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San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Overview

Located in Balboa Park, San Diego, this amazing wildlife reserve spreads over 100 acres of green park grounds. San Diego Zoo gives visitors from all over the globe, to get a chance to spend a day in paradise, learning, watching, and interacting with over 4,000 fascinating animals. The zoo first opened its gates in 1916 and has since become a world-renowned zoological park and one of San Diego's biggest attractions.

Today, the wildlife park welcomes an astounding 4 million visitors annually. Many families enjoy spending the day walking around the beautiful park grounds and stopping at each of the amazing exhibits. There are so many animals to see at the zoo that kids and adults will both be amazed. Don't miss out on seeing real-life elephants, bears, and even koalas. Enjoy this animal-filled attraction with your San Diego Zoo discount tickets!

The park is divided into many different sections, each one recreating the exact environment and habitat where the animals originally live in. For example, you can find elephants, lions, and leopards in the section which recreates the African Savanna, or, you can find the red pandas in the Asian Passage. This makes it really easy for guests to plan their visit and ensure they get to see all their favorite animals.

Besides walking around and discovering different animals, the Zoo offers guests a wide selection of activities such as cart tours, interactive experiences, and even private tours with an exclusive tour guide. You can also board a miniature train that takes you on a fun ride around Balboa Park.

The zoo grounds are huge, and there are so many things to do besides seeing the animal exhibits. There are 10 different shops in and around the park offering everything from toys and collectibles to T-shirts and hats. Some of the shops are inspired by the area you find them in. For example, you can find the Artic Trader, a shop in the Northern Frontier that sells everything that you can imagine containing arctic animals.

As for dining options, there are restaurants and snack shops that you can choose from and enjoy! Whether you are more into classic American-style food or you prefer an Asian fusion bite, there is an option for everyone. You and your family won't have trouble finding somewhere great to eat. If you need a quick snack or pick-me-up, stop at one of the snack stalls where you can get specialty coffee, snacks, and even draft beer.

San Diego Zoo is much more than just a zoo. It's easy to spend an entire day here and have a spectacular time with all the activities, restaurants, and shops to try out. The fascinating animal exhibits will blow your mind also. From educational content to just pure entertainment, everyone will find something to enjoy while exploring this extra special paradise at San Diego Zoo.

San Diego Zoo

History of San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo was founded after two brothers drove past Balboa Park and heard the distinct roar of a lion left behind by the Panama-California exhibit, which had been running there a year prior. One of the brothers, Dr. Harry Wegeforth, was instantly convinced that they should open a zoo. This idea quickly became their small business project. This once-small idea has muted into what is now the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

Dr. Harry Wegeforth created a team that included his brother Paul, Dr. Joesph Thompson, and naturalist Frank Stephens. Together they forged the path leading to one of the most renowned zoos in the world.

Besides the first lion, which they heard roar that fateful day in Balboa Park, the Panama-California Exhibit had left behind coyotes, bison, elk, and wolves, among other animals. These first animals constituted the initial zoo. Dr. Harry Wegeforth proposed to take the left-behind animals off the City of San Diego's hands.

The first animal that Dr. Harry Wegeforth acquired outside of that group was a female brown bear named Caesar. Caesar was formally a mascot on a Navy ship, but when she began to exhibit unruly behavior as she grew up, the Navy ship decided to donate her to the new and upcoming zoo. They dropped off Caesar at the port, and Dr. Harry Wegeforth picked up the bear in his roadster, having her ride in the car's passenger seat. Can you imagine that? Driving a bear around the city!

The zoo would take a couple of years to fully develop, as the Zoological Society of San Diego would have to fight to acquire land in Balboa Park, launch campaigns for support, and build a huge fenced area so they could start charging admission. It wouldn't be until 1923, about 7 years later, that the park was able to have benefactors, a fence line, and start to charge 10 cents for admission. Later that same year, they would open the most giant aviary in the world, all the while receiving more and more animals to exhibit.

The Zoo didn't gain world attention until 1925 when Australia donated two Koala bears to the park - the first Koala bears to touch American soil. This fascinating creature had launched San Diego Zoo into stardom.

Over the next several decades, the zoo grew in popularity and tripled the number of animals exhibited. Today, the zoo receives an average of 4 million visitors every year and has over 4,000 different types of animals housed. The wildlife park also does a lot of conservation work and has founded the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

Discount San Diego Zoo Tickets from FunEx

San Diego Zoo discount tickets

If you're convinced that you need to add San Diego Zoo to your next family vacation, then head over to Funex for the lowest pricing on all tickets including San Diego Zoo admission. You will find so many great places to visit at a discounted price. Waiting until you are at the gates to buy your tickets to the Zoo would cost you a bigger amount. However, if you book ahead through FunEx, you will save big with your discount tickets.

FunEx has the best priced San Diego Zoo tickets in the market.

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What to Expect at San Diego Zoo?

You gain access to the famous zoo's 100-acre grounds by purchasing discounted San Diego Zoo tickets from FunEx! Once you enter, you will discover an immense park full of fun activities and surrounded by wildlife. You can visit the different habitats and choose which animals you would love to see.

Forest Section

San Diego Zoo

Enjoy the zoo's aviary, home to the most amazing and unique birds from all over the world. You can also swing by the forest section if you feel like meeting some apes and chimps. If you always dreamed of meeting some arctic animals, then head to the Northern Frontier, and learn so much about them! The park's layout makes it easy for you and your family to make sure you do not miss a single animal.

Pick a path and follow it around the park if you'd prefer to surprise yourself without a plan. See where the day takes you. You can wind up in different exhibits and have an awesome time!

Restaurants & Dining at San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo

There is a wide variety of restaurants and snack shops to choose from, spread out all around the park. You might want to plan ahead by choosing the restaurant beforehand. You might also want to book a reservation to avoid waiting around, as restaurants can be pretty busy, especially around mealtimes.

Keep in mind that the San Diego Zoo discount tickets from FunEx do not include discounts for restaurants and dining. The discount is solely applied to the entrance fee.

Halloween at San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo

The zoo also hosts different seasonal festivals and activities throughout the year. The most popular is the October Halgloween - a Halloween-themed festival with glow-in-the-dark dance parties, glowing exhibits, and colorful music shows and other performances. On each weekend of October, the zoo hosts various Halloween activities perfect for the entire family.

Shows & Experiences at the Zoo

San Diego Zoo

The Zoo also offers many different educational shows and experiences that can take your trip to the next level. From getting up close and personal with some of the animals to a behind-the-scenes understanding of what goes on while taking care of the animals at the zoo. These experiences do not come with your San Diego Zoo discount tickets, but we can tell you they're definitely worth it.

By purchasing your discount ticket from Funex, you will get to enjoy free wildlife presentations, children's playgrounds, and Wildlife Care Specialist presentations. They'll teach you all about the conservation efforts they make for some of the most spectacular creatures you will see at the zoo.

Tours at San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo offers a fun way to learn. You can take some tours with a tour guide throughout the park. There are botanical self-guided tours, guided bus tours, and private zoo tours to choose from while visiting the San Diego Zoo.

Overall, the San Diego Zoo is a beautiful place to spend the day. The whole family will enjoy their time, full of activities, presentations, and things to do. If you want to learn even more about these exhibits, continue reading below!

Exhibits and Attractions at San Diego Zoo

There is plenty to do at San Diego Zoo beyond the animal exhibits. If you need a quick distraction for the kids, an opportunity to cool off and rest your feet or you just want a day full of excitement; San Diego offers an excellent selection of exhibits and attractions for guests to enjoy during their day at the zoo. Don't you worry, you don't need to pay extra. The exhibits are covered by the discount San Diego Zoo tickets!

Below we've listed all the available exhibits and attractions to expect at the San Diego Zoo.

San Diego Zoo

4D Theatre

Rest a little bit from all the walking around and cool off for a while with a quick trip to San Diego Zoo's 4D Theatre. This incredible theater experience allows you and your kids to sit down and enjoy an awesome 4-D movie about animals. The 4D theatre involves fantastic special effects that add an entirely new dimension to your viewing.

The shows usually lasts around 10 minutes and require viewers to wear specialty 3D glasses. These movie shows start at 10:30 AM and run until the last hour before closing. You need to buy separate tickets for the experience, which cost about $7 per ticket.

Please note that this is a separate purchase from the San Diego Zoo tickets or the discount tickets that are offered.

San Diego Zoo

Botanical Tours

Meet with a trained horticulturist and learn about the fascinating flora and fauna at Zoo's botanical garden. A Botanical bus tour will take you to different places of interest while learning fascinating facts and information about some unique plants.

You can also do a self-guided tour by downloading and printing the San Diego Zoo Botanical Brochure and reading interesting facts surrounding the beautiful and sometimes strange plants at the Zoo.

San Diego Zoo

Guided Bus Tour

Hop on the double-decker bus for a 35-minute narrated tour of the San Diego Zoo. The tour highlights San Diego conservation efforts while doing a complete circuit of the park grounds. The bus tour is included with general admission and you can board it next to the Zoo entrance. Whether your feet need a break, or you want to learn more about what San Diego Zoo is doing for animals, then this Guided Bus Tour is for you.

The Guided Bus Tour is included in the discount ticket, there is no additional fee. Jump on board and learn about your favorite animals!

The Guided Bus Tour is wheelchair accessible and provides ASL interpreted tours, but you will need to call in beforehand and request this here.)

San Diego Zoo

Wild Care Specialist Talks

Your San Diego Zoo tickets allow you to turn your trip to the zoo into an educational journey by going to one of San Diego Zoo’s fascinating Wild Care Specialist Talks. Whether you want to learn about Polar Bears, Giraffes, or Guanaco's, you can listen to a trained care specialist as they tell you all the interesting facts about the selected animal. You'll learn about what goes down while specialists take care of the animals, and the conservation efforts that are made to help them thrive. This perk is also covered by your Funex discount ticket!

There are currently three options available to choose from: Polar Bears, Giraffes, and Guanacos. Each talk is given at different times throughout the day, so catching every show is possible. It’s best to show up a few minutes early to get a good view of the Wild Care Specialist and the animals.

San Diego Zoo

Wildlife Presentations

Wildlife Presentations hosted at San Diego Zoo allow guests to meet and learn from Wild Care Specialists and Wildlife Ambassadors. They will walk you through exciting facts and information about specific animals and where they come from.

Enjoy this meet-and-greet where you're introduced to Wildlife Ambassadors and then watch their presentation in the Wegeforth Bowl Amphitheater. The presentation highlights how everyone can contribute to Wildlife Conservation efforts.

The wildlife presentation is included in your purchase of FunEx discount tickets.

San Diego Zoo

Kangaroo Bus

The kangaroo Bus isn’t so much an experience as it is a helpful tool for guests. These buses run around the zoo, picking up and dropping off guests to wherever they need to get. The bus is non-narrated and provides a friendly solution to promptly getting from one end of the zoo to the other. To find a Kangaroo Bus pick-up and drop-off location, you can look at the map for bright yellow kangaroo symbols or watch for the bright yellow kangaroo signs posted around the zoo grounds.

San Diego Zoo

Skyfari Aeriel Tram

The Skyfari Ariel Tram is an exciting way to get from one end of the park to the other while getting a birds-eye view of the zoo. This airborne shortcut allows guests to hop aboard their own tram and be transported from one end of the park to the other. You’ll be able to smoothly glide over the San Diego Zoo and its fascinating guests. The Skyfari Aeriel Tram is a great way to get some spectacular views of the surrounding park. Children under the age of 8 years old have to be accompanied by an adult while on the Tram.

San Diego Zoo

Balboa Park Miniature Train

A classic part of the San Diego Zoo is the Balboa Park Miniature Train. Fun for kids, the Balboa Park Miniature Train takes guests on a 4-minute, half-mile loop across Balboa Park. The train is a safe and fun way for the youngest to enjoy the Zoo.

The Balboa Park Miniature Train tickets are $3 each and suitable for all ages, although adults may find the tiny seats slightly uncomfortable. Kids aged 5 years and younger must ride with a ticket-holding adult. The train runs on weekends and school holidays. Note that the purchase for the miniature train ride is different from the discount San Diego Zoo tickets from FunEx.

Unique Experiences at San Diego Zoo

Besides the regular shows and attractions at the San Diego Zoo, there are also some special experiences that can be paid for separately but are highly recommended. Engage in some great activities for the whole family. Whether you want to get closer to some spectacular animals or have a keen interest in the behind-the-scenes of San Diego Zoo, any of the Special Experiences listed below are sure to be up your alley. Keep in mind that the costs of the unique experiences are not included in your discount San Diego Zoo tickets.

San Diego Zoo

Animals in Action Experience

The Animals in Action Experience is a one-of-a-kind specialty experience at the San Diego Zoo. Do what most people only dream of and get wildly close to the zoo’s exotic cats as they climb and play. This interactive experience will surprise you entirely. You will get to see exotic cats such as leopards climb and jump while learning from expert behavior specialists.

You’ll be able to hear some incredible stories about each animal you’re introduced to, and for an entire hour, you get to be right next to them. The Animals in Action Experience is for ages 5 and up, and you need to buy a ticket and reserve your spot in advance. The tickets cost $89 per person.

San Diego Zoo

Crazy About Cats

This behind-the-scene tour allows guests to take a guided cart tour of the zoo before it opens for the day. Explore the wildlife sanctuary grounds on a cart and on foot as you’re given exclusive access to see some of the iconic exotic felines that call the zoo home. Guests on the Crazy About Cats experience will learn about the exotic cats' life and care at San Diego Zoo while hearing facts about felines of all shapes and sizes.

This 90-minute tour allows you to meet one special cat (the specific species changes day to day) up close and personal. The tour costs $92 and up per ticket, and is rated for ages 5 and up. Do keep in mind that because the tour takes place before the zoo even opens, so you’ll need to be at the zoo at 8:30 AM. Your tour guide will take you on specialized carts around the zoo grounds. These carts are wheelchair accessible.

San Diego Zoo

Discovery Cart Tour

Whether you want to give your feet a rest or you’re interested in getting an exclusive tour of the San Diego Zoo, you’ll enjoy this 60-minute cart tour with a super smart guide. The guide will share his or her knowledge, and so many interesting facts and secrets about the different animals and plants housed at the zoo while you sit back and relax. You’ll also learn about San Diego Zoo’s conservation efforts and their impact on the world.

While you pass by some intriguing animals and exhibits, you can step off the cart and snap a few pics before hopping back on and continuing the tour. The deluxe cart is large and can accommodate an entire family comfortably, making the tour perfect for family trips to the zoo. The tour is rated for all ages and costs $55 and up per ticket. Tickets to this tour are not included in your San Diego Zoo discount tickets.

San Diego Zoo

Early Morning Cheetah Experience

The Early Morning Cheetah Experience is perfect for those who love Cheetahs and other African animals. This tour will allow you to enter the zoo before it opens for some exclusive experiences. Hop on to your own deluxe cart driven by an excellent tour guide and learn and have fun on this 90-minute tour. You’ll spend some quality time with some cheetahs, and get to know them as they climb and play. You will also be able to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the African animal habitats while learning valuable information about the care and conservation efforts for these majestic creatures.

The experience costs $92 or more per ticket and is rated for kids 5 years and up. The deluxe carts can accommodate families, so this can be something the whole family does together. You’ll need to book ahead of time and reserve a spot for the Early Morning Cheetah Experience. It should be noted that the payment for the Early Morning Cheetah Experience is not included in the discount San Diego Zoo tickets.

San Diego Zoo

Exclusive VIP Experience

If you want to experience the Ultimate San Diego Tour and see things no other guests can, the Exclusive VIP Experience is what you and your family need. This is one of the only personalized tours. The tour team will customize the tour to meet your needs and suit your interests. The personalized experience allows you to access some exclusive areas of the zoo while giving you the opportunity to interact with some of the animals. You can spend upwards of 5-7 hours exploring the zoo exactly as you wish with an expert tour guide to teach you about care, conservation, and exciting facts about the animals.

The Exclusive VIP Experience is a very popular tour, so you need to book well in advance for it. The ticket cost starts at $675 per person and is available for all ages. The tour is available only on some days, so planning ahead is key to enjoying the whole experience. Note that this added experience is separate from the discount San Diego Zoo tickets.

San Diego Zoo

Inside Look Tours

The Inside Look Tours are a fun way to get into educational, behind-the-scenes content while visiting the San Diego Zoo. This 90-minute tour allows guests a guided tour with an informative guide who will go over key facts about how the park takes care of its wildlife. You’ll hear hilarious stories, fascinating facts, and some insider looks at some of the animals housed in the zoo. This tour escorts you via a deluxe cart, so you don’t need to worry about continually being on your feet or wasting time by walking from location to location.

The Inside Look Tour ticket costs $89 and up per ticket and is rated for all ages to enjoy and experience. The tour is offered daily, but if you want to ensure a spot, it’s best to book ahead of time and reserve your spot. Note that this tour is not included in the discounted FunEx San Diego Zoo tickets.

Restaurants and Dining at San Diego Zoo

If you and your family have time to spare and are looking for an excellent place for lunch or dinner, consider one of the restaurants and casual dining places listed below. Most sites offer vegetarian options as well as kid's meals, so the whole family can find something to enjoy below. For some places, such as Albert’s Restaurant, it’s best to reserve a seat ahead of time as they can fill up quickly, especially at meal times. The restaurant’s meals are add-ons and are not included in the FunEx discount tickets.

San Diego Zoo

Albert’s Restaurant

Located in the Lost Forest section of the zoo, Albert’s Restaurant is an iconic dining place within the zoo. Serving American classics such as deluxe burgers and crispy fries, this full-service dining experience is perfect for hungry zoo-goers. The restaurant has a patio, private waterfall, and a fully-stocked bar, making it ideal for the whole family. Advanced reservations are required at Albert’s Restaurant. There are vegetarian options available to eat.

Busy Bee Café

The newest addition to the park’s renowned dining line-up, the Busy Bee Café, serves up a fine selection of American classics, including wings, burgers, and pizza. Located in the Zoofari Party Area, Busy Bee Café offers up both single-serve meals as well as family-sized platters of hotdogs, corndogs, or pizza. The Café also has some great vegetarian options available for guests.

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Sandwich Co.

All hail the mighty sandwich. If you’re looking for a light lunch of classic subs and sandwiches, then head over to Front Street, where you can find the San Diego Zoo Sandwich Co. This sandwich shop is perfect for a quick meal to get you through the day, offering soups, sandwiches, and fresh salads. There is also ice cream as well as vegetarian option meals available at the San Diego Zoo Sandwich Co.

Front Street Sweet Shack

Love to mix the sweet with the savory? Then you’ll particularly enjoy the Front Street Sweet Shack. Located on San Diego Zoo’s Front Street, the Front Street Sweet Shack serves up doughnut burgers, shakes, and Monte Cristo sandwiches to hungry guests. They also have some vegetarian options available.

San Diego Zoo

Safari Kitchen

Fans of American classics will love Safari Kitchen. Located on Front Street, the Safari Kitchen offers hungry guests gourmet burgers and crispy chicken sandwiches. You can also eat some tasty tater tots, and try some delicious samples. They have vegetarian meals available for guests with specific food needs.

Sydney’s Grill

Located in the Australian Outback section of the zoo, Sydney’s Grill serves up the best barbecue. Burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, locally brewed beers, and margaritas are all on the table at Sydney’s Grill. There is also a range of salads available for guests to add to their meals or have on their own.

San Diego Zoo

Hua Mei Café

If you love Asian-influenced dishes, then you’re going to really enjoy Hua Mei Café. Located in the Asian Passage section of the zoo, Hua Mei Café serves various Asian cuisines such as pork belly, potstickers, and teriyaki chicken. There are also some American classics available so that the whole family can enjoy a meal at Hua Mei Café. The Hua Mei Café also has some great vegetarian meals and gluten-free options available for guests with specific food needs.

Lagoon Terrace

Located on Front Street, Lagoon Terrace serves up delicious pizza, meatball subs, and wraps, as well as locally brewed beer. They also offer vegetarian and kid's meals, making Lagoon Terrace the perfect spot for a family lunch.

San Diego Zoo

Treetops Café

Treetops Café, located in the Lost Forest section of zoo, offers the best selection of grab-and-go meals. But if you have time to sit down, it’s worth it, as the Treetops Café has a multi-level deck with some spectacular views. You can find soups, sandwiches, kid’s meals, and vegetarian options at the Treetops Café.

Snack shops and shacks at San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo

If you’re looking for a quick bite or intermittent snacks to keep you going throughout the day, rather than spending the time at a sit-down restaurant or casual dining place like the ones listed above, opt for one of the snack shops located in and around the zoo. These snack shops are sporadically located throughout the different sections of the zoo and offer guests anything from soft drinks and cocktails to popcorn, churros, pretzels, and other fair-style bites. You can also find some specialty snack shops with yummy desserts and pastries.

List of Snack shops around San Diego Zoo:

Jungle Java, Zoo Brew, Rocks Box, Hua Mei Cones, Bamboo Bar, The Pagoda, Kettle Corn, The Bridge Snacks & Refreshments, Sweets & Treats, San Diego Craft Beer & Margaritas, Boardwalk Beer Garden, Busy Bee Cocktails, Ituri Hut, Tundra Treats, Jungle Snacks, Baboon Outpost, Koala Cart.

San Diego Zoo Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are reservations required?

    No, reservations are no longer required to enter San Diego Zoo.

  2. How much are tickets to San Diego Zoo?

    FunEx provides the best discounts for its members, please login to find your exclusive offers today! Lowest price guaranteed.

  3. Do I need to purchase date-specific tickets?

    No, you do not need to purchase date-specific tickets. However, you can buy your tickets in advance and save money with Funex so you can enjoy the best discount ticket. Your San Diego Zoo discount tickets are valid for one year after purchase.

  4. Do I need to print out my Funex San Diego Zoo tickets?

    No, you can simply scan your phone at the entrance for admission to the park with your Funex San Diego Zoo discount ticket.

  5. When do I receive my Funex discount San Diego Zoo tickets?

    You’ll receive your San Diego Zoo discount tickets via email immediately after purchase.

  6. Where is San Diego Zoo located?

    The San Diego Zoo address is 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA., 92101.

  7. What are San Diego Zoo’s hours?

    The zoo is open throughout the year, even on holidays. However, the specific times change day to day. They are generally open from 9 AM to 9 PM. However, you may purchase the San Diego Zoo tickets online on FunEx anytime, even on the day of your visit.

  8. Do I need to reserve a spot for unique experiences?

    Yes, you should book any exclusive tours and experiences in advance to secure your spot. Please note that purchasing a Funex San Diego Zoo discount ticket does not include reservations or admissions for unique experiences.

  9. Is there free parking?

    Yes, there is free parking available at San Diego Zoo. However, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has a parking fee. The parking fee is not included in the San Diego Zoo tickets or the discount tickets offered in FunEx.

  10. Are there lockers available for guest use?

    Yes, the zoo has available lockers for guest use on a first-come, first-serve basis.

  11. How close can guests get to animals?

    Very close!

  12. Are emotional support animals allowed at San Diego Zoo?

    Unfortunately, no pets or emotional support animals are allowed at San Diego Zoo.

  13. Is San Diego Zoo accessible?

    Yes, there are complimentary shuttles available to help you. The guest services information brochure lists the full-service options for those with accessibility issues.

  14. Does the zoo offer wheelchair and ECV rentals?

    Yes, wheelchairs and ECVs are available to rent for a small fee on a first-come-first-served basis. The wheelchair and ECV rental fees are separate from the San Diego Zoo tickets or the discount tickets offered on FunEx.

  15. Do I need to wear a face mask during my visit?

    Masks are recommended for everyone indoors and required indoors for those who are ages two and up and who are unvaccinated.

  16. Does the zoo require proof of COVID-19 vaccination?

    No, they do not.

  17. Can visitors and guests outside of San Diego visit?

    Yes, everybody is now welcome at San Diego Zoo. You can buy your discount tickets through FunEx today and get to visit and meet a lot of animals!

  18. Will there be a temperature check?

    No, but the zoo recommends that you stay home if you are feeling sick.

Last updated September 23, 2022.

San Diego Zoo Tickets

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