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7 Tips for Your Trip To The San Diego Zoo Travel Guide

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When The Hubbs had a business trip on Baby Brother’s 1st Birthday, we decided to make it a family affair and celebrated at the San Diego Zoo! Here are a few San Diego Zoo tips to maximize your next visit to the zoo:

sand diego zoo animals

1. Go Early: 

This is a no-brainer. The animals (the zoo animals, that is) and our children (the other animals!) do best in the morning while the weather is cool and the crowds are thin. It’s worth the extra effort to get up early and get ready. The park opens at 9:00 a.m.

2. Save Time and Buy Your Tickets Online: 

The basic 1-Day Pass includes the Guided Bus Tour (get on this one first to get an idea of all that the zoo has to offer!), the Kangaroo Express Bus (for tired feet), the Skyfari Aerial Tram, and all the regularly scheduled programs. If you are in San Diego on vacation, check out the great values on the Go San Diego Card.

San Diego Bus

3. Bring Your Own Stroller – Sand Diego Zoo Stroller Rental: 

It is certainly true that I am stroller obsessed and feel that I need one all.the.time. However, the need for a stroller at this zoo is legit, it is HUGE. Even a five and six year old is going to need a break. The zoo offers stroller rentals but they don’t look so comfortable…$12 for a single stroller, $16 for a double. We took our Britax B Ready Stroller and it worked out really well. Baby Brother took a nap and Big Brother was able to hitch a ride several times to take a break.

San Diego Stroller
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo

4. Pack Your Own Food – San Diego Zoo Food Policy: 

The Zoo offers a great variety of food and beverages throughout the park. No matter where you are, you are close to a food vendor, no need to trek all the way to the front entrance to eat. If money is no object it is certainly easy to just order and eat wherever. However, if you are on a budget, as we are, you may want to consider packing your own food. Can you bring food into the San Diego Zoo? Yes. I found the food pricing to be relatively reasonable, but I can never get over paying $5 for a soda or $3 for a bottled water!! You can see some sample pricing in the photos below.

Packing lunch for the entire family is not always “fun” so you could consider:

a) Packing the kids’ lunch and buying parent lunches.

b) Packing drinks and snacks to hold down the total cost. This is great if you are staying in a hotel, just drop by a CVS on the way to the zoo and stock up on sodas or juice, bottled water and snacks.

San Diego Zoo food
San Diego Zoo food choices

5. Stay Hydrated – Beer For Parents! 

San Diego is famous for its beautiful, warm weather. While the weather is typically very comfortable, after you hoof it around the zoo for a while (especially uphill, as the “people mover” is currently under construction) you will be super thirsty. Keep yourself and your children hydrated! Also, as a special treat for parents, the zoo serves beer & wine. Yep, you read that right…BEER FOR DAD! Pick one up at Sydney’s Grill.

uc davis sweatshirt
San Diego Zoo beer offered

6. Learn Something New: 

The vast number of animals at this amazing zoo can be overwhelming, especially if you attempt to see them all! Don’t get so caught up that you don’t learn something new and make sure your children do too! Focus on 1, 3, 5…animals or a group of animals to explore.

San Diego Zoo gorilla

(No, I did not photo shop this image! The Hubbs and I were both laughing!)

San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo Bus

7. Something to Celebrate? 

The San Diego Zoo does not offer birthday party packages. However, if your child MUST have a zoo party (I know how that goes!) meet your guests there and bring in your own cupcakes/cake in a wagon or x-large stroller basket! The zoo does provide options for catered events.

*I was not compensated for this post, however I did receive two complimentary tickets. All opinions, as always, remain my own.

San Diego Zoo

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Thursday 9th of July 2015

Do you recall any great exhibits or activities in the evening hours? Since the zoo closes at 9pm, do you suggest any special night activities to go to? THANK YOU!!

Lisa H

Tuesday 13th of May 2014

So many great tips! As a mother of two little ones, I appreciate all the recommendations!

Lisa H

Tuesday 13th of May 2014

So many great tips! As a mother of two little ones, I appreciate all the great tips!

Arantxa Brown

Monday 14th of April 2014

Great tips! Looking forward to my next trip to San Diego to visit the zoo. My husband and I will definitely make a pit stop at Sydney's Grill for a couple of cold ones!


Friday 11th of April 2014

Great tips! Thanks for sharing.

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