THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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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, dining spots, and the best exhibits.

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

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).

How to Get Discounted Tickets for San Diego Zoo Safari Park

1-DAY PASS:
$56 Adults / $46 Children. Includes Africa Tram, Cheetah Run, and all regularly scheduled shows.

2-VISIT PASS:
$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.

San Diego GoCard

$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 Zoo 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.

Where to Eat at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The Sheared Sheep
Enjoy a salad/wrap or one of their Australian inspired snacks, along with a specialty cocktail drink or a draft/craft beer.

The Watering Hole at Kijamii Overlook
Enjoy an incredible view of the African Plains at the Safari Park’s newest gathering spot: The Watering Hole restaurant and bar. Watch rhinos and giraffes as you dine on menu items including tasty sandwiches and fresh salads, or relax with a refreshing beverage from the full-service bar with a wide selection of craft beers, wine, and mixed drinks.

Barking Deer Pizza and Beer
Stop in for delicious Neapolitan-style gourmet pizza, cooked to perfection in a brick oven. Also choose from specially made sandwiches and salads, and wash down your meal with a refreshing draft/craft beer.

Rift Sand Bar
Relax and enjoy the beautiful view of the African Plains and Lion Camp with a refreshing drink and snack. Beer, wine and spirits are also available.

Thorntree Terrace
Breakfast, Asian cuisine (featuring rice bowls, salads, and wraps), burgers, french fries, and draft/craft beer.

Mombasa Cooker
Enjoy all your barbecue favorites, burgers, fresh entree salads, and kid’s meals. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available, and so are draft/craft beers. Dine outdoors on our African-themed fishing village deck surrounded with exotic waterfowl.

Okavango Outpost
Experience the new menu at the Okavango Outpost while dining indoors or outside, taking in the beautiful view of the African Plains. This spot offers a variety of sandwiches, including Turkey and Swiss, Margherita, and BBQ Beef—served cold or grilled panini-style. Longtime favorites include the Rotisserie Club Wrap, Wild Cobb Salad, BBQ Beef Nachos, Meatball Sandwich, and Gluten-free Chicken Strips.

Samburu Terrace
Dine with a view as you enjoy delicious “South of the Border” entrées, nachos, burgers, fresh entree salads, and Kid’s Meals. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available, and so are draft/craft beers. This outdoor dining facility is conveniently located between the popular Bird Show amphitheater and Samburu Jungle Gym.

The Exhibits

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 a whopping 13 habitats, each with their own theme.

Tiger Trail

Most visitors begin their visit with a trip through Tiger Trail, where you can watch the elusive Sumatran Tigers in their habitat as you walk along the path. You’ll have many opportunities to see the Safari Park’s tigers up close in three separate yards; one has a cooling waterfall and one includes a pool.

Africa Tram

Definitely plan on riding the Africa Tram, which runs from 10am – 5:15pm daily. It’s an exciting, open-air expedition aboard a safari tour vehicles, and you’ll wind through all of the various animal habitats on a relaxing adventure. The ride path takes you around some of the field exhibits, giving you a chance to connect with the animals on a closer level. The entire tram ride is approximately 25 minutes.  You can catch the tram at the African Outpost.

Lion Camp

Lion Camp offers an exciting opportunity to view these incredible creatures up close. You’ll be able to observe natural lion behaviors as the cats romp in the grass, explore the logs and rocks, or rest in the cool shade. Let the little ones walk right up to the large glass panels for some eye-to-eye moments!

Gorilla Forest

The Gorilla Forest is a large enclosure that houses a variety of different animals in addition to the gorilla; including several birds, lemurs, and the Hidden Jungle – which is a  fun off-the-beaten-path area to explore with little ones.

Elephant Valley

Elephant Valley is comprised of two large exhibit yards for the Park’s African elephant herd. The Park actually rescued the founder herd from a scheduled cull in Swaziland in 2003, and since then, have celebrated several births!

You can observe the action from the Elephant Viewing Patio, located at the south end of Elephant Valley, next to Tembo Stadium. There are also shade structures made of simulated rock, and plenty of room to roam. Keep an eye out for the playful younger ones in the herd!

Add-on Experiences

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.

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!

DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE

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