San Diego Zoo Safari Park


Location: San Pasqual Valley (33 Miles / 40 Minutes Northeast of Downtown San Diego)

Open Daily: 9AM – 5PM (8PM during Summer)

Cost: $46 ($36 for Kids ages 3-11; Discounts available). Parking is $10.

Features: African Safari-like Experience; 3,500 Animals on 1,800 Acres; Tours; Sleepovers; Lion Camp; Formerly Known as the Wild Animal Park, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a separate animal park from the San Diego Zoo.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Highlights: Spread over 1,800 acres (nearly 3 square miles), the Wild Animal Park allows many of its 3,500 animals to roam free over large expanses of land. The hilly terrain provides visitors expansive views throughout the African Safari-like park. Plenty of exhibits are accessible by foot, including what is arguably one of the best lion exhibits in the world. Even more can be viewed through one of the many guided tours that take you deep into the Park.

There are extensive garden areas that enhance the enjoyment of the Park, especially those in the more remote northern part of the Park. You will also have access to shows, food, and several gift shops. The Wild Animal Park is a nice complement to the San Diego Zoo for those who love animals. They each have a very different look and feel. The Park is also a great alternative for those who want to see animals in more of a natural environment or avoid the bigger crowds at the more centrally located San Diego Zoo.

Best Times To Visit The Wild Animal Park:

    • Be aware that it can become very hot during the daytime between June and October. It is a very dry heat so you don’t have to worry about sweating but you should check the Inland Forecast to make sure you will be comfortable on your visit. The Park offers evening hours during the summer. The temperatures cool down very quickly in the late afternoon making the evenings a very enjoyable time to visit. (Learn more about San Diego weather.)

  • Mornings and Evenings are the best times of day to visit the Wild Animal Park. The animals are more active when the temperatures are cooler. Besides, there are fewer visitors during those times.
  • Spring time is the best time of year to visit the Park when it is mating season for many of the animals. You’ll see an extra level of activity as they perform their courting rituals.
  • Butterflies & Orchids Exhibit in April

What to Expect

    • Wear good walking shoes and plan on hilly terrain. For those with disabilities, check the guest services page for more information.

    • Upon Entering – Pick up a Wild Animal Park Map, which will include an insert for the day’s Schedule of Activities. You will find coupons for other San Diego attractions on the back of the insert. If there are any particular animals you have to see, be sure to ask the ticket taker if they know of any limited viewing hours planned for that day.
    • Visit the Park’s web site for a Map of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
    • Just inside the entrance, a professional photographer will offer you an opportunity to have a picture taken, which you can purchase at the end of your visit. A little further ahead you will come to the main congregation area near Thorntree Terrace.

    • There is no set path to follow. Many visitors will take the main path (highlighted in red on your map) towards the Journey Into Africa tour entrance. It is all downhill to that point. A less crowded alternative would be to head towards the Lowland Gorilla exhibit (far left side of your map), then take in a show at Benbough Theatre (check the schedule of events), visit Lion Camp, and then arrive at the Journey Into Africa entrance.
    • The yellow marked paths on the top and right sides of the walking map are hard packed dirt paths. They are the least crowded and yet provide the best views over animals wandering around in this safari-like park. These are great paths for getting exercise if you want to take a brisk walk while taking in the views. You will find several benches along the way if you want to take a break to just soak in the sounds of the Wild Animal Park.

    • Shows – The Bird Show at Benbough Amphitheater has been a favorite for decades and often includes a bird flying right into the middle of the audience. Additional shows are presented daily. Check the web site or the entrance brochure to learn about the current shows and times.
    • Kids Activities – Many of the activities listed on the linked page are focused on helping your kids enjoy their experience while learning about animals. These kids activities are spread throughout the Park. You will also find a small kids water play area near Lion Camp, so be sure to bring a change of clothes or a towel if you plan to let them go slip-sliding away. Just north of Lion Camp, there is a large grassy knoll where you can sit and relax while your kids run-off some energy.

    • Keep your eyes open as the animal ambassadors are occasionally brought out near the entrance area to meet visitors.
    • Food – You will find most of the food near the entrance of the Wild Animal Park. Most of the sit down areas are outdoors but provide adequate shading. Thorntree Terrace is the best for people-watching, shade, and listening to music on summer evenings. Mombasa Island Cooker offers a quieter setting on a deck overlooking a pond with ducks and birds. You will also find dining at the southern end of the park near the Cheetah exhibit at the Okavango Outpost. Samburu Terrace near Benbough Amphitheater has more limited hours. You’ll find ice cream carts, formal dining, and everything in-between. It’s best to eat an early lunch to avoid the crowds. You may bring water into the Park but you may no longer bring food into the Park. However, there are picnic tables available between the parking area and the Park entrance should you want to bring a lunch in a cooler and leave it out in your car.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Exhibits

  • No Smoking is allowed at the Wild Animal Park nor are there any convenient places to ‘step out’ for a smoke break.

– Learn about the various habitats you will find at the Wild Animal Park. The Park’s Exhibit page tells you what to look for (animals & plants), what to do, and other fun facts. You can also download audio tours for your favorite plants and animals to bring along on your visit.

Zoo Animals – Get to know all of the animals you will see at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. The web site provides photos, videos, blogs, chats with zoo keepers, and information on the animal’s profile, natural habitat, and endangered status.

Gardens – The Wild Animal Park has created “a collection that few places in the world could duplicate” as it has imported plants from throughout the world using special permits. Read about the gardens which represent the various regions of the world. Insider Tip: The northern part of the park is the least visited and offers a tranquil setting for garden lovers to enjoy the quiet beauty of a conifer forest and desert garden.

Events Calendar – Check out all of the upcoming events for both the Zoo and Wild Animal Park. Don’t miss out on sleepovers, seminars and more.

Animal Web Cams

Wild Animal Park Tours

Considering the safari style setting of the Wild Animal Park, many areas are not accessible by foot. There is still more than plenty to see by foot. Purchasing one of the following tours will take you farther into the roaming animal habitats. The most popular tour is the Journey into Africa, which is included with some of the entrance ticket options or can be purchased separately for $10 at the tour entrance. The remaining tours range from $42 – $550.

Audio Tours – Download to your iPod or MP3 player for free.

Journey into Africa Tour – Popular 30 minute tour that is included with the Best Value Ticket and free for Zoo members. It is highly recommended for first time visitors. This is one of two tours (the second is still being developed) to replace the Wgasa Bush Line Railway. The entrance for this tour is at the far southern end of the park a little beyond the Lion Camp exhibit and the yellow Balloon Safari. (If you lose your way, just look for the yellow balloon as it rises up to 400 feet throughout the day.) If there is a long line, consider upgrading to the preferred access line. Each tour seat can hold up to four adults. Try to sit on the left (farthest) side of the tour seat for slightly better views.

Cheetah Run Safari – 1.5 Hour experience with African wildlife. The highlight is watching the world’s fastest animal, the cheetah, in full sprint up-close and personal. Temporarily not available.

Photo Caravan Tours – The Photo Caravan Tours offer the best opportunity outside of Africa to experience something similar to an African Safari. You will be taken on the back of a flatbead truck deep into the exhibit areas to meet the animals face-to-face. There are several tour options available ranging from 2 hours to 3.5 hours.

Savannah Safari Tours – 50 minute tours of either the African animal exhibits or the Asian animal exhibits.

Ride on the Wild Side – 2 hour tour that takes you into part of the Lion Camp and Heart of Africa exhibits.

Tours on Segways – Spend two hours touring the animal exhibits on a ruggedized Segway.

Fly Over the Park with FlightLine – Fly on a 3,700-foot zipline over the animals of East Asia and Central Africa from just north of the Botanical Gardens to Kilima Point. You’ll have to try out the easier 470-foot line through the forest near Lorikeet Landing to get comfortable with flying before getting driven up the hill to start the ride of your life.

Meet the Animal Ambassadors – Organize a private visit with the Park’s animal ambassadors.

Admission Prices: (Costs are Approximate)

    • Parking costs $10, except for Diamond Members.
    • The 1-Day Pass is $46; $36 for Kids ages 3-11; $10% discount for Seniors 65+ and AAA Members. This includes the highly recommended Journey into Africa tour noted earlier.
    • Entry is Free for Active Duty Military Personnel; Spouses and dependents receive 10% off the 1-Day Pass.
    • Entry is free for Kids under the age of 12 during the month of October when accompanied by a paying adult.
    • AAA members receive 10% off the 1-Day Pass.

  • Multi-day and Multi-Park ticket options are also available.
  • Zoological Society Membership is the best deal if you can visit more than once with a family member or friend. Diamond membership is even better since it also includes free parking at the Wild Animal Park and extra guest passes.
  • Some tickets can be purchased online to avoid the small lines that sometimes form at the Wild Animal Park entrance.

Directions from Google Maps to 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road in Escondido, CA 92027. Or, follow signs from Exit 27 (Via Rancho Parkway) off of the I-15 freeway.

Traffic – The Wild Animal Park is surrounded by farm land and open space. This makes getting in and out of the Wild Animal Park relatively easy. On occasion, such as a holiday weekend, there is a back-up of cars waiting to enter the Park during the late morning and early afternoon hours. You may have to wait 15 – 20 minutes before reaching the parking booth.

If you are heading north on the I-15 to visit during the extended evening hours offered during the summer months, expect delays from Miramar Road up to the Via Rancho Parkway exit during the weekday rush hour, especially on Fridays. (Learn more about getting San Diego traffic updates.)

Parking – The four parking booths are about 70 yards away once you enter. (Parking is $9.) On busier days (weekends and holidays), you can try your luck at getting a parking spot near the entrance. However, it is better to find the first available parking spot and then take the tram, which circulates through the parking lot and takes guests to the entrance. You can also walk to the entrance if you are willing to walk uphill. For those with disability placards or RVs, drive through the parking lot and past the front entrance to find designated parking.

Transit – Buses do serve the Wild Animal Park on weekdays. See San Diego Transit Information for access to the Bus Schedules and the online Transit Planner. Grayline bus tours are no longer available as of April 30, 2012 to pick up guests at San Diego hotels near downtown and drop them off at the Wild Animal Park. Buses from San Diego to the Safari Park are now provided by Five Star Tours Thursdays through Sundays.

Related Attractions – Visitors may be interested in three more attractions along a five-mile stretch of San Pasqual Valley Road and San Pasqual Road, including the award-winning Orfila Winery, San Diego Archaeological Center, and the San Pasqual State Historic Park.

If you enjoy driving and scenic views, continue east for 7 miles along San Pasqual Valley Road towards Ramona.  You will quickly leave the valley and drive around hairpin turns along the side of a mountain with a panoramic view across a river bed to mountains on the opposite side of the valley. It will be the type of drive you see in car commercials. The drive back down is even better.

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: *Top San Diego Attractions*, Aquariums & Zoos, Flower Gardens, Kids Attractions & Activities, North County Inland |

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