San Diego Zoo Safari Park Tips for Visiting With Your Family - A Must Visit Attraction!
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park offers visitors the opportunity to explore a 1,800-acre wildlife preserve that's home to over 3,500 animals across 260 species from six continents of the world.
Its most famous feature is the expansive free-range enclosure that is home to herds of giraffes, rhinos, antelope, zebras, and buffalo among other animals. Visitors can ride the Africa Tram that encircles the enclosure to see the animals up close and in natural habitats.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park also has extensive individual animal enclosures that offer visitors the chance to observe them from a short distance. Many of the animals are endangered species, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has an active conservation and breeding program that is world-renowned.
Looking for San Diego Zoo Safari Park Discount Tickets?
We’ve got you covered – San Diego Zoo Safari Park admission is available with the below money-saving options, so you can choose the attraction pass that’s right for you:
1. All-Inclusive Pass – All you can do. Includes admission to dozens of attractions.
2. Explorer Pass – You'll have the choice of San Diego Zoo or Safari Park to add to your pass. You can only redeem one choice during the life of your Explorer Pass.
Tips for Visiting San Diego Zoo Safari Park
- Plan for a full day at the park, there's lots to do and see in the tranquil and lush environment.
- Grab a map at the stations on the right when you enter the park. Check the list of animal encounters to plan your day around the presentations you want to see.
- Expect at least a 45-minute trip each way to and from the park from downtown San Diego.
- Take advantage of San Diego Zoo Safari Park's Plan Your Visit online tool to scout out which activities and events you want to do when you're there. The park is expansive, so it will save you time if you're familiar with the layout and plan to tackle activities close to each other. Use this link to find the park map and park app!
- Wear comfortable shoes for walking. In addition, bring layers of clothing as the weather can be cooler in the morning, but very warm in the afternoon.
- Consider purchasing a guided safari trip upgrade to your ticket, such as the Behind the Scenes Safari and enjoy a personal jeep tour inside the animal enclosure with opportunities to feed some of the animals.
- Pack a picnic. The Safari Park has many restaurants and food kiosks, but park fare can be pricey. To save money, bring a lunch and eat at one of the many picnic tables throughout the park.
- Arrive early. You'll avoid the larger afternoon crowds, plus the animals tend to be most active in the cool morning hours.
- If possible, plan an overnight camp out at the Safari Park called a Roar and Snore for a totally unique experience. There's nothing quite like hearing lions roar through the night.
- Study the park map available online to get oriented before you go.
- Utilize the Guests with Disabilities services if anyone in the group has difficulties walking or any other restrictions. The park is quite hilly and many areas are accessible only by foot.
Best Times to Visit
The best time to visit San Diego Zoo Safari Park is in the springtime during the birthing season. The busiest times of the year are from June – August and during school vacations. The park offers many nursery exhibits to see the baby animals, including enclosures that let visitors watch them as they take their first steps or are fed from a bottle.
If you happen to travel in October, take advantage of the Kids Go Free. This happens in yearly, allowing kids to visit top attractions at no cost
Regardless of the time of year, the best time of day to visit is in the morning as the animals tend to be most active then, before the temperatures reach afternoon highs.
Tip: To avoid crowds, plan to visit the park on a weekday if possible.
What You Should Bring
- Sunscreen, snacks, and water or a water bottle. In addition, bring clothes that can be layered as the weather can vary throughout the day and you'll be spending time in the shade and sun.
- Quarters for buying duck food for the birds and operating the telescopes to view the animals in the free-range enclosure.
- A camera is a must! There are lots of opportunities to get excellent photos of lions, cheetahs, tigers, giraffes, rhinos, gorillas, and more.
- Binoculars for viewing the animals in the free-range enclosure.
What to Do There
There's lots to do and see with the extensive free-range animal enclosures in the park. The park has 13 habitats and distinct regions. Visitors enter at Safari Base Camp which includes restaurants, shops, and the Children’s Discovery Station. From there, you can tour Gorilla Forest, Nairobi Village, Elephant Valley, Condor Ridge, Asian Savanna, African Plains, The Grove, Lion Camp, and African Woods.
The park also includes expansive botanical gardens with miles of trails and lots of unique species from all over the globe. In addition to seeing the animals and regular exhibits, the Safari Park has a wide array of add-on activities including a zip line, balloon rides, camp outs, playgrounds, behind the scenes safaris, rope climbing through the trees, encounters with animal ambassadors, a petting kraal, trike safaris, and customized experiences with personal guides.
You can really make a whole day of fun out of your visit and tailor your experiences to your party's interests!
This exciting exhibit features all of your favorite Aussie critters including fearsome kangaroos, adorable wallabies, feisty cassowaries, talented tree kangaroos, and many more.
There's also a collection of botanical specimens that are indigenous to or acclimatized to Australia including Banksia, Bottlebrush, Wollemi Pine, and others. These plants are uniquely adapted to Australia's climate and flourish in the most radical conditions.
Tip: Don't miss out on the opportunity to feed the most iconic Aussie critter, the kangaroo!
The Africa Tram Safari (included with your admission) is the primary exhibit at the Safari Park, and guests ride in the tram cars around the free-range enclosure while the tour guide points out the various species. The ride also gives visitors a view of many of the field exhibits to visit by foot. The tour lasts approximately 20-30 minutes, and the guides are well educated about the various species.
Insider tip: Plan to do the Africa Tram as soon as you get to the park because there is often a long wait to ride.
Get an up-close view of the Park's African elephants. The exhibit includes an amphitheater in which the keepers give educational talks and the elephants demonstrate their abilities. You'll learn all about the amazing work the staff do to care for the animals and what initiatives the Park leads to care for wild animals in Africa and elsewhere in the world.
The gorilla exhibit is a stunning enclosure that gives visitors an up-close encounter of the gorilla family without fences to block the view.
See the lions from multiple angles at the Lion Camp exhibit. Their habitat features lots of open space and views into their dens so that you're sure to be able to get a good view of these large animals.
The famous cheetah run takes place once a day. The keepers bring Shiley the cheetah out to a 330-foot race track and release the cat, who can reach speeds of up to 70-miles per hour.
Follow the Tiger Trail through a bamboo forest into a lush, verdant exhibit that features several Sumatran tigers. In addition to giving you the opportunity to see these majestic cats, the exhibit includes education about illegal poaching and logging that threatens their livelihood. The enclosure includes a pool for the cats and a waterfall that guests can walk under. In addition, the shop has a viewing area with tables and chairs in front of windows that look out at the enclosure.
For an additional cost, you can experience zip lining over the Africa savanna for nearly two-thirds of a mile with breathtaking views of the herds running free in the fields below. You can upgrade your experience even more (at an additional cost) and get to wear a helmet with a camera to film your flight in high definition.
Jungle Ropes Safari
For an additional cost, you can climb, balance, and swing your way through Safari Park's Jungle Ropes Safari like a monkey. This challenging course features bridges, aerial tightropes, swinging steps, and obstacles to navigate through the treetops, plus, the safety of a harness and instruction from a trained staff member.
Although the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located in an agriculture preserve, visitors may have an interest in enjoying three other attractions along the way on San Pasqual Road and San Pasqual Valley Road.
LEGOLAND® California - adventures await at LEGOLAND California, including over 60 rides, shows, and attractions featuring all things LEGO®. Admission is included with a your pass.
Orfila Vineyards and Winery - this high-quality boutique winery is nestled in the hills of the San Pasqual Valley approximately three to four miles from the Safari Park. The winery produces Rhone-style wines from its own grapes and other vineyards from within the coastal range of California. Orfila offers tastings and verdant picnic grounds.
The San Pasqual Battlefield Historic Park - visit the memorial dedicated to the soldiers who fought in the bloodiest battle between the United States and California forces in the Mexican-American War in 1846. The park provides insight into the history of California during the Mexican period that lasted from 1821 to 1848.
The San Diego Archaeological Center - this organization is dedicated to the care, curation, and management of archaeological artifacts discovered throughout the San Diego area.
Places to Eat Nearby
If you're looking for a bite to eat after visiting the Safari Park, the nearest eateries are located about five miles away near Kit Carson Park and Westfield North County Mall.
- On the Border Cantina - their menu features a variety of Mexican favorites such as enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, salads, and margaritas.
- Cheesecake Factory - known for its vast menu with over 250 selections including hamburgers, sandwiches, pizzas, salads, and cheesecake as well as other desserts. Everyone in your party is bound to find something they'll like.
- BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse - head here for gourmet burgers, steaks, pastas, pizzas, soups and salads, as well as a full complement of award-winning craft beers.
Need to Know
- Typically 9AM – 5PM. However, hours vary seasonally, so be sure to check online for the most up-to-date information.
- You might want to check out San Diego Zoo vs Safari Park, to understand the differences.
Directions & Address
Driving: From the North (Southbound): From I-5 (Orange County, Los Angeles), take the State Route 78 East and exit at Oceanside. Proceed East to I-15 South and exit at Via Rancho Parkway. Follow the signs to the Park. From I-15 (Riverside), exit at Via Rancho Parkway and follow the signs east to the Park.
From the South (Northbound): From State Route 163 (downtown San Diego, Mission Valley), proceed to I-15 to the Via Rancho Parkway exit. Go east and follow signs to the Park. From I-5 or 805 (Mexico), proceed to State Route 163, then to I-15 North. Exit at the Via Rancho Parkway and follow signs east.
More info: check the San Diego Zoo Safari Park website for more information.
Save on Admission Tickets with Go City
Remember, a pass with Go City is the best choice for maximum savings and flexibility, which includes San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets, plus admission to your choice of other top attractions. Save on top museums, tours, and activities vs. paying at the gate. Visit multiple San Diego attractions for one low price.