Learn whether SeaWorld San Diego or San Diego Zoo is the best for your vacation if you can only choose one theme park.
San Diego Zoo Guide
I am a longtime San Diego Zoo member so will give you my best tips for must-see exhibits, getting around, where to eat, and how to buy tickets.
It is our most popular attraction, at the top of my list of things to do in San Diego with kids, and a world-class facility that has helped save endangered species worldwide. Here, you’ll find everything you need to know before visiting. And don’t forget that I have the best price on tickets!
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Top 5 Reasons To Visit San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo opened its doors in 1916 and is home to over 4000 animals representing over 800 species. The exhibits across 100 acres are designed around habitats to feature animals that would normally live in the wild together. You can spend a half-day, full-day, or multiple days enjoying all of it in San Diego sunshine. Five out of a very long list of reasons to visit the San Diego Zoo.
Around the Zoo, you’ll find kangaroos, Galapagos tortoises, rhinos, giraffes, African penguins, baboons, and more. However, my favorite exhibits and experiences include the below.
Where To Eat
We like to take advantage of table service at Albert’s Restaurant in the Lost Forest where you can have a good fish taco, craft cocktail or glass of wine, and even brunch.
You can pick up carne asada burritos and salads at Sabertooth Cafe in Elephant Odyssey and even a local craft beer to walk the park with at San Diego Craft Beer and Margaritas.
As a sweets lover, I always stop for soft serve at Hua Mei Cones in Asian Passage. Stay up-to-date on San Diego Zoo restaurants.
San Diego Zoo Hours, Address & Parking
I would get there early or go after lunch.
Visit 365 days per year.
You can visit the San Diego Zoo 365 days per year. Check the schedule before you go, but normal operating hours are 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
It’s in Balboa Park.
2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
The lot is quite large but can fill up. Take a photo of the animal marker near your car so that you don’t forget where it is.
San Diego Zoo Map and Directions
- Both Rapid 215 and Route 7 stop at the Zoo. You can check sdmts.com for more details.
- Use Stop K to get there via the Old Town Trolley hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour.
San Diego Zoo DIRECTIONS
- From I-5 South (Orange County, Carlsbad, La Jolla): Once you reach downtown San Diego, take the Pershing Exit and follow the signage.
- From I-15 South (Orange County, Riverside, Temecula): Take Route 163 South to the Park Blvd/I-5 exit. Take the Park Blvd exit and turn left (north) and you’ll see the parking lot.
- From I-5 North (Chula Vista, Coronado, Mexico): Take Route 163 North. Exit on Richmond Street (the sign says Zoo/Museums) and follow the signs.
- From I-8 East (Arizona, El Centro): Take Route 163 South to the Park Blvd/I-5 exit. Take the Park Blvd exit and turn left (north) and you’ll see the parking lot.
Know Before You Go
You can read my tips for visiting the San Diego Zoo in more detail, but here is a quick summary.
BEST TIMES TO VISIT
There really isn’t a bad time of day to visit. We’ve been on peak days and weekdays. In either case, I recommend that you come in the morning as this is also when the animals are the most active. They may sleep or seek shade in the afternoons on sunny days. There is always plenty to see though. Peak attendance is usually around midmorning to just after lunch. Weekdays from Tuesday through Thursday are usually less crowded.
- Download the San Diego Zoo app, which will help you navigate the park between its map and daily schedule.
- Strollers and locker rentals, in addition to luggage storage, are available on Front Street on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Reservations to visit the Zoo are not required.
San Diego Zoo Live Cams
- Hippo Cam
- Baboon Cam
- Polar Cam
- Ape Cam
- Koala Cam
- Panda Cam (Archive)
I would also suggest that you take a look at episodes from Animal Planet’s The Zoo: San Diego show to understand even more about what goes into animal care and wildlife conservation efforts at both San Diego Zoo Global parks.
Learn more about the San Diego Zoo panda program including why it’s important, why the pandas left, and who lives in the exhibit now.
Learn how the San Diego Zoo app makes getting around easier and helps guests create an itinerary of must-see animals and exhibits.
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A San Diego Zoo history summary that touches on the unlikely yet interesting events leading to the Zoo opening its doors in 1923.
These are the best ways to buy trustworthy discounted tickets to the San Diego Zoo.
I share favorite San Diego Zoo animals and attractions from endangered okapis to koalas. Knowing the highlights will help you maximize your visit.
What to know about San Diego Zoo restaurants and dining including where to eat lunch, my favorite desserts to look for, and adult beverages.
My list of best hotels near San Diego Zoo includes options for closest, luxury, families, and cheap in fun neighborhoods surrounding this top attraction.
Member insight for how to decide if the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park is better to visit when you can’t see both on the same vacation plus other insider tips.
I’m a member and a mom with many tips for maximizing a day at San Diego Zoo for kids and toddlers while keeping parents sane and seeing the popular animals.
We’re big fans of San Diego Zoo tours for the valuable insight you’ll receive from keepers and staff in a small group or private environment. These special experiences are fantastic for animal enthusiasts, families, locals who are already familiar with general admission activities, those who want to minimize walking, and guests who have a limited time…