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WATCH OUT for the NEW SPECIAL Experience at San Diego Zoo!
Early Morning Explorers!
Check out the Wildlife Explorers Basecamp at San Diego Zoo and participate in some fun and exciting wildlife exploration activities! These activities are suitable for the whole family, even the little wild explorers! Each month presents a new ecosystem to explore, a new wildlife encounter, and a new opportunity to enjoy nature. These experiences are unforgettable! Don’t miss out! Get your discounted admission ticket through FunEx today and save big!
- This unique journey is recommended for families with kids ages 3 to 12.
- Morning exploration will take you about 60 minutes.
- It’s located at Wildlife Explorers Basecamp
- This is a separately ticketed event. Not included in General Admission tickets.
- Only available on select days. Visit San Diego Zoo’s official website to make a reservation.
San Diego Zoo Overview
Spread over 100 acres of lush park grounds adjacent to San Diego’s bustling downtown, San Diego Zoo allows visitors to spend a day in paradise, learning, watching, and interacting with over 4,000 fascinating animals. The zoo started 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 perusing the beautiful park grounds while stopping at each of the endlessly intriguing exhibits. A nearly inexhaustive list of animals housed at the zoo will surely captivate kids and adults, from elephants to koalas. Get to visit with your San Diego Zoo discount tickets!
The park is set up into sections focused on environments and animals that live in these different parts of the world. For example, you can find elephants, lions, and leopards in the Africa-themed section, while in the Asian Passage, you’d find the red panda. This makes it easy for guests to plan their visit and ensure they get to see all their favorite animals.
Besides the usual walking around and discovering different animals, the menagerie offers guests a wide selection of activities such as Cart tours, interactive experiences, and even private tours with a knowledgeable tour guide. The zoological garden even has a miniature train that takes guests on a 4-minute ride around Balboa Park.
The zoo is massive, and there are many things to do besides seeing the animal exhibits. There are 10 different shops in and around the park offering everything from trinkets and collectibles to T-shirts and hats. Some of the shops are themed to the area you find them in. For example, in the Northern Frontier, a themed shop called Arctic Trader sells memorabilia surrounding arctic animals.
As for dining options, there are 27 different restaurants and snack shops that you can choose from and enjoy when you enter using your San Diego Zoo tickets, the dining area is situated throughout the zoological park. The food ranges from classic American to Asian fusion to Mexican, so you and your family won’t have trouble finding somewhere 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 not get bored with a diverse set of activities, restaurants, and shops to try, along with the fascinating animal exhibits. From educational content to just pure entertainment, everyone will find something to enjoy while exploring the large, lush paradise of San Diego Zoo.
History of San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo got its start after two brothers drove past Balboa Park and heard the distinct roar of a lion left behind by the Panama-California exhibit, which has been housed there a year prior. One of the brothers, Dr. Harry Wegeforth, flippantly remarked that they should open a zoo. The joke turned into an idea, the idea into a business venture, and the business venture into what is now the San Diego Zoo.
Dr. Harry Wegeforth created a team made up of his brother Paul, Dr. Joesph Thompson, and naturalist Frank Stephens, and together they forged the path leading to one of the most renowned zoos in the world. Although they were ridiculed early on, they continued working in animal acquirement and raising funds for the zoo.
Besides the first lion, which they heard a roar that fateful day in Balboa Park, the Panama-California Exhibit left behind coyotes, bison, elk, and wolves, to name a few. These first animals made up the initial zoo after 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 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 burgeoning 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.
The zoo would take a couple of years to fully come into its own as the Zoological Society of San Diego would fight to acquire land in Balboa Park, campaign for support, and build a fenced area so they could start charging admission. It wouldn’t be until 1923, about 7 years later, that the park would have benefactors, a fence line, and be able to charge 10 cents for admission. Later in the year, they would open the most giant aviary in the world 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 would launch San Diego Zoo into the limelight.
Over the next several decades, the zoo would grow in popularity and 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
If you’re convinced that you need to add San Diego Zoo to your next family vacation, then head to Funex for industry-low pricing on all tickets including the San Diego Zoo tickets that are available on a discounted price. If you wait until you are at the gates to buy you and your family tickets to the zoo, you would be paying $57 per ticket for a child; however, if you book ahead through FunEx, you will save big with your discount tickets.
FunEx has made San Diego Zoo tickets pocket friendly and accessible.
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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, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer size and number of activities to experience there. However, the park is laid out intuitively with different themed sections, making it easy to find your favorite type of animal.
Watch and marvel at the birds you have not seen before and enjoy the zoo’s aviary; if your kid loves monkeys and apes, then head to the forest section; if you’re obsessed with arctic animals, then head to the Northern Frontier – the park’s layout makes it easy for you and your family to hit every must-see animal.
Pick a path and follow it around the park if you’d prefer to peruse and see where the day takes you. You can wind through different exhibits quite easily, and if you stick to the circular path, you’ll be sure to hit everything.
Restaurants & Dining at San Diego Zoo
There is a wide variety of restaurants and snack shops to choose from, spread out all around the park. However, if you’re hoping to have a sit-down meal, it’s best to plan ahead by choosing the restaurant and planning how to get there mid-day. You’ll also want to book a reservation ahead of time as restaurants can fill up quickly, especially around mealtimes.
Please note that the San Diego Zoo discount tickets from FunEx do not cover discounts for restaurants and dining. The discount is solely applied to the entrance fee.
Halloween at 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 dance parties, glowing exhibits, and other music and performances. On each weekend of October, the zoo hosts various Halloween activities perfect for the entire family.
Shows & Experiences at the 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 into 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 a discount ticket for a wildlife reserve, you will also enjoy free wildlife presentations, children’s playgrounds, and Wildlife Care Specialist presentations. They’ll take you through conservation efforts for some of the spectacular creatures you see at the zoo.
Tours at San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo offers a fun and informative day of education. You can also 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 a day. The whole family will enjoy their time, brimming full of activities, presentations, and things to do. For a more comprehensive list of different Exhibits and Attractions you can expect to see at the San Diego Zoo, 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 a comprehensive list of all the available exhibits and attractions to expect at the San Diego Zoo.
Rest up and cool off for a while with a quick trip to San Diego Zoo’s 4D Theatre. This immersive theater experience allows you and your kids to sit down in a movie theatre environment and experience the thrills of a 3D animal-centered show – but with a twist. The 4D theatre involves fantastic special effects that add an entirely new dimension to your viewing.
The shows usually last around 10 minutes and require viewers to wear specialty 3D glasses. The 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.
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 excellent 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 flora and fauna that calls the zoo home.
Guided Bus Tour
Hop on to 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 zoo grounds. The bus tour is included with general admission and boards at the Zoo entrance. Whether your feet need a break, or you want to learn more about what San Diego Zoo is doing to be an ally of all animals, then this Guided Bus Tour is for you.
The Guided Bus Tour is included in the discount ticket, there is no additional fee to enjoy the zoo and learn about your favorite animals!
The Guided Bus Tour is wheelchair accessible and provides ASL interpreted tours with enough advanced notice (which you can do with a quick phone call to the number listed here.)
Wild Care Specialist Talks
Your San Diego Zoo tickets allow you to turn your trip to the zoo into an educational one by joining 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 talk about interesting facts about the animal of the session. You’ll learn about what goes into the care of the animal and the conservation efforts in place to help them thrive. This perk is also covered by the discount ticket!
There are currently three options available: Polar Bears, Giraffes, and Guanacos. Each happens at different times throughout the day, so catching every show is possible. It’s best practice to show up a few minutes early to get a good view of the Wild Care Specialist and the animal.
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.
San Diego Zoo has a meet-and-greet where you’re introduced to Wildlife Ambassadors at 1:00 PM, while the actual presentations start at 2:00 PM in the Wegeforth Bowl Amphitheater. The presentation also highlights how everyone can contribute to Wildlife Conservation efforts.
The wildlife presentation is included in your purchase of the discount San Diego Zoo tickets from FunEx.
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.
Skyfari Aeriel Tram
The Skyfari Ariel Tram is an exciting way to get from one end of the park to the other while getting some 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 side. You’ll be above the tree line as you smoothly glide over the San Diego Zoo and its fascinating occupants. The Skyfari Aeriel Tram is a great way to get some spectacular views of the surrounding park. Children younger than 8 have to be accompanied by an adult while on the Tram.
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 has a train conductor as well as volunteers spread out across to keep an eye on the kids who are seated double in the carts.
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 numerous special experiences that have a surcharge but provide some pretty amazing 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 work happening at the San Diego Zoo, any of the Special Experiences listed below are sure to be up your alley.
Animals in Action Experience
The Animals in Action Experience is a one-of-kind specialty experience at the San Diego Zoo. Do what most people dream of and go up close and personal to the zoo’s exotic cats as they climb and play. This interactive experience provides an insider experience like no other, as you 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 close 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 of your trip. The tickets cost $89 per person. Keep in mind that the cost of the Animal in Action Experience is not included in your discount San Diego Zoo tickets.
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 via cart and foot as you’re given exclusive access to see some of the iconic exotic cats that call the zoo home. Guests on the Crazy About Cats experience will learn what goes into taking care of the exotic cats at San Diego Zoo while hearing facts about cats 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, 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 – carts that are wheelchair accessible.
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 the 60-minute cart tour with a knowledgeable guide. The guide will share some interesting facts and tidbits about the different animals and plants housed at the zoo while you sit back in comfort. 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 photos 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 tickets.
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 a knowledgeable tour guide and allow this 90-minute tour to excite and educate. You’ll spend some quality time with a cheetah, getting up close and personal with them as they climb and play after being given 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 will cost $92 and up 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.
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 the one for you and your family. This is one of the only customizable tours, and 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 a knowledgeable 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 tickets cost $675 and up per person and are 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.
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 practice 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 discount San Diego Zoo tickets.
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. Do note that you’ll need to make a reservation in advance in order to get a table 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 Sandwich Co.
All hail the mighty sandwich. If you’re looking for a light lunch of classic subs and sandwiches, then head 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. There are also some vegetarian options available.
Fans of American classics will love Safari Kitchen. Located on Front Street, the Safari Kitchen offers hungry guests gourmet burgers and crispy chicken sandwiches. There are also some tasty tater tots for you and your kids to sample as well as vegetarian meals available for guests with specific food needs.
Located in the Australian Outback section of the zoo, Sydney’s Grill serves up everything 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.
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.
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.
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
If you’re looking for just 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 17 snack shops located in and around the zoo. These snack shops are sporadically spaces 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 curated deserts 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
Are Reservations Required?
No, reservations are no longer required to enter San Diego Zoo.
How much are tickets to San Diego Zoo?
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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 avail a discount ticket. Your San Diego Zoo discount tickets are valid for one year after purchase.
Do I need to print off 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.
When do I receive my Funex Discount San Diego Zoo
You’ll receive your San Diego Zoo discount tickets via email immediately after purchase.
Where is San Diego Zoo located?
The San Diego Zoo address is 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA., 92101.
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.
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.
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.
Are there lockers available for guest use?
Yes, the zoo has available lockers for guest use on a first-come, first-serve basis.
How close can guests get to animals?
Are emotional support animals allowed at San Diego Zoo?
Unfortunately, no pets or emotional support animals are allowed at San Diego Zoo.
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.
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.
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.
Does the zoo require proof of COVID-19 vaccination?
No, they do not.
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!
Will there be a temperature check?
No, but the zoo recommends that you stay home if you are feeling sick.
Last updated January 10, 2023.