This winter, during a 3-day vacation in San Diego, we spent one entire day in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Our party of seven included three kids between 9 and 12 years old and four adults, two of whom are active seniors. (Disclosure: Four tickets were provided to us by the San Diego Zoo public relations department.)
The Safari Park, founded as a place to study, rehabilitate, and breed animals in environments similar to their native habitats, is truly enormous. Located about 30 miles from the San Diego Zoo, the Safari Park (originally called the San Diego Wild Animal Park) used to supply animals to the Zoo, but was not itself a tourist destination, only a conservation center. Eventually it opened its doors to visitors. Now it’s a fantastic family destination.
What to expect at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
We all loved the destination: the exhibits are beautifully done; guests have good access to the animals; and, there are host of interactive activities to select from, including behind-the-scenes tours. But watch out: The special experiences require additional fees, and they are pricey.
Your basic one-day pass — about $70 for adults and $60 for kids — includes everything you can walk around to on your own feet, plus an African Tram ride, which you don’t want to miss. (Bonus: it’s a chance to sit down, so schedule it in towards the end of the day when everyone starts dragging.)
Add-ons include more spectacular safari tours ($90 each); entering the lorikeet cage (free, but a container of food that lures them to you costs $5 and each child will want one); a carousel ($6 for unlimited rides), and more.
We did not bring our own food, as we were staying in a hotel in Coronado. The food was standard amusement park level in quality and prices.
There are a number of play areas in the park and a lot of ground to cover. You’ll definitely want a stroller if you have a toddler.
Where is the Safari Park?
About 40 minutes northeast from San Diego, the Safari Park location is an even more convenient day trip as part of a Carlsbad vacation (LEGOLAND).
The San Diego Zoo (not the Safari Park) is located in San Diego proper. My kids agreed with me that travelers to the area should choose one or the other. No need to do two animal parks in one vacation.
Going to San Diego?
- Look online for discounted park tickets. Groupon has a package for a San Diego CityPASS that includes SeaWorld, LEGOLAND and either San Diego Zoo OR San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park
- Read our LEGOLAND Hotel review here >
- VRBO options near the Safari Park
- Driving? Here are some tips for navigating I-5 with kids