Kid’s City Guides

We are all about making budget travel with children manageable and fun.

The San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo

Activity: The San Diego Zoo. How to Get There: Cost: $56/adults, $46/kids 3-11, under 3 free. Better deals on Groupon, or use the San Diego GO Pass. Hours: 9 am - 6 pm (open until 8 in the summer!)

One of the main draws for San Diego is The San Diego Zoo! I’ve heard about this zoo for a long time and I wanted to see if it was worth the hype. It was! It’s a bit expensive to get in, but we used our San Diego Two-Day Go Pass which covered our entrance AND all the rides. More on the pass in our Arrival in San Diego post.

If you can, get there when the zoo opens. Parking is free (score!) and we barely encountered any crowds. The animals were very active when we got there, but they started to get tired and retreat into their caves the longer we stayed. We left at 12:30 as the crowds began to arrive and it was starting to get really hot.

When we got to the zoo, we beelined for the bus tour. It’s a large double-decker bus that takes you past ALL the animals. We were one of the first people in line at 9:15 AM (zoo opens at 9 AM) and we barely had to wait at all. Every animal we went by was out and active. It was like seeing the whole zoo in 30 minutes. Make sure to sit on the RIGHT side of the bus to get the best view. My friend was sitting on the left side and said she could barely see anything!

After we got off the bus, we had a pretty good idea of which animals the kids were most excited about (the elephants and the koalas), so we went to see those first. Here’s how I like to do zoos: we never try to see ALL the animals. Instead, we choose a couple and allow the kids to spend as much time as they want observing each one until it’s time to leave. This conserves energy, allows for less rushing/stress, and ensures that we always have a reason to return.

After we saw all the animals we wanted to see, we used the Skytrain to get out. This is a slightly terrifying gondola ride that takes you over all the animal enclosures. They do not allow double strollers or jogging strollers, so you’ll need to park those and either come back for them or ride the gondola back up and walk down. They do allow umbrella strollers or any other stroller that folds up small. I braved the gondola with two toddlers and a stroller. Their oohs and ahhs were worth the hassle.

A few more tips I got from friends that we didn’t have time to do, but will hopefully do one day in the future: the bird show is fantastic, it’s fun to run around in Balboa Park afterwards, and the Chinese food place next to the panda exhibit has the best food.

Del Mar and Powerhouse Park

Del Mar and Powerhouse Park