We had an amazing experience at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and we were able to experience the animals in a whole new way! Seeing my kid enjoying the animals in an open space at this beautiful and enchanting park was so refreshing, and I would love to share our experience and itinerary with you!
The Safari park features special interactive activities, and experiences to connect you with wildlife and nature in fun ways. Entertainment and activities include Frequent Flyer show, Robert the Zebra, Cheetah Run (this is a must see), Animal Tales, Animal Presentations, Kids Activity Station, Keeper Talks, and Animal Moments, and more.
We recommend getting there early (like 9 am when the park opens), and you can expect to stay there till 6 pm (closing). The park is so massive and so beautiful that you wouldn't want to leave until the last minute. To navigate the park easily, we highly recommend downloading the San Diego Zoo app (Apple iOS download here. Android download here.) You can also download the PDF map of the park here before you go.
If you have little kids, we recommend starting your adventure at Nairobi Village after you take some pictures of the funny little Meerkats on your way. Meerkats look comical when relaxing, sitting on their backside, front paws draped across their stomach. All that's missing are reclining chairs, a bag of chips, and the game on television!
The Lagoon is absolutely gorgeous with birds flying around and swimming in the lagoon. Standing there, you'll feel as though you are in a post-card.
Make your way to Gorilla Forest, after exploring the lagoon and the Kalahari Cupboards. Seeing the Gorillas in the open is an uplifting experience. They are just fascinating to watch. You just won't get enough of them even though you have probably seen them so many times at different Zoos. There is just something about seeing them so up-close and personal, and not behind a glass.
At 10:30 am, get an up-close look at free-flight bird training at Benbough Amphitheater (Gorilla Forest ) for 15 minutes, then make your way up to Nairobi Village and catch Robert the Zebra at 11:00 am. While you are there, visit the petting zoo and brush some furry animals. Don't forget to take a look at the amazing bats hanging upside down on your way to the petting zoo.
It is lunch time now. Look at the back of your map and you will find plenty of options to choose from for dining. Are you done? Let's go... we have so much to see and enjoy. It is time for some Safari Walk to the Tiger Trial, Condor Ridge, and World Gardens now that the kids are full and hopefully not cranky. The scenery is absolutely breath taking on this trial and your kids will enjoy looking at the wild animals. Keep in mind that this is a bit of a walk. Now head back to the Elephant Valley, and the Grove. There is a cool zone at the Grove, where your kids can play and cool down if the weather permits.
We highly recommend the Cheetah Run at 3:30pm at the Lion Camp after your Grove visit. This is one experience that you won't want to miss. Get there at least 20 minutes prior to the show if you want to catch a good spot. Witness the fastest land mammal up close doing what it does best: run! The spotted sprinter races on a straight 330-foot-long track that allows the cheetah to stretch its legs and reach an astounding speed: 0 to 70 miles per hour in just 4 seconds while chasing a mechanical lure attached to its favorite toy. If you're close enough, you may feel the wind as the cheetah passes by.
It is time for our most favorite part of the day: The Africa Tram. This is an open-air expedition at the African Outpost is takes you around the African field exhibits, which is included in your 1-Day pass. No reservations are necessary. The wait might be anywhere from 20-30 minutes to get on a Tram but definitely worth your time. Get some snacks on your way to the Tram and keep the kiddos busy munching.
The guided tour rides depart 10 a.m. until 45 minutes before the Park closes. Busiest times are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on peak attendance days. The Africa Tram is an exciting expedition with diverse animal collection creating a relaxing adventure. The ride path takes you around some of the field exhibits, giving you a chance to connect with the animals on a closer level.
You can purchase other Safari experiences at the door or online. To choose different Safari experiences to add to your day, visit San Diego Zoo Safari Park's Website and click on Safari Tours.
All visitors ages 3 and up require a ticket or member reservation to visit. There may still be a wait to enter the Zoo and Park at the health screening line, especially on busy days. Weekday average wait time to enter is approximately 10–15 minutes, and Weekend and holiday average wait time to enter is approximately 30–40 minutes. To pre-purchase a ticket or make your member reservation, please click here for Safari Park.