In my opinion, winter is the best time to hit the road in California. The weather is cooler and many destinations have smaller crowds! Teagan’s grandparents were in town so we planned a trip to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly known as the San Diego Wild Animal Park). The park is located in Escondido in the San Pasqual Valley and was about a 2-hour drive from L.A. I prefer the setting of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to other zoos. The animals here roam in large, open natural spaces. Viewing animals at this park is done at a somewhat respectable distance.
Be prepared to WALK. Wear comfortable shoes. The Safari Park is spread out over 1,800 acres so you’ll be doing tons of walking. Also, bring plenty of sun block, hat, water and plan out your day (even with cool temps, it’s better to prepared). Strollers are a must for younger children and a benefit to storing your belongings. I suggest renting one if you happen to be from out of town. Here were a few highlights from our visit:
Journey into Africa Tour
The tour (included in admission) takes you over 2.5 miles of large fields that is home to giraffes, rhinos, gazelles and other exotic animals. The Rhinos are amazing and their armour was quite impressive. I definitely recommend sitting on the left side of the tram for optimal viewing. And it might be hard for young children to see the animals and they might get a little bored. But, I’m sure most adults will find the ride is relaxing and enjoyable. I’d suggest heading here first or last. That way you can squeeze in scheduled shows during the middle of the day. The tours run from 10 a.m. until 4:15 p.m. daily.
This intimate setting makes for great photos opps. Teagan was absolutely mesmerized by the majestic animals. She was practically nose-to-nose to the large cats and leaned against the THICK glass for a long time. We studied the animal’s facts that surrounded the area until we literally had to drag Teagan away from the exhibit.
Make sure you get to the “Elephant Rush” which is scheduled daily at11:30. Watch as the elephants enjoy their morning treats. I have to say this was my favorite exhibit. We got to see one of the elephant calfs, which was absolutely adorable. All moms and their babies have a strong bond that is unspoken and I love to see animals interact with their young.
Other spots for the kidlets
The Petting Kraal is a mellow option for the toddlers/preschoolers. Teagan made friends with a gentle deer. Did the weather warm up? Head over to the Savanna Cool Zone and let your kids enjoy the colorful animals, which keep you cool under their misters. And what kid doesn’t like a carousel? Stop by the Conservation Carousel and have your child ride on a mini sized giraffe or zebra.
In addition to
The park offers various special excursions that get you up close and personal to the animals. These experiences are not included in the admission price. Book them at the entrance of the park or book online. I would have loved to have taken a photo caravan but these adventures had minimum age requirements (Teagan was too young). They’re also somewhat pricey. For you adventure types, view the park on an off-road Segway or soar on the Flightline. I definitely can’t handle being 160 feet above ground but I’m sure flying above exotic animals is breathtaking. And have you ever wanted to go on a hot air balloon ride? They have one at the park. The food is decent and at normal park prices. Kids meals are offered and there are a few healthy options.
Starting December 11th the Zoo is featuring their Jungle Bells celebration! The zoo is transformed into a magical winter wonderful! Throughout the entire zoo are holiday festivities including a nightly tree lighting, holiday music and more. And also visit one of the zoo’s newest additions- Kiburi, their 19-day-old cheetah cub. Stop by the Safari Park’s Animal Care Center for a visit. A one day ticket costs 40$ for kids 10+ and $30 for kids 3-11.
We’ll definitely come back once Teagan is older. Take the opportunity to have a teaching moment with your children. Talk to your children about the conservation that is done at the park and educate your kids about endangered species. I definitely feel that the park is fun for all ages and I especially feel that older children would get more value from the Safari Zoo. Teagan did have a memorable visit and she loves looking through the pictures of our adventure. Oh, and did I mention to wear comfortable shoes? Visit www.sandiegozoo.org for more info on the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Love, Tee and Teagan
* We did not receive monetary compensation for this review. That’s IT Mommy received admission into the park free of charge in order to facilitate this review. This will in no way sway our opinion of the product or service. The review is in our own words and is our opinion. Your results and opinions may differ.
Looks like an awesome place!! Great pictures too =)
It does look like a great place to visit. I wish I was in California instead of Minnesota today! Thanks for sharing
Love this place! I haven’t been since having kids-my daughter would love the petting zoo. The Jungle Bells sounds fun, too!
I have yet to visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park but it is definitely on our to do list! Both my 5 year old son and 18 month old daughter love animals and I know they would have a blast! Looks like you and the family had a wonderful time…thanks for sharing!