7 Tips for visiting the San Diego Zoo

Posted By Allison on Nov 7, 2013

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The world-famous San Diego Zoo is one of the top attractions for families in the San Diego area. It is conveniently located near downtown San Diego and offers visitors the chance to see exotic animals that are not commonly found in other zoos.

Our family recently made a return visit to the San Diego Zoo. Here are our top tips for planning a visit.

7 Tips for visiting the San Diego Zoo | tipsforfamilytrips.com | Southern California | spring break | summer vacation | fall break

1. Avoid paying full price

Look for San Diego Zoo discounts before you leave home. Ways you may be able to save on admission include:

  • Bundle – If you are planning to visit multiple San Diego attractions, you can save a few dollars by bundling admission fees and hotel through our partner, Get Away Today Vacations or your preferred travel agent. Read to the end of this post to get a $25 coupon code for Get Away Today.
  • Check with your hotel – If you’ve already booked a hotel in San Diego, chances are that you can purchase discounted tickets from the front desk.
  • Visit in October – for the past couple of years, the San Diego Zoo and many other San Diego attractions have offered kids (ages 3-11) free admission with a paying adult during the month of October. This deal may not include the aerial tram and bus tour, so you may need to pay extra to if you want to add those on. Visit this post for more information.
  • Online – www.mousesavers.com keeps a list of San Diego Zoo discounts.

San Diego Zoo

2. Pack a picnic

This isn’t absolutely essential, since the San Diego Zoo has a variety of restaurants to choose from. However, it drives me crazy when I buy a pricey kids meal and then my child eats less than half of it. The San Diego Zoo allows you to bring in your own food, so save yourself some cash and fill a backpack with cheese slices, crackers, baby carrots, grapes, bottled water, cookies and trail mix, or something equally easy that your family will actually eat.

3. Arrive early

This is a good rule of thumb for nearly all attractions. When you arrive early at the San Diego Zoo, you get to enjoy popular exhibits without the crowds. Morning is a good time to visit favorite animals such as koalas, bears, lions and tigers because they are often more active in the morning.

THIS WEEK ONLY! Save $50 on any Southern California vacation package of 2 nights or more that includes 2 tickets to any park when you use coupon code Tips50 at www.getawaytoday.com. Good for travel anytime between now and December 31, 2017.

Combine with Kids FREE in October or other offers for max savings! Coupon expires September 16, 2016. 

NEXT PAGE>> Why you MUST see the pandas in the morning and 3 more tips!



  1. Sitting here in San Diego planning our visit to various spots and your website is a great find. Thanks so much!

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  2. You are to the point!!! No talk about nonsense. I like that. You said tips and that’s what you gave us. THANKS Allison !!!

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      • My wife, 2 grandkids and myself had a ballllll..in San Diego. We stayed 4 days and will return next summer. Would live there but…Can’t get get the large house for what we pay here in Phx.
        Your tips helped immensely.

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        • I’m so glad that you had a great trip! I agree that I could happily live in San Diego. It’s such a fun and beautiful place.

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  3. Thanks for the tips we are going Sept 5th for my sons 3rd birthday! We are very excited!

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  4. Thanks for sharing. I am always wishing to visit this world class zoo.

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    • You’re welcome. It is a great zoo. We hope you are able to visit soon.

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  5. I just read your tips on the safari park (we are doing both) so I had to come over here to read these tips as well!

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  6. Hi, We’re wondering if bus and aerial tours are free with paid tix? and can we hop on hop off?

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    • The bus tour, aerial tram and Kangaroo Express bus are included with the regular pass. The bus tour starts and finishes in the same place, with no stops. You can take one way trips on the aerial tram, which has two entry/exit points. The Kangaroo Bus has four stops in the zoo, and you can hop on and hop off. It comes by about every 15 minutes.

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  7. Just did the San Diego Zoo and how funny I found this post. I was planing on writing something like that but the funny thing is that I did exactly what you did. Besides, the 3 to 11 year old deal is no longer valid and they charge $35 per kid. Only under two is free now. You can get a $5 discount with a hotel brochures. We had fun.

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    • Thanks for the update! I’m so glad to know that most of these tips hold up over time. I’ll update the pricing in the post. So glad you had a great time at the zoo.

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  8. I found a $6 off regular ticket prices for up to 8 tickets from retailmenot.com. I want to buy the tickets online now before the code expires, even though our vacation isn’t until May. I went through the booking processes on their website and they don’t have any options to pick a date for visiting. Do you know if I buy tickets online are they good for any future date?

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    • I’m not certain of the answer, but I would read the retailmenot terms carefully. If in doubt, I would call or email the San Diego Zoo before you commit. If you buy tickets directly from the zoo’s site in advance, they are good for one year from date of purchase. Hopefully, the same will be true of these tickets. Thanks for this discount tip!

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  9. Thanks for the reply. Yes, they are good for one year. I saved $18 it’s a great deal.

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