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San Diego Safari Park Tips To Make Your Visit Unforgettable

November 29, 2023 By CityPASS

When most people hear the word "safari," rugged landscapes in distant countries usually come to mind. But if you're on vacation in San Diego, close-up views of wild animals are around the corner. Located just 35 miles from the San Diego Zoo is the San Diego Safari Park, a beautiful 1,800-acre habitat full of many different African animals and some 500 species of native California plants. If you’re looking for exciting San Diego family activities, this safari adventure can’t be beat. Read on to learn more about the best San Diego Safari Park tour and tips for making your next visit an unforgettable experience.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park aerial view.
Aerial View of San Diego Zoo Safari Park, ©San Diego Zoo

What Should You Expect at San Diego Safari Park

The San Diego Safari Park is different from the zoo and provides a unique experience almost impossible to find anywhere else in the U.S. It allows you to see approximately 3,000 extra animals, such as rhinos, lions, giraffes, elephants, antelopes, and much more. There are also several unique ways to tour the park:

  • The Tethered Balloon safari experience gives you a birds-eye view of all the animals from 400 feet in the air.
  • There are plenty of fun activities perfect for little ones, like The Petting Kraal, the Village Playground, and the Conservation Carousel.
  • With 1,500 different types of individual plants on display in the Nativescapes Garden, Bonsai Pavilion, Old World Succulent Garden, and a fragrant herb garden, plant lovers will have plenty to see.

Grab a quick bite at the Water Hole or the Nairobi Village, where you can find sandwiches, burgers, and fan favorites like chicken fingers or fudge. Meanwhile, the Walkabout Australia area provides a great place to enjoy authentic Australian dishes, a cocktail, or a beer. Check out the numerous gift shops throughout the park to find the perfect souvenir, like plush animals, clothing, and even authentic African artifacts.

7 San Diego Safari Park Tips To Enjoy a Memorable Visit

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a regular patron, there’s always something new to discover at the San Diego Safari Park. A little preparation and planning can go a long way to ensuring you and your loved ones have an unforgettable time. Here are seven tips to help you get the most out of your visit.

1. Reserve One Full Day for Your Park Visit

Considering all the fun attractions and many animal exhibits, it’s a good idea to reserve a full day so you have plenty of time to explore. Spending just a few hours at the San Diego Safari Park likely won’t be long enough to see everything, so take full advantage of your 1-day pass by making a full day of it.

Lagoon at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Lagoon at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, ©San Diego Zoo

2. Dress Appropriately To Account for Weather and Long Walks

It's recommended you plan ahead and arrive dressed for the occasion to ensure a truly spectacular experience. You’ll want to wear comfortable walking shoes, especially if you’re planning a full-day trip.

Check the weather forecasts to see if you’ll need a sweater and jeans or if shorts and a T-shirt would be more appropriate. In general, visitors can expect temperatures at the safari park to remain temperate all year round with very little rainfall.

3. Arrive Early To Avoid Crowds and Plan Ahead

It’s a good idea to show up shortly after the park opens at 9 a.m. so you won’t have to worry about the crowds. This will also give you time to grab a park map and plan your day. Bear in mind that weekends tend to be more crowded than weekdays. Since entry to the park is free for children during October, it can get quite busy with hosting school field trips.

When you arrive, review some of the park rules as well. Guests are welcome to bring their own food but should keep it in small, single-serve containers. No large coolers or alcoholic beverages are allowed. Water bottles are permitted so long as they are not in glass containers. Guests are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles or purchase beverages from on-site vendors. Pets are prohibited in the park, as is photography for commercial purposes.

Gnu calf.
Gnu Calf, ©San Diego Zoo

4. Start With the Africa Tram

Looking for some completely new family fun in San Diego? The Africa Tram is easily one of the most popular San Diego wildlife safari attractions. This 25-minute tour winds through several of the savanna habitats, allowing you to take some incredible animal photos from the safety and comfort of the tram. You’ll see giraffes, exotic bird species, rhinos, and much more during this one-of-a-kind wild animal safari park adventure.

5. Take Advantage of the Guided Tours for Each Natural Habitat

The San Diego Safari Park also offers several special guided tours, including a 60-minute guided cart safari throughout various African savanna habitats. If you’d like to spend more time up close to your favorite animal, the Ultimate Safari experience gives you up to 7 hours of personalized fun for the whole family. You may also want to check out the Sun Up Cheetah Safari, where visitors can enjoy the incredible experience of watching the world’s fastest land animal running at top speed.

Meanwhile, the Behind-the-Scenes safaris can provide a rare glimpse of revered animals and the conservation efforts working to preserve them. Future travelers will also have the opportunity to check out Elephant Valley, a new exhibit slated to open in 2025.

6. Check the Schedule so You Don’t Miss Any Shows

When you arrive at the San Diego Safari Park, download the mobile app to access a GPS-enabled map of the grounds and a comprehensive schedule of upcoming events. Aside from daily safaris and guided tours, there are also various seasonal events such as the Autumn Festival, Butterfly Jungle, HalGLOween, and more.

Flightline Safari.
Flightline Safari, ©San Diego Zoo

7. Don’t Miss the Flightline Safari

One of the most exciting exhibits is the Flightline Safari, a secure zipline that will carry you some 130 feet above the beautiful savanna habitats. This thrilling safari gives unbelievable views of the animals below as you travel over 3,500 feet to the landing area.

Explore San Diego Zoo Safari Park with CityPASS® Tickets

With San Diego CityPASS® tickets, you can save on admission to many of the best things to do in San Diego, including the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Park. Other attractions include LEGOLAND® California Resort, SeaWorld® San Diego, USS Midway Museum, Birch Aquarium at Scripps, and more. Pick up your San Diego CityPASS® tickets today and save up to on admission to these amazing attractions.

San Diego Lodging

To get the most out of your stay in San Diego, we recommend finding lodging near San Diego's top attractions. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:

Header Image ©San Diego Zoo, Courtesy of San Diego Zoo

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