actually get dark in San Diego until around 8 p.m., so it makes sense to use the available sunlight to finish your day at the Zoo. Then you’ll have a bit over an hour to see some of the more active night animals like the big cats.


Most San Diego Zoo Nighttime Zoo activities are in the lower sections near the entrance. Start in the afternoon by taking the Skyfari tram up to the polar bears and winding your way down to finish with the animals closer to the entrance. This way, you’ll be able to see the whole Zoo and enjoy the special night events.

You can also get your hand stamped at the exit if you want to visit the Zoo in the morning, sightsee elsewhere or rest, and return in the evening for Nighttime Zoo!

A cheetah walks in the dark at Nighttime Zoo in San Diego.
Big cats like cheetahs can be more active in the evenings

Finally, for locals with annual passes, it’s a new and fun way to see the Zoo on a summer evening, even if you can only stop in for a few hours.

Admission is included with a regular Zoo ticket. We have lots of advice on how to find San Diego Zoo discount tickets, but if you need a 1-Day Pass, I have a promo code for the lowest publicly available price without a special membership.


Discounted price: $68/adult and $58/child (ages 3–11)! Taxes and fees included. This is the best price available to the general public, with no membership required.

*By texting the word SDZOO to 1-833-490-0799 you agree to receive automated promotional messages with how to secure my deeper ticket discount and this agreement isn’t a condition of any purchase. Msg and data rates may apply. 2 msg/mo. Reply STOP to cancel. Read my full privacy policy.

What to Do at Nighttime Zoo in 2024

You probably want to know what festive activities are on tap that are specific to San Diego Nighttime Zoo. Here’s this year’s run-down.


You’ll need to download the app to check when these activities are happening because they aren’t continuous, and times are subject to change. Plus, the map and directions inside will help you navigate between activities!

Rock & Roar

Experience the energy of the Zoo’s in-house band on the Front Street Stage as they perform a mix of classic hits and modern favorites.

  • Location: Front Street Stage
  • Time: 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, & 7:30 p.m. (30 minutes)


Kids like these fun interactive dances they can participate in with the performers.

  • Location: Front Street Stage
  • Time: 5, 6, & 7 p.m. (30 minutes)

The Chameleons

A brass ensemble plays a wide range of music, from popular Beatles tunes to Broadway hits.

  • Location: Near Front Plaza and Sweet Shack
  • Time: 5, 6, & 7 p.m. (30 min)

Whimsical Wildlife Performers

I really love these larger-than-life wildlife-themed performers that the Zoo has at various events. They’re great photo ops, and I always marvel at the ones on stilts and the colorful costumes.

  • Location: Front Street
  • Time: 4:30–7:30 p.m. (ongoing)

Jambo Dunia

As the evening winds to a close, you can enjoy a 15-minute vibrant celebration of African savannas with live music, puppets, dancers, and acrobats.

  • Location: Front Street
  • Time: 8:30 p.m. (15 minutes)

Dr. Zoolittle’s Exploration Station

Kids also love Dr. Zoolittle. He’s funny but also educational with his interactive presentations that weave in a conservation message.

  • Location: Wildlife Explorers Basecamp Stage
  • Time: 5, 6, and 7 p.m. (25 minutes)

The Explorers

In between Dr. Zoolittle, this a cappella group will entertain you with wildlife-themed songs.

  • Location: Wildlife Explorers Basecamp Stage
  • Time: 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, & 7:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

Summer Songs

Parents may want to sip some local suds while enjoying an acoustic performance featuring songs across multiple decades.

  • Location: Boardwalk Beer Garden
  • Time: 3:45, 5, and 6:15 p.m. (45 minutes)

Bounce-a-Roo Bonanza

Watch a dynamic trampoline show with animal-themed performers behind Sydney’s Grill in the Urban Jungle.

  • Location: Behind Sydney’s Grill in the Urban Jungle
  • Time: 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, & 7:30 p.m. (15 minutes)

Amazing Acrobats of Tanzania

Be amazed by the eclectic skills of a Tanzanian acrobat troupe bouncing around.

  • Location: Africa Rocks Stage
  • Time: 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, & 7:30 p.m. (15 minutes)

Vibrant Rhythms

Listen to East African music with drumbeats and dances in between acrobat shows.

  • Location: Africa Rocks Stage
  • Time: 5, 6, & 7 p.m. (45 minutes)

Dr. Harry and Friends

These lovable costumed characters will have meet-and-greets that are perfect for photos.

  • Location: Upper Gardens, Africa Rocks, and Australian Outback
  • Time: 5, 5:30, 6, and 6:30 p.m.
An alert koala at night – they are mostly nocturnal and sleep a lot during the day here.

FAQs & What to Know Before You Go

A little more what to know before you go.

When is the San Diego Zoo Nighttime Zoo open?

The Nighttime Zoo runs from May 25 to September 2, 2024. Activities begin at 4 p.m. daily.

Are there any days when the Nighttime Zoo is not available?

Yes, there is no Nighttime Zoo entertainment scheduled on Saturday, June 15, or Thursday, August 22. The Zoo will also close at 6 p.m. on August 22.

What are San Diego Zoo Hours During Nighttime Zoo?

The Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the Nighttime Zoo season.

Can I bring My own food and beverages?

Yes, the San Diego Zoo allows outside food and beverages. For the safety of the animals, no straws are allowed, and please be mindful of your trash. They don’t offer food storage or allow large coolers.

What should I wear to the Nighttime Zoo?

Comfortable walking shoes are always advised for a Zoo visit. Outside of that, I recommend bringing layers. It is warm during summer days here in San Diego, but as the sun goes down, you’ll want a sweatshirt and maybe some long pants.

Also, a change of clothes is also always recommended for kids who plan to take advantage of the water play areas at Wildlife Explorers Basecamp. There are full body dryers though.

How Does Parking Work?

Parking is free at San Diego Zoo in the large lot in front of the entrance. Toward the late afternoon, you’ll find free spaces sprinkled all around the lot and shouldn’t have trouble parking. Sections of the lot are marked with animals. Take a photo of the animal closest to your car to help remember where you parked.

Yes, the Zoo is one of the best San Diego family activities but it truly does suit all ages day or night. Read my full San Diego Zoo Guide for more tips!

Nighttime Zoo photos are courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

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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