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San Diego Zoo What to see in one day?

Discussion in 'United States' started by ZooMom, 9 Jan 2020.

  1. ZooMom

    ZooMom Member

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    We're taking our kids to California for spring break and are very excited about seeing the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. The problem is, we only have one day for each. We're regulars at the Bronx Zoo and have been to Zoo Miami several times, so we're willing to skip animals that are at those zoos if we have to.

    I'd love your advice on what to see first, what order to view the different areas, etc. We're very used to walking, and we walk quickly. How much of the Zoo can we see in one day if we arrive when it opens and leave at closing?

    Also, is it worth doing the "Panda Trek" now that the pandas are gone?

    Thanks!
     
  2. ZooMom

    ZooMom Member

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    Apologies to the Admins. I thought tagging the zoo would put it on the right board and didn't see the "Prefix" option. Mea Culpa.
     
  3. Wild wolverine

    Wild wolverine Well-Known Member

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    I recently went to the San Diego Zoo for the first time myself and can tell you that it is difficult to navigate (or at least, I found it difficult to navigate) through the Lost Forest, specifically Hippo Trail and Monkey Trail, using the zoo map, so plan for a little extra time there in case it is confusing. The must sees are Elephant Odyssey, Africa Rocks, and The Outback. Asian Passage is still cool to see, even without the Pandas but I wouldn't say it's a must see if you are short on time. Lost Jungle is also a very impressive part of the zoo.
    As for the Safari Park, I actually managed to get through the entire walking portion in one day, at the expense of not doing a safari tour. If you do a safari tour, the must sees of the walking portion are the Walkabout Australia (especiialy now with the new platypuses, so plan about 30+ minutes depending on how long the line to see the platypuses is when you go) and Tiger Trail. The African Woods and African Outpost are cool as well if you have the time.
    These are the must sees in my humble opinion.
     
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  4. pachyderm pro

    pachyderm pro Well-Known Member

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    I have been to both places on multiple occasions. One is much easer to get through in one day than the other buts its still possible for both. Heres my personal route for when I go through the zoo.

    It is possible to see at least 90% of the San Diego zoo in one day, especially since the new Children's zoo is still under construction. Definitely start with Africa Rocks (penguins, baboons, lemurs, meerkats, honey badger, etc) its the newest addition and right by the entrance. Along the way there you can walk through Australian Outback (koalas, wombats, Tasmanian devils, birds, etc) and the Urban Jungle (giraffes, cheetahs, rhinos, kangaroos, etc.) which are both pretty small areas. Afterwards head back up the hill through Asian passage and walk through The Lost Forest (primates, hippos, tigers, hundreds of birds etc.). This is essentially one giant exhibit with several sub exhibits inside it. You will likely spend most of your time here within this area and I warn you it can be a bit of a maze to navigate. You can grab lunch at either the Treetops Cafe by the gorillas or at Albert's by the bonobos. Both are very good dining options especially for zoo food. Once your out of The Lost Forest (I recommend exiting by the Ituri Forest area with the hippos and okapi at the top left of the area on the map) make your way to the Northern Frontier (polar bears, caribou, arctic fox). Then you can walk down Elephant Odyssey (elephants, lions, jaguars, capybara, condors, etc) and you be back near the entrance. Feel free to go back in The Lost Forest and cover whatever you missed the first place and come back out near where Panda Trek (without pandas it includes leopards, red pandas, takin and the rare mang mountain pit viper) is.
    There is a Birds of Prey area along this same path. Again, I'm sorry if this all sounds a bit convoluted but frankly its a challenge to get through this place in one day. However, you will still have a really good time because this is a fantastic place.

    The Safari Park is much easier to navigate. As soon you enter I recommend heading straight towards the boardwalk that will take you to three exhibits that are sort of separate from the rest of the park. The Tiger Trail, Condor Ridge and Australia Walkabout. Your going to want to check out the walkabout first as its home to the only platypus outside of Australia and the crowds can get pretty big from what I've heard. Then you can probably get through the rest of the park without any major issues. Its pretty much a straight shot towards the tram tour around the field exhibits and you really shouldn't have any major issues. I recommend lunch at Mombasa Lagoon, the food is really quite good and the seating overlooks a beautiful island for shoebill storks, pelicans and dozens of the ducks.

    Sorry if this a bit hard to follow, but either way you will have a great time at both of these places. Have a good trip.
     
  5. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member

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    I agree seeing the Safari Park in one day is no problem. Even though it is much bigger in terms of acreage (than the zoo), there are far fewer exhibits. You might want to go straight to the tram ride first to avoid waiting in line.

    The zoo can also be seen in one day but I would plan on staying from open until close if you want to see it all. If you don't necessarily care about ticking off every species, you can rush through some parts (such as walk-in aviaries or reptile building). The trail by tigers is narrow and gets very crowded, so I would do that either first thing or last thing and just go from there. You can also do the bus ride, which is not really my thing, but it will help you see a good portion of the zoo in a short amount of time (including the tigers and most of Africa Rocks).
     
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  6. Buldeo

    Buldeo Well-Known Member

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    Red pandas are still present, as are the takin and the Mang Mountain Vipers. The vipers are particularly interesting (to me), because of their amazing coloration. And just over the fence are the Asian Cats; i.e,, snow leopard and Amur leopards. You could do the whole section in... twenty minutes or less.
     
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  7. ZooMom

    ZooMom Member

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    I keep getting bad news. No pandas (obviously), and both the Children's Zoo and the Skyfari are closed for renovations. I was going to take it first thing and start with Northern Frontier, then go to the Hippo Trail and Tiger Trail. Now it looks like we'll be doing everything on foot, unless the bus makes stops and you can get off?
     
  8. pachyderm pro

    pachyderm pro Well-Known Member

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    The bus is one single 50 minute loop around the zoo. There are no stops but I still recommend it as its a great way to see some of the less significant portions of the zoo (such as the Urban Jungle, which can be seen in its entirety just on the bus, no need to go on foot there).
     
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  9. betsy

    betsy Well-Known Member

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    The bus does give you an overview of the zoo but I don't feel you really get to see the animals. There is a "kangaroo bus" that allows you to get off at 4 different stops around the zoo. It is free with your admission. Just look for the yellow Kangaroo Bus sign on the bus. The stops are marked on the map by a yellow kangaroo. I wish one of the stops was by the front of the zoo, it would make it easier at the end of a long day.
     
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  10. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    For the Safari Park you'll want to go on the Africa tram tour to see the large field exhibits and see the Australia area (now with platypus, Tiger Trek, the family herd of African elephants, the North American animal zone with California condors and bighorn sheep, and the lion exhibit. Would recommend walking up to the back of the park first thing to see the Australia area, tigers, condors, and elephants. The village area of the Safari Park has cool things to see like fruit bats, some walk-though aviaries, gorillas, and a walk-though lemur exhibit.
     
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  11. NSU42

    NSU42 Well-Known Member

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    The Safari Park you can definitely see in a day with the tram ride to see the field exhibit. Snowleopard, in his 2017 road trip, thread said he spent about 5 hours there. It took me about 6 hours, but overall, is definitely doable in a day.

    The zoo can also be seen in a day, but only if they are running their extended hours (9am-9pm) in my opinion. It looks like they currently are not from their website. Depending on when you go, they are sometimes open on weekends. If you go during the summer their is no issue. Some quick notes as you may need to consider the amount of daylight you have depending the time of year.
    1) Your going to want to make sure you do the Reptile Walk when it is still light out. When I was their in October, the zoo was open from 9am-9pm on the weekends and the last thing I got too was the Reptile Walk. It was too dark to see most of the animals, unless you were one of the clueless zoo goers shinning their flashlights into the exhibit. It does not need to be full day light, but definitely going to want some light.
    2) Lost Forest you are going to want to do when their is still good daylight available. I did this second to last and it was starting to get too dark to spot many of the birds in their aviaries. (Obviously, daylight is useful to seeing into all exhibits, but some areas of the zoo are better lit for nighttime viewing then others. Northern Frontier is probably the other part, I would highly recommend seeing with light. Otherwise, it is black.)
     
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  12. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    The Safari Park is easily doable in a day, I spent around 5:30 hours at the place. I'd prioritize going to the Australian are first, the obvious highlight being the only Platypus outside of Australia. I'd then go straight to the field exhibit as it's a major highlight and will get very busy if you leave it for later. Other than those two I don't think the order of visiting things matters, the Safari Park is a great zoo to just get lost in and I'm sure you will enjoy your visit.

    For the zoo I think it's just about doable in a day, I saw it in 1 day but that was with extend hours. I went through a zoo at a fairly fast pace though, so if you're a little bit slower you might not see everything. I'd prioritize visiting Africa Rocks (large new complex with Gelada Baboons, Lemurs, a terrific Penguin exhibit and quite a bit else), Reptile Walk (large outdoor enclosures for Gharials, Tortoises and more plus a nicely-done Reptile House) and Lost Forest (massive complex of different rainforest-themed exhibits. Highlights include the massive Owens and Scripps aviaries, an excellent Hippo exhibit and Monkey Trails, which has 20 or so monkey species). If you think you might not have time to see everything I'd recommend missing Asian Passage, it's a nice complex but without Pandas it's nothing out of the ordinary.

    Have a great trip!
     
  13. ZooMom

    ZooMom Member

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    Thank you all for your help! This might be heresy, but my kids aren't that interested in the aviaries, so I think we'll skip some of them and go back if we have time.

    The Andean Bear is near Front Street, right? Or is it closer to the old Panda exhibit? We've seen all the other animals on the front part of Asian Passage, but I don't want to skip the Andean Bear.
     
  14. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    Regarding the aviaries, that’s understandable, obviously kids will gravitate more towards Elephants, Lions and the other “ABC’s”. If you’re only going to see some of the aviaries then I’d recommend spending time at the Scripps and Owens aviaries, which are some of the best exhibits at the zoo.

    I believe the Andean Bears are in the row of grottoes on Center Street. Judging by the map it’s the closest exhibit on Center Street to the entrance.
     
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  15. betsy

    betsy Well-Known Member

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    The Andean Bears are in the first grotto at the bottom of Center Street, at the intersection of Sun Bear Trail and Center street. The new sloth bear brothers are at the top of the hill on Center Street, closer to Sydney's grill.
     
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  16. betsy

    betsy Well-Known Member

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    If this is your first time to the San Diego Zoo it might be helpful to know that the zoo is situated on 2 mesas with a canyon in the middle. Lost Forest and primates on one mesa and Elephant Odyssey and Northern Frontier on the other. When looking at the map, Hua Mei Cafe is at the lowest elevation in the canyon. All the streets are an uphill walk from there. The steepest part of Park Way is by Eagle Trail, regulars call it cardio hill. Center Street is not as steep and Africa Rocks a winding slope. I want to mention because you are bringing kids, there are no bathrooms in Africa Rocks. There are restrooms behind Sydney's Grill and next to Hua Mei Cafe. I hope that helps plan your trip.
     
  17. ZooMom

    ZooMom Member

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    That is very helpful! Thank you. We're going to be on foot, so it's good to know which paths are uphill.
     
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  18. betsy

    betsy Well-Known Member

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    Our Andean bear just gave birth to a cub on Jan. 8th. Mom and baby will be off exhibit for a couple of months but dad should be on exhibit.
     
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  19. AWP

    AWP Well-Known Member

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    Very usefull thread! I expect to visit San Diego Zoo in May this year. It's good to know which routes are the best to take, what to see first, etc. My main goals are getting a general impression of all sections and seeing rarities (mainly several species of antelope, guenon, otter and bird of prey).
     
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  20. marvinjonesIII

    marvinjonesIII Member

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    While it has mixed reception on this forum, I would recommend starting the day with a ride on the bus as it gives you a good sense of the lay of the land and is a classic experience unique from other zoos. Some areas (like Urban Jungle and Bear Canyon) you might be satisfied by seeing just on the bus tour and would give you more time to focus on walking through the Lost Forest exhibits, which you mostly cannot see on the bus.

    You might want to take the skyfari to the other end of the zoo in the morning to catch the polar bears when they are most active.

    Even if you're not a bird person, make sure to give yourself time in the walkthrough aviaries as they IMHO the highlight of the zoo.
     
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