San Diego Safari Park – tickets, prices, discounts, what to do, kids activities

Image: Lajollamom.com

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. 

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

In this article, we share everything you must know before purchasing your San Diego Safari Park tickets. 

What to expect at Safari Park, San Diego


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San Diego Safari Park directions

The San Diego Safari Park is in Escondido, California. 

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.

Address: 15500, San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, California.

From within the city

Public transport from San Diego to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is extremely poor, and we recommended your private car or a taxi. 

Uber can take you from San Diego Santa Fe Depot to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park for around $45.  

From outside San Diego

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

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, after which you can walk to Stall 15 and board Bus No. 371.

In 17 minutes, the bus drops you outside the Safari park’s gate. 

The bus service is minimal on weekends and holidays. 

From Escondido Transit Center, many visitors opt for a taxi, which costs around $15 to $18 but is faster. 

San Diego Safari Park parking

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s parking costs $15 per day. 

Preferred parking (a spot closer to the Safari entrance) is available at $18 extra, which means you pay $33 for parking your vehicle. 

Credit cards, debit cards, or cash are accepted. 


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San Diego Safari Park hours

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

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. 

Is San Diego Safari Park open

Yes, after a long Covid break, San Diego Safari Park reopened on 30 January 2021.


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Best time to visit San Diego 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 as soon as 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 to 1 pm, and on weekends, it is between 11 am to 3 pm. 

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

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. 


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How long does San Diego Safari Park 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 not possible 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. 

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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Discounts for San Diego Safari Park

Infants up to two years get a 100% discount and don’t need tickets. 

Children between 3 to 11 years get the next best discounts to San Diego Safari Park – a 17% reduction in the adult ticket cost. They pay only US$ 50, while an adult pays US$ 60.

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. You get to visit San Diego Zoo, San Diego Safari Park, SeaWorld San Diego, and 30+ other city attractions for free with this one pass. Find out more


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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

Throughout February, adults 65 years and older can visit San Diego Zoo Safari Park for free. 

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. 

During this month, only kids aged 12 and above need to purchase tickets. 


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San Diego Safari Park tickets

Purchasing your tickets for San Diego Safari Park online is a better experience for three reasons:

  • Online tickets are cheaper than the price you pay at the entrance
  • You don’t wait in the ticket counter queue and waste your time and energy
  • Tickets on-site get sold on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Booking your tickets online (and in advance) ensures a guaranteed entry

Cancellation policy: San Diego Safari Park admission tickets can be canceled up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.

Mobile tickets: The tickets get emailed to you, and on the day of the visit, you can show them on your mobile and walk in. You don’t have to take print outs. 

1-day San Diego Safari Park ticket

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

The Safari Park ticket gets you access to:

  • Africa Tram Safari
  • 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 to have but not necessary because the 30-minute Africa Tram Safari is already included with this ticket. 

Adult ticket (12+ years): US$ 60
Child ticket (3 to 11 years): US$ 50

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.

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

Adult ticket (12+ years): US$ 100
Child ticket (3 to 11 years): US$ 90

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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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.

There are many exciting ways you can interact with the wildlife at the Park.

Africa Tram

The Africa Safari is a 30-minute guided tour that happens 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, which is 20 minutes 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.

Best time for Africa Safari

If you want 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

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 Animal Ambassador Stage at the San Diego Safari Park is an open platform where different animals get showcased. 

Visitors get a chance to get within a couple of feet of animals that aren’t available as 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 one at 4 pm. 

If you are lucky, you may end up interacting 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, which houses the baby animals, is also at Nairobi Station.

When baby lions or cheetahs are being taken care of at the center, expect some waiting time. 

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 lots of 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, which is 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 your exploration of the park. 

Visitors get to 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 get to see an agile Cheetah run down a 100 meters (330 feet) 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 the 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 the greenery, check out the Safari Park’s World Gardens, with thousands of plants representing geographical areas from around the world. 

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

The Conservation Carousel is at the Safari Base Camp and costs $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 Giraffe, Rhino, Zebra, Cheetah, etc., to ride on. 

It is open from 10 am to when 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, there are many activities and experiences designed for children. 

1. Village Playground

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

The interactive play area is open from 9 am onwards. 

2. Savanna Cool Zone

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. 

3. Samburu Jungle Gym

Located below the Benbough Amphitheater in the African Woods, this is a hit with both kids and adults. 

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. 

4. 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 to climb, slide and run on tree trunks in a simulated logging camp. 

Besides this, kids also love Petting Kraal and Conservation Carousel, which is a paid activity. 

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 $14, and a double stroller is $18. 


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Weather at San Diego Safari Park

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

However, the 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 map of San Diego Safari Park is definitely helpful.

Besides the animal enclosures, a map also 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 either Android or the iOS store.

Popular attractions in San Diego

# San Diego Zoo
# Legoland California
# USS Midway Museum
# SeaWorld San Diego
# San Diego Harbor Cruise

Other Zoos in California

# San Diego Zoo
# Los Angeles Zoo
# San Francisco Zoo

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Pooja Das: She has a passion for both traveling and photography, which help her document her memories forever. She loves to explore city streets taking in the people, the colors, and the culture surrounding her. Occasionally she loves to step away from the hustle-bustle of urban lifestyle, and chill-out either alone or with friends. Favorite Cities: Istanbul, London, Marrakech, Venice

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