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San Diego Safari Park – tickets, prices, timings, what to expect, kids activities

San Diego Safari Park is a wildlife paradise in Southern California. 

The 1,800-acre Safari Park houses more than 2,500 animals of 300 species in open field enclosures. 

The park is divided into habitats such as African Plains, Asian Savanna, and Australian Outback, each housing animals native to those regions.

In addition to the animals, the park has a variety of botanical gardens featuring over 1.5 million plants representing more than 4,500 species. The gardens are designed to showcase different types of plants worldwide, including succulents, bamboo, and orchids.

It is San Diego Zoo’s sister and often gets referred to as San Diego Zoo Safari Park. 

This article shares everything you must know before purchasing your San Diego Safari Park tickets. 

What to expect at Safari Park, San Diego

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park provides a unique and immersive safari experience.

The Safari Park is home to a diverse range of animals worldwide. You can expect species like elephants, lions, giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs, etc. The park aims to create naturalistic environments for the animals to thrive.

One of the main attractions is the safari tours that allow you to get up close to the animals. There are various safari options, such as wildlife, behind-the-scenes, cart safaris, and more, where you can observe animals in settings that mimic their natural habitats.

You might also find educational exhibits and programs highlighting the work of preserving endangered species and ecosystems.

The park features beautiful botanical gardens with a variety of plant species.

The park hosts animal shows and presentations, where trainers showcase certain species’ natural behaviors and abilities. These can be both entertaining and educational.

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Where to book tickets

Tickets for San Diego Safari Park are available online and at the attraction box office window.

Online ticket prices tend to be cheaper than tickets at the venue.

When you buy online, you can avoid the long queues at the attraction’s ticket counters.

Because the attraction sells limited tickets, they may sell out during peak days. Booking early helps avoid last-minute disappointments.

How do online tickets work

Once you purchase San Diego Safari Park tickets, they get delivered to your email address.

There is no need to get printouts of the ticket.

You can show the e-ticket on your smartphone when you visit the attraction. Proceed directly to the turnstiles; you do not have to stand in line at the ticket booth.

San Diego Safari Park ticket prices

The Safari Park San Diego ticket is priced at US$69 for all visitors aged 12 years and above.

Children between three and 11 years pay a discounted price of US$59 for entry.

Infants aged two years and below can enter for free.

San Diego Safari Park tickets

This popular skip-the-line San Diego Safari Park ticket gets you access to almost all exhibits to see and experience. 

The Safari Park ticket gets you access to the following:

  • Africa Tram Safari (subject to availability)
  • Cheetah Run
  • Frequent Flyers Bird Show
  • Animal Ambassador Stage
  • Hidden Jungle
  • Kangaroo Walk
  • Lemur Walk
  • Tiger Keeper Talk
  • Training Talk
  • Lorikeet Landing
  • Nairobi Station
  • Jameson Research Island
  • All kids play areas

This ticket doesn’t get you access to any of the paid safaris. 

Paid safaris at San Diego Safari Park are nice but unnecessary because the 30-minute Africa Tram Safari is already included with this ticket. 

Ticket Prices

Adult Ticket (12+ years): US$69
Child Ticket (3 to 11 years): US$59

Infants up to two years can enter the park for free.

Safari Park + San Diego Zoo: 2-Day Ticket

San Diego Zoo is San Diego Safari Park’s sister, located 56 km (35 miles) away.

The travel time between the two wildlife destinations is approximately 45 minutes. 

This combo ticket is popular amongst tourists who love wildlife and are in the region for at least two days. 

This ticket helps you save 20% on the ticket costs and gets you one entry into the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park and San Diego Zoo.

You can visit the same attraction twice if you don’t want to try the second location.

Ticket Prices

Adult Ticket (12+ years): US$118
Child Ticket (3 to 11 years): US$108

If you prefer to view animals in a not-so-open environment (which is far more convenient for visitors), opt for the 1-day San Diego Zoo ticket.

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Discounts for San Diego Safari Park

Active military professionals can enter the zoo for free by showing their ID. Their dependents qualify for a 10% price reduction. 

San Diego Zoo offers a 15% discount on the ticket price to seniors (65+ years) and students (12+ years) with valid photo ID cards. 

However, the Military, Seniors, and Student discounts can only be availed at the ticket window.

The best way to save money on your San Diego holiday is by opting for the Go San Diego Pass. With this one pass, you get to visit San Diego Zoo, San Diego Safari Park, SeaWorld San Diego, and 30+ other city attractions for free. Find out more

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How to reach San Diego Safari Park

The San Diego Safari Park in the San Pasqual Valley area of San Diego, California, near Escondido.

Address: 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd, Escondido, CA 92027, United States. Get Directions.

It is 56 km (35 miles) northeast of the San Diego Zoo near Balboa Park in San Diego.

Depending on the time of the day, it takes 45 to 60 minutes to travel from the Zoo to Safari Park.

You can reach the park by car or public transportation.

By Bus

The nearest bus stop Highway 78 & Safari Park Outside Gate is 1.2 km (0.8 miles) from the park. Board the bus 371 to reach the nearest bus stop and take a cab to get to the Safari Park.

By Train

Amtrack Railway Service is a better option if you plan to visit a wildlife attraction from another city, such as Los Angeles.

At 43 km (27 miles), Oceanside Amtrak Station is the closest station to San Diego Safari Park. 

From Oceanside, you must board the light rail service called Sprinter to get to Escondido. 

After 53 minutes and 14 stops, you must get down at Escondido Transit Center.

From Escondido Transit Center, you can take a taxi.

By Car

If you wish to travel by car, turn on Google Maps and get started.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s general parking costs US$20 per day. 

Preferred parking (a spot closer to the Safari entrance) is US$18 extra, which means you pay US$38 for parking your vehicle. 

Credit cards, debit cards, or cash are accepted. 

There are numerous parking garages around the safari park.

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San Diego Safari Park opening hours

San Diego Zoo Safari Park, including holidays, opens at 9 am throughout the year. 

During the summer months of April to August, when the park gets lots of visitors, it closes at 7 pm, and the rest of the year, at 5 pm. 

How long does the tour take

Visitors need at least four to five hours to explore San Diego Zoo Safari Park to satisfaction. 

If you plan to explore the bare minimum – walk in, go on the Africa Tram at the Safari Park, and step out – you need around 90 minutes.

Some visitors wonder if they can shorten their visit by driving through the safari park. 

Unfortunately, that’s impossible because San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a walk-through sanctuary.

Note: During peak summer months, the queue for the Tram ride can be long, leading to longer waits. 

Best time to visit  

Visiting San Diego Zoo Safari Park
During the early part of the day, most of the animals are out enjoying the sun. Image: Visitoceanside.org

It is best to visit San Diego Zoo Safari Park when it opens at 9 am because the animals are most active during the first half of the day. 

As the day gets hotter, animals tend to look for shade.

Heat can also affect your experience at the Safari Park, so a fair-weather day is recommended.

On Weekdays, expect the longest lines at San Diego Safari Park between 11 am and 1 pm; on weekends, it is between 11 am and 3 pm. 

However, the crowd doesn’t affect your experience if you purchase your tickets in advance. 

San Diego Safari Park is most crowded from June to August and during school vacations. 

Best time of the year

The best time of the year to visit San Diego Zoo Safari Park is spring – from mid-March to mid-June. This is also known as the birthing season. 

The park sets up nursery exhibits where you can see baby animals take their first steps into the wild. 

Tourists on a budget holiday tend to compare San Diego Zoo and Safari Park and then decide where to go.

With four fantastic zoos, California State is a wildlife lover’s destination. Read about all the Zoos in California.

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San Diego Safari Park free entry

All through the year, infants up to two years and active military professionals can enter the zoo for free.

Besides this, everybody must purchase a ticket. 

Seniors free days

Adults 65 and older can visit San Diego Zoo Safari Park for free throughout February. 

Kids free days

In October, every child aged three to 11 years gets free admission to San Diego Safari Park as long as a paying adult accompanies them. 

Only kids aged 12 and above need to purchase tickets this month. 

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What to do at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The animals at San Diego Safari Park are divided into 11 primary areas, which you can walk around and explore.

You can interact with the wildlife at the Park in many exciting ways.

Africa Tram

The Africa Safari is a 30-minute guided tour on an open-air tram.

The tram takes a 4 km (2.5 miles) long route through San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s field habitats, and visitors get to wild animals such as giraffes, rhinos, elephants, antelopes, etc.

African Tram Safaris start from the African Outpost, a 20-minute walk from the attraction entrance. 

The Tram trips start at 10 am and continue till 45 minutes before the park closes. 

The African Tram Safari is free with the regular San Diego Safari Park ticket.

To avoid waiting in queue to board the safari tram, be at the African Outpost in San Diego Safari Park before 11 or after 3 pm. 

Tiger Keeper Talk

At 11.45 am, the Tiger Keepers at San Diego Safari Park conduct a training session with the animals at the Sambutan Longhouse. 

This keeper talk is a fantastic opportunity to meet the San Diego Safari Park’s tigers up close. 

Since the talk is popular, plan to arrive at least 20 minutes early for the 15 minutes long Tiger Keeper Talk. 

The majestic animal gets a brief physical visual examination by their caretakers and lots of treats. 

Animal Ambassador Stage

Animal Ambassador Stage at Safari Park
Fossa, an animal that looks like a cross between a cat, a dog, and a mongoose, performs at the Safari Park. Image: Sandiegoing.com

The San Diego Safari Park Animal Ambassador Stage is an open platform for showcasing different animals. 

Visitors get a chance to get within a couple of feet of animals that aren’t available in an exhibit. 

The stage is at Safari Base Camp close to the park entrance, and there are two shows daily – first at noon and the last at 4 pm. 

If you are lucky, you may interact with the massive python ‘Julius Squeezer,’ cheetah, Kestrel hawks, or the high-jumping servals and caracals.

Nairobi Station

At the Nairobi Station, visitors get close-up views of some of the smaller animals at San Diego Safari Park.

Don’t miss out on Robert, the safari’s interactive digital zebra.

The Animal Care Center houses the baby animals and is also at Nairobi Station.

Expect some waiting time when baby lions or cheetahs are cared for at the center. 

Petting Kraal

Open from 10 am to 4.45 pm, the Petting Kraal is an excellent opportunity for your kids to interact with the Safari Park’s friendly goats.

Kids can feed the Pygmy, Nubian, and Boer goats and have fun. 

Lorikeet Landing

At Lorikeet Landing, visitors can engage with a colorful rainbow of parrots from 10 am to 3.45 pm.

The entrance to the exhibition is free, but the nectar you feed the parrots is for sale. 

A small bowl of nectar can get these parrots to land on you and make for beautiful, funny photographs. 

Lemur Walk

At Lemur Walk, open from 9 am to the Safari Park’s closing time, visitors get to spend time with the Lemurs. 

You walk along a path inside the habitat as ring-tailed lemurs hang around in the trees or walk with you. 

Only visitors over five years of age are allowed. 

Frequent Flyers Bird Show

The 20-minute Frequent Flyers Bird Show at San Diego Safari Park is scheduled twice daily – at 12 noon and 2 pm. 

The exciting show is perfect for a quick break mid-way through exploring the park. 

Visitors see exotic birds like owls, parrots, and large vultures flying just inches above your head. 

Training Talk

The Training Talk happens in the amphitheater between Gorilla Forest and African Woods.

It is an opportunity to get a closer look at free-flight bird training as the birds prepare for the famous Frequent Flyers show. 

Most people ignore this show, which means you can get the front seat row. 

Shiley’s Cheetah Run

San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Cheetah Run is held once a day, at 3.30 pm.

You see an agile Cheetah run down a 100-meter (330-foot) long track and reach its top speed of nearly 112 km (70 miles) per hour.

It is better to be at the spot 15 minutes earlier because it is a massive hit with visitors. 

Cheetah Run is different from Cheetah Safari. Read up on the other safaris at San Diego Safari Park.

Safari Park Gardens

If you love greenery, check out Safari Park’s World Gardens, which has thousands of plants representing geographical areas worldwide. 

Our favorite gardens are Baja Garden, Old World Succulent Garden, Epiphyllum Trail, Bonsai Pavilion, and California Nativescapes Garden.

Conservation Carousel

The Conservation Carousel is at the Safari Base Camp and costs US$6 per person for an all-day bracelet.

It is a good entertainment option for kids, with 60 reproductions of rare or endangered animals that rotate around an axis. 

Kids can choose their favorite animals, such as giraffes, rhinos, zebras, cheetahs, etc., to ride on. 

It is open from 10 am until the Safari Park closes. 

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Kids in San Diego Safari Park 

San Diego Zoo Safari Park is very kid-friendly, and more than half of the visitors on any given day are children.

Besides the animal exhibits, which are always a hit, many activities and experiences are designed for children. 

Village Playground

Village Playground at San Diego Safari Park

The Village Playground is designed like an African village, next to the Petting Kraal in Nairobi Village.

The interactive play area is open from 9 am onwards. 

Savanna Cool Zone

Savanna Cool Zone at San Diego Safari Park

Located in the Lion Camp, this is an excellent way for your family to beat the heat. 

The kids can have a wet and wild time even as you relax in the shade with snacks.

Kids love the play statues shaped like lions and tortoises with water squirting from their heads. 

Samburu Jungle Gym

Samburu Jungle Gym

This is a hit for kids and adults, located below the Benbough Amphitheater in the African Woods. 

Children love climbing up and exploring in this safari-themed play area, even as the parents put their feet up in the shade at Samburu Terrace and keep an eye on them. 

Tiger Trail Play Area

Tiger Trail Play Area

Also known as the Camp Play area, this spot is part of the lush wooded landscape of Tiger Trail. 

Children love climbing, sliding, and running on tree trunks in a simulated logging camp. 

Besides this, kids also love Petting Kraal and Conservation Carousel, which are paid activities. 

All play area images from Sdzsafaripark.org

Stroller Rentals for kids: San Diego Zoo Safari Park offers strollers for rent on a first-come, first-serve basis. The daily charge for a single stroller is US$16, and a double stroller is US$20. 

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Weather at San Diego Safari Park

Because of some odd zoning rules, the Safari Park is in San Diego, referred to as the San Diego Safari Park.

However, Safari Park’s geographical location is Escondido.

Escondido is around 32 km (20 miles) inland and usually 5 to 7 degrees Celcius (10 to 14 Fahrenheit) warmer than oceanfront San Diego.

Since the Safari Park is an outdoor attraction, it makes sense to dress up in layers during your visit. 

The weather gets warmer as the day progresses. 

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San Diego Safari Park map

With more than 2500 animals to see, a San Diego Safari Park map is helpful.

Besides the animal enclosures, a map helps you identify visitor services such as viewing points, petting areas, restaurants, restrooms, etc.

Keeping the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s layout handy is highly recommended if you are visiting with kids because you won’t waste time looking for the exhibits and, in the process, get exhausted.

You can also download the GPS-enabled San Diego Zoo app from the Android or iOS store.

FAQs about San Diego Safari Park

Here are some frequently asked questions about the San Diego Safari Park:

How is the Safari Park different from the San Diego Zoo?

While the San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park, the Safari Park is in Escondido. The Safari Park offers a more expansive and natural setting, allowing animals to roam in larger habitats that resemble their native environments.

How can I purchase tickets for San Diego Safari Park?

Tickets for the safari park can be purchased online or at the park ticket window. We recommend buying your tickets online in advance to avoid last-minute disappointment.

What animals can I see at the Safari Park?

The Safari Park is home to diverse wildlife, including elephants, giraffes, rhinos, lions, cheetahs, and many more. Visitors can experience up-close encounters with various species through safari tours and walking trails.

Can I bring outside food and drinks into the Safari Park?

Yes! Visitors can bring their single-person food supply in small containers into the parks. No facilities are available for food storage other than lockers. For the safety of the guests and the wildlife in care, no large coolers, glass items, alcohol, party trays, candles, balloons, or decorations are allowed on the grounds.

Is the Safari Park suitable for guests with disabilities?

Yes! There are a variety of options to assist you and your family. In addition, complimentary shuttles assist you and your party access the lower canyon areas. Please stop at Guest Services to request the ADA Packet, which includes information on the services, habitat descriptions, and show access. You can check the full details on the services for guests with disabilities.

Are pets allowed in the San Diego Safari Park?

Pets, comfort animals, and emotional support animals are prohibited at the Safari Park. The park houses significant populations of rare and endangered species; the Safari Park is a quarantined facility. State and federal regulations for such facilities do not allow access to pets, comfort animals, or emotional support animals accompanying guests to these facilities.

# Sandiegozoowildlifealliance.org
# Wikipedia.org
# Tripadvisor.com
# gocity.com

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Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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