Whether you are planning a family day in La Jolla or plan to head to a theme park, San Diego certainly doesn’t lack in options. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a 1,800-acre wildlife preserve that’s home to over 3,500 animals across 260 species from six continents of the world. A sister location to the San Diego Zoo, the Safari Park offers a much more diverse experience: its most famous feature is the expansive free-range enclosure area that’s home to herds of giraffes, rhinos, antelope, zebras, and buffalo, among other animals! Here is everything you need to know about the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, including helpful tips for visiting families.
Hours & Directions
The Safari Park is located at 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido 92027. The park is open from 9am-5pm seven days a week.
Directions from the NORTH (southbound): From Interstate 5 (Orange County, Los Angeles), take the State Route 78 East exit at Oceanside, proceed east to Interstate 15 South, exit at Via Rancho Parkway (Exit 27) and follow the signs to the Park. From Interstate 15 (Riverside), exit at Via Rancho Parkway (Exit 27) and follow the signs east to the Park.
Directions from the SOUTH (northbound): From State Route 163 (downtown San Diego, Mission Valley) proceed to Interstate 15 North to the Via Rancho Parkway exit (Exit 27). Go east and follow signs to the Park. From Interstate 5 or 805 (Mexico), proceed to State Route 163, then to Interstate 15 North, and then exit at Via Rancho Parkway (Exit 27). Follow signs east.
Directions from the EAST (westbound): From Interstate 8 (Imperial County, Arizona) take Interstate 15 North to the Via Rancho Parkway exit (Exit 27). Follow the signs east to the Park.
Parking at the lot at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is:
- $15 per vehicle.
- $20 for RV parking.
- Preferred parking is available on weekends and holidays for an additional $18 ($15 + $18 = $33 total to park in preferred parking).
Discounted Tickets for San Diego Zoo Safari Park
$56 Adults / $46 Children. Includes Africa Tram, Cheetah Run, and all regularly scheduled shows.
$89 Adults / $79 Children. Includes one visit to the San Diego Zoo and one visit to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park -or- two visits to the San Diego Zoo -or- two visits to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
$209 Adults / $189 Children. The Go San Diego Card is a 3-day, all-inclusive attraction pass with free admission to the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, LEGOLAND®, SeaWorld San Diego, and 35 other attractions.
Best Time to Visit the San Diego Safari Park
The best time to visit San Diego Zoo Safari Park is in the springtime, during birthing season. The busiest times of the year are from June-August and during school vacations. The park offers many nursery exhibits to see the baby animals, including enclosures that let visitors watch them as they take their first steps or are fed from a bottle.
Regardless of the time of year, the best time of day for guests to visit is in the morning as the animals tend to be most active then, before the temperatures reach afternoon highs. Tip: To avoid crowds, plan to visit the park on a weekday if possible.
What to See and Do
There is so much to see and do at the Safari Park, especially at the extensive free-range animal enclosures in the park. The park has 13 habitats and distinct regions.
Make sure you grab a map at the Park entrance to help you navigate your way to all of the animals and to see the day’s schedule of entertainment, talks, tours, and attractions. Then start your visit with a trip through the awe-inspiring Tiger Trail, where you can watch tigers play and splash in the water – and if you’re lucky, they’ll walk straight up to the viewing window! When you first enter the Tiger Trail, there’s a little nook off to the right where you climb down netted rope to access a small viewing window. Kids will love feeling like they’re climbing through the jungle to happen upon a tiger like we did, as seen in the above photo! Kids will also love climbing and exploring at the Samburu Jungle gym located in the African Woods section of the Park.
Be sure to take your kiddos to the Petting Kraal to touch and brush the goats. Just make sure you don’t have any food on you before you go in––the goats will eat anything! For a list of all the animal encounters available at the Park click here. We love the Lemur Walk and Lorikeet Landing, where you can come face to face with lemurs and lorikeets!
Definitely plan on riding the Africa Tram, which runs from 10am – 5:15pm daily. It’s a fun excursion through the African field exhibits, and is included with park admission. It’s one of the easiest ways to observe the animals here – the view from the open-air Tram gives kids a thrilling perspective of animals, ranging from giraffes to African rhinos. A tour guide narrates the tram ride with fun and educational facts about animals and what the Safari Park is doing to help critically endangered species. Tip: You can see the giraffes from the tram or from the African Plains’ Kijamii Overlook. For a special experience, feed the giraffes during a Caravan Safari.
The Safari Park has had over 100 births of the Uganda giraffe in their African Plains habitat, which greatly helps with the conservation efforts of this endangered giraffe subspecies.
After your tram ride, head to see the nearby lion and lionesses in all their splendor. They’ll most likely be lounging under the Acacia tree since the regal felines can sleep up to 21 hours a day. Don’t miss the large glass panels that let you peer into the habitat with the hopes of coming face to face with the lions.
Meander down the Gorilla Trail through the Gorilla Forest where you’ll behold a band of beautiful gorillas. After, don’t miss the gorilla activity center off to the left of the habitat. Kids can see how they measure up to an adult gorilla, watch a video on how the Park cares for the gentle giants and listen to sounds gorillas make.
Posted signs encourage passerby to “shhhh” be quiet because the gorillas don’t like loud noises. This may be a good exhibit to take your kids through after they’ve let off steam elsewhere so they can be quiet around the gorillas.
Don’t miss the opportunity of seeing the exquisite herd of African elephants in the Park’s two large exhibit yards. You may see elephants eating a snack, taking a dip in their pond, or watch the young elephants playing in a mud hole. There’s an Elephant Viewing Patio next to Tembo Stadium, but there are plenty of additional vantage points to get a close look at these amazing creatures.
In addition to seeing the animals and regular exhibits, the Safari Park has a wide array of add-on activities including: a zip line, balloon Safaris, campouts, playgrounds, behind-the-scenes safaris, rope climbing through the trees, encounters with animal ambassadors, trike safaris, and customized experiences with personal guides – so you can really make a whole day of fun out of your visit and tailor your experiences to your kids’ interests! Visit the park website for details.
Tips for Families
- Be sure to bring snacks, water or a water bottle, and a picnic lunch if you don’t plan on buying lunch inside the wild animal park. There are plenty of tables throughout where you can eat the food you brought from home.
- Wear comfortable clothing and walking shoes, and bring a stroller for younger kids who might get tired from walking around the Park all day. Strollers are also available for rent at the Park.
- Arrive early, at opening time if possible – temps are cooler and you’ll see more animals out and about.
- There are four separate play areas, including one “cool zone” with water misters during the spring and summer months. Kids will love these when it’s hot out. The Park also has misting fans on many of the paths.
- Bring a swimsuit/towel for kids who want to make a big splash in the Savanna Cool Zone.
- Pack a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen – it can get warm at the Park, especially during the spring and summer months.
- The park is open even in the rain. In fact, it’s an excellent time to go, when many of the animals may come out to soak it up. And you might feel like the only person in the whole park.
- Start off walking, and then switch over to the Tram once the little ones start to tire. It’s a good way to break up all of that exercise!
- Make sure your camera or phone are fully charged to capture lots of great photos!
Regardless of how you spend your day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, there is truly no other place like it in San Diego. Be sure to check out our San Diego Zoo Guide if you plan on checking that out, as well!