Planning your visit to the world-famous San Diego Zoo? Then brace yourself because you’re about to enter such a unique animal kingdom that you’ll never want to leave!
However, in this post we won’t skip to the pretty part just like that! That’s because you’ll first need to buy your San Diego Zoo tickets! Oh, yes, there’s a lot to think about! Plus I’m really excited to show you the little hack that will get you incredible discounts on your San Diego Zoo tickets, so make sure to check out section #2.
I talk about all this and a lot more in this super-detailed guide that will help you find the best deals and ticket discounts for the San Diego Zoo. And yes, there is a lot of information but make sure you don’t skip the last part of the post because it has many crucial things to know, which will help you before and during your visit!
Before we start, I think it’s super important to tell you that it’s better to buy your San Diego Zoo tickets online in advance, otherwise you may risk waiting in long lines forever!
If you are in a hurry
Looking just to find the best San Diego Zoo tickets right away ? Then check out the list below:
1. Different types of San Diego Zoo tickets
Planning your trip to the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park? Well, although it may not seem like it, there are many things to consider when buying your tickets online, and I’m here to tell you all about it!
I’ve looked on the web for hours and found some amazing tips and tricks on how to buy the most convenient tickets and even save some bucks, so let’s get started! Below you will find an explanation of all the different type of tickets for San Diego Zoo, but if you are sticking around the city for a few days, make sure to check out section #2 where I will show you how to save even more money on your tickets!
1 Day Pass – Any Day
This is the most common entry ticket to the San Diego Zoo which includes:
- Entrance to the San Diego Zoo
- Guided Bus Tour
- Kangaroo Express Bus
- Skyfari Aerial Tram
- Regularly scheduled shows.
These San Diego Zoo tickets are valid for 1 year from the day of your purchase. Which means you are covered if anything is to happen and you can’t make it on the day of your visit, you won’t lose the money you’ve paid.
When buying the ticket you’ll see that you won’t need to add a date or time, you’ll go straight to the check-out. Super easy!
PRICE: Adult US$65, Kids US$55
1 Day Pass – Value Days
These Value Day tickets for the San Diego Zoo are a bit cheaper than the Any Day tickets however they are available only on certain days (usually weekdays but that can change). You can check all the dates on the official website.
These tickets offer the same access as the Any Day ticket and it is also valid for 1 year from the day of your purchase. However, you can buy the Value Days tickets online only, as they are not available at the ticket booth at the San Diego Zoo.
NOTE: Make sure you use this ticket on a Value Day, otherwise if you come on a non-Value Day with this type of ticket you’ll have to pay an additional charge.
PRICE: Adult US$63, Kids US$53
1 Day Pass Plus – Any Day
If you’re looking for a fun-filled day with all the attractions that they have at the San Diego Zoo, and you don’t really care about the ticket price then check out this option as well.
This ticket to the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, offers the same things as the 1 Day Pass for Any Day plus the 4D Theater Experience. I think people who like movies with special effects should definitely try this one, as many visitors who’ve been here raved about it!
PRICE: Adult US$71, Kids US$61
1 Day Pass Plus – Value Days
As you’ve probably found out earlier, on Value Days, tickets tend to be a bit cheaper. But as I mentioned earlier you really need to check the calendar to make sure that if you buy a value ticket, you go on a value day, otherwise you’ll pay an extra charge.
The 1 Day Pass Plus – Value Days offers access to the same attractions plus the 4D Theater Experience but at a lower price.
PRICE: Adult US$69, Kids US$59
2 Visit Pass
This ticket is perfect for anyone who wants more time either to visit the San Diego Zoo for 2 full days or, if you want to visit the San Diego Safari Park in addition to the San Diego Zoo
NOTE: The tickets must be used by the same person on both days and within 1 year of the date of purchase.
I would recommend getting this ticket if you want to visit both attractions or know 1 day won’t be enough for your visit to the San Diego Zoo. Either way you’ll definitely pay a lower ticket price than if you were to buy them separately.
Below you can see my calculations to see how much you’d save for the adult online tickets:
San Diego Zoo 1 Day Pass ($65) + San Diego Safari 1 Day Pass ($65) = 130
You save $20 (130 – 110 = 20)
PRICE: Adult US$110, Kids US$100
San Diego 3 for 1 Pass
Now this is a great ticket for anyone who’s staying in San Diego for a while and wants to visit as many attractions as possible!
The San Diego 3 for 1 Pass offers unlimited admission to these attractions over seven consecutive days:
- San Diego Zoo
- San Diego Zoo Safari Park
- SeaWorld San Diego
Just like the previous one, the pass must be used by the same person on all the days and it’s valid for 7 consecutive days from the first day you start using it.
NOTE: If you buy this pass from the San Diego Zoo website you will have to pick it up from the Zoo front gate, or from the one at the Safari Park.
If you’re wondering if it’s worth getting this pass, then definitely check out my calculations below. I added how much it would cost to visit the 3 attractions separately and it’s definitely more expensive.
San Diego Zoo ($65) + San Diego Zoo Safari Park ($65) + SeaWorld San Diego ($109) = $239
You save $66 (239 – 173 = 66)
PRICE: Adult US$173, Kids US$163
2. Save money with a San Diego City Pass
Staying in town for a couple of days? Then you might consider buying one of the city passes! A city pass is basically 1 big ticket that will grant you access to numerous attractions in town and are designed to help you save money on multiple attractions.
In the San Diego area there are 2 different passes that you can buy and below you will find both of them with all the calculations to see which one is the most convenient for you!
2.1 Go City All inclusive Pass
This is the ultimate San Diego pass for anyone who wants full access to all the attractions in this area! The San Diego Go City All Inclusive Pass offers access to 56 attractions (wow) plus a digital guide which has useful information on opening times and how to get to each attraction.
I would recommend this for people who are spending a lot of time in the San Diego area and want to see everything!
Now let’s get to the serious stuff and discover if the pass is worth it or not! I know math isn’t everyone’s piece of cake, and today you’re definitely in luck because I’ll do all the calculations for you, so you can see at the end if you should get it.
Depending on how long you’re in town you can buy different passes from 1- 7 days of validity:
1 Day Pass – US$119
2 Days Pass – US$179
3 Days Pass – US$229
4 Days Pass – US$279
5 Days Pass – US$319
7 Days Pass – US$359
As I mentioned the pass offers access to 56 attractions in total which is a lot to visit for a tourist, unless you’ve magically discovered a time machine. If you haven’t, then check out my list below, which is much shorter but it includes all the main attractions:
And now the million dollar question: how many attractions can you visit and in how many days?
I did all the calculations and I think the 3 days pass is the lowest amount of days that would make this pass worthwhile, as this pass will help you save money especially if you’re thinking of visiting more than 1 attraction per day.
But for the best value, I think the 5 day pass is perfect! Here’s how I calculated everything:
San Diego Zoo (US$65) + LegoLand (US$100) + The U.S.S Midway (US$26) + San Diego Zoo Safari Park (US$65) + Sesame Place San Diego (US$80) + Whale Watching by Hornblower Cruises (US$50) + Knott’s Soak City Water Park (US$60) + San Diego Harbour Cruise (US$52)
$65 + $100 + $26 + $65 + $80 + $50 + $60 + $52 = $498
You save $179 (498 – 319 = 179)
The 5-day pass costs US$319, and above I’ve added all the main attractions that you could visit during that time. Depending on your preferences you have a lot of attractions to choose from, but anyway you spend your days, you’ll end up saving a lot!
Plus, from here on up, the more days you buy the bigger the savings if you plan your time right!
2.2 Top Attractions CityPass
If the All Inclusive Pass doesn’t sound like something you’d want because you don’t have enough time to fully utilize it, then don’t worry, I’ve got something else for you!
The Top Attractions CityPass is perfect for those of you who want a mix of the main attractions in San Diego. This one is valid for 9 consecutive days starting with and including the first day of your visit to one of the places.
This pass offers 3 types of tickets with different combinations of attractions. Each ticket has 1 or 2 mandatory attractions included in the price and then you can choose 3 more attractions from the following list:
Now let’s see how much you’ll save for each option!
SeaWorld San Diego + 3 more attractions
This pass costs US$150 and it includes entry to SeaWorld San Diego plus 3 other attractions from the list I added above.
If you’re reading this post, most likely you want to visit the San Diego Zoo plus SeaWorld (if you choose this ticket). Those 2 entrances alone add up to US$143, which means that you get entry to 2 additional attractions for just US$7. I think this is surely an offer you can’t refuse!
But to help you see exactly how much value you can get from this pass, I picked 3 main attractions and did all the calculations below.
$78 + $65 + $65 + $50 = $258
You save US$108 (258 – 150 = 108)
LegoLand California + 3 more attractions
This pass costs US$160 and it includes entry to LegoLand California plus 3 more attractions, from the same list that I added above.
You will see below that even if you only visit LegoLand and the San Diego Zoo ($165 total for these two attractions) you still save $5 with this pass, meaning the other attractions are basically free!
$100 + $78 + $65 + $32 = 275
You save US$115 (275 – 160 = 115)
SeaWorld & LegoLand California + 3 Attractions
This US$209 pass grants you access to 5 attractions in total including SeaWorld, LegoLand and 3 more from the same list as the previous passes.
This one is AMAZING value because even if you only visit the 2 mandatory attractions plus the San Diego Zoo ($243 total for all 3 attractions), you’ll save $34!
But remember if you have the time you can still visit 2 additional attractions to get even better value. I’ve added all my calculations below but this one is definitely worth every penny!
$78 + $100 + $65 + $65 + $25 = 333
You save US$124 (333 – 209 = 124)
Well as you can see any of these 3 types of passes can help you save some money. So if you’re thinking of visiting all or some of these attractions I’d definitely recommend getting this pass!
3. Other Experiences at San Diego Zoo
Besides all the amazing experiences and animal exhibits that you’ll see at San Diego Zoo, there are also some other things to try here that I think you’ll like!
NOTE: It’s important to know that all these experiences are not included in your entry tickets. Meaning you’ll have to pay extra money if you want to attend one. And I would definitely recommend booking in advance as some of these have limited spaces and are usually booked out.
3.1 Animal Action Experience
This is the most exciting out of all the animal encounters experiences that the Zoo offers! You will get to see them up close! You’ll also have a wildlife behavior specialist accompany you and take you behind the scenes to learn interesting stuff about each animal that you’ll meet.
The whole activity lasts around 1h and it’s super unique because some of the animals that you’ll see here can’t be seen with your usual entry ticket to the Zoo.
NOTE: One adult can only bring a maximum of 2 children who must have a minimum age of 5 years old.
PRICE: from US$90
3.2 Crazy about Cats Tour
This fun 90 min tour will take you around the San Diego Zoo before it opens for the general public in a deluxe cart accompanied by a professional guide, to see the most fascinating wild cat species!
Lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards and many other animals will be waiting for you! During the tour you’ll get to meet them up-close and you’ll also learn from the guide how the Zoo cares for them, and other fascinating details.
PRICE: from US$92
3.3 Discovery Cart Tour
During this 1h tour you’ll explore the San Diego Zoo grounds with a guide who will take you around in a deluxe cart.
As you explore the entire Zoo the guide will tell you stories about the animals, how they take care of them and of course you are encouraged to ask as many questions as you want, and you’ll also get to stop in some spots for pictures or for a better look at one of the animals.
PRICE: from US$55
3.4 Early Morning Cheetah Experience Cart Tour
If you’re looking for a more specific cart tour where you can really see some animals in action then I recommend this cheetah experience.
The tour lasts 90-min and it also includes a wildlife behavior specialist who will show you around and lead the cart tour. I hope you’re ready to see some really playful cheetahs and also visit the rican animal habitats around the Zoo.
NOTE: This activity is only available Fridays and Saturdays and only for children older than 5.
PRICE: from US$92
3.5 Exclusive VIP Experience
If you really want a super special experience where you get a customized program which can be adjusted depending on your preferences then have a look below because you’ll love this!
NOTE: This tour has limited spaces and it can’t be booked online, you will have to call the Zoo at this number 619-718-3000 that you’ll find on their website so you can arrange every detail.
As I mentioned it really depends on each person how they want to organize the outing but usually a VIP Experience will include access to the most exclusive areas in the San Diego Zoo, habitat areas, animal interactions and a lunch.
Usually the tour lasts 5h or 7h. The 5h one is available everyday while the 7h one is available only on selected dates (you will have to call up and check with them which are those dates).
PRICE: from US$675 per person
3.6 Early Morning Explores
This activity takes place in the new Children’s Zoo which is absolutely amazing!
You will get the chance to see the Wildlife Explorers Basecamp (aka Children’s Zoo) before the Zoo opens and try all the activities there which include exploring different habitats!
I definitely recommend booking this 1h experience in advance as they have limited spaces.
PRICE: from US$39
3.7 Inside Look Tours
These tours are awesome and super educational! Perfect for families who want to teach their children all about animal life while having fun, the 90-min tours will give you an insight into the life of different species.
There are different tours that you can join and I’ll talk about all of them below, however all of them start from the same price and include a tour guide who will take you around the Zoo in a deluxe cart.
Here are all the tours that you can join:
- Giraffes & Friends: Meet the cutest giraffes at the San Diego Zoo and also stop around to see some other wildlife up close
- Surprise Tour: This tour is super special as it’s never the same and it includes access to some animal habitats and areas which are not open for the general public
- Polar Bears & Friends: See these cute and fluffy guys as they explore their territory in the morning. Your tour guide will also take you around the Zoo to see other spots
- Baboon & Friends: During this tour you’ll get to see the baboons from a special viewing area and also learn how the Zoo takes care of them
- Wild Canines & Friends: Wolves, foxes, you name it! This tour will offer you an up-close look at some of the most fascinating wild canines at the San Diego Zoo
- Twilight Tour: If you want to see those nocturnal animals that start their activity as the day ends, join this special tour which takes you around the Zoo around sunset hour
- Paws & Claws: Who doesn’t love a cute and fluffy bear? Get to meet all the species that the San Diego Zoo hosts plus some lions and tigers as well.
PRICE: from US$89
4. Buying tickets at the entrance (not recommended)
Thinking of buying your Zoo tickets when you get to the entrance? Well, I wouldn’t do that if I were you for a few reasons.
Firstly, the San Diego Zoo is one of the biggest attractions in southern California! Visitors from all around come here and the lines can get super long.
Meaning that you’ll waste a lot of time and also pay a few bucks extra, US$2 more exact (at the moment but the price can change).
I actually talked to a staff member and they did say that usually everyone gets to enter the Zoo whether they bought the Zoo tickets online or in advance, however the waiting time can vary depending when you’re visiting.
Important things to know about San Diego Zoo
1. How far in advance do you need to buy your tickets
You can buy your tickets pretty much when you want. Usually the tickets don’t sell out, and they usually remain at the same price (since they’re available for 1 year from the date you’ve purchased them).
However if you’re traveling during the summer months (June, July, August) which is usually the peak season, I would recommend buying your San Diego Zoo tickets ahead, with at least a few days or weeks, just to make sure you’re covered!
2. Opening hours for San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is open everyday but hours may differ depending on the season:
- Summer (June, July, August) – 9 AM to 9 PM
- Autumn, Winter and Spring (September to February) – 9 AM to 6 PM
Peak season at San Diego Zoo is usually during the summer (June to early September). But you can also expect a big crowd during school holidays and weekends.
PRO TIP: I definitely recommend visiting the San Diego Zoo on any day except the ones I mentioned above, but hey I know that’s not always possible. So if you’re looking for a way to escape the big crowds I recommend buying your San Diego Zoo tickets online in advance, and getting to the park early when it opens so you can go in first!
3. How to get to San Diego Zoo
Now that I’ve basically written a novel about the San Diego tickets (coming to your closest bookstore soon) I think it’s time we move onto the logistics. We’re starting with all the ways you can get to San Diego Zoo:
4. What to bring (and not bring) to San Diego Zoo
I wish I made more checklists when traveling, but naturally I usually forget. So if you need something quick to check before you hit the road to visit the San Diego Zoo, then check out the list below:
✅Tickets – You can print the San Diego Zoo tickets or just present them on your phone
✅Camera – You can take photos inside the San Diego Zoo and bring folding tripod stands or monopod stands that can fit inside a standard backpack
✅Food & drinks – You can bring food and drinks (but not anything stored in a glass container)
❌No Large Items – You can bring large or small bags with you but you’ll have to put them in storage and pay a fee of US$5 per small piece and US$15 for a big piece
5. Download the app plan your route
The San Diego Zoo is pretty big, which means that if you don’t take a bus tour or something with a guide, you may get lost or find it impossible to reach a certain point.
That’s why I recommend downloading the San Diego Zoo App before you visit the park and have a look at how the Zoo is organized and what you can find in each section.
The app has all the information a tourist may need when visiting the San Diego Zoo including a map, walking paths to find the animals, dining and shopping experiences as well.
7. How to visit the San Diego Zoo for free
Guess what? If you’re traveling with your kids throughout the month of October, then you may be able to get a free entrance for your little one at the San Diego Zoo!
So how does this work?
Well the free tickets are offered only to kids who are 11 years old or younger who come with a paying adult. Each adult can bring up to 5 kids with him that are of the age mentioned above.
NOTE: Bear in mind that this free admission for the little ones will mean that the park will get super crowded throughout the whole month, so if you know for sure you want to visit then, definitely come super early in the morning to get a headstart.
8. Things to do at San Diego Zoo
If you’ve never been to a Zoo like this one you may think that you’re just going to experience some animal encounters and that’s it.
Well, not exactly, the San Diego Zoo is famous for its numerous activities and things to do. So I thought I’d list all the fun activities that you can try here so you won’t miss anything.
NOTE: Some of these things to do are included in the San Diego Zoo tickets but for some you’ll have to pay an extra fee
Set in the Northern Frontier, the theater plays 3D movies with amazing special effects and you can buy your tickets which cost US$7 from the theater. Or you can buy the 1 day Pass Plus and have the show included in your ticket price.
Take a self-guided tour of the Botanical Gardens at San Diego Zoo with the help of the brochures found on the official website.
Guided Bus Tours
You’ll love this 35 min guided bus tour around the Park!
The guided bus tour is included in your ticket and it works on a first-come first-served basis. Meaning you don’t have to make a reservation or book your spot in advance.
The double decker bus boards near the Zoo entrance, and from there you will go with a guide around the Zoo who will tell you more about the place and the animals.
There are 4 play areas inside the park:
Wildlife Specialists Talks
Attend a polar bear talk at the Polar Bear Lounge (at noon daily) or a giraffe talk at the Urban Jungle Giraffe Habitat (3:30 PM daily) to learn more about the conservation efforts for these animal species.
If you want to learn more about wildlife from a specialist who knows and cares for the animals at the San Diego Zoo, attend one of these super insightful presentations during your visit:
- Africa Rocks Encounter (Africa Rocks Stage, daily at noon)
- Rady Ambassador Presentation Area (daily at 1:00 PM)
- Wildlife Wonders (Wegeforth Bowl, daily at 2:00 PM)
This is a super fun way to get around the San Diego Zoo (which is included in your entrance fee)! The Kangaroo bus will let you hop on and off at 4 stops around the Zoo grounds!
In order to find the nearest stop to you when you’re in the Zoo just look for the yellow kangaroo on the map or the yellow kangaroo sign around the Zoo.
Skyfari Aerial Tram
Want to get a bird’s eye view of the San Diego Zoo? Then go on this amazing ride that is included in your San Diego Zoo tickets, and it’s definitely a must-try!
Balboa Park Miniature Train
Open only on weekends and holidays (from 11 AM to 4:30 PM) this fun miniature train is such a cool experience to try at the San Diego Zoo!
The 4 min ride will take through four acres of Balboa Park, starting from the train station which is located outside the Zoo’s exit.
This activity is not included in your San Diego tickets and it costs US$3 per person.
9. Facilities inside San Diego Zoo
Accessibility – The Zoo offers complimentary shuttles around the areas which are difficult to reach and they even have a guide which you can download from their website for people with disabilities
Wi-fi – Yes there’s free wi-fi at the Zoo
Lockers – You will find the self-service lockers at Front Street and pay US$5 for a small item are and US$15 for a large one, but you can carry your small bag with you inside the San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo Restaurants & Cafes:
FAQs about San Diego Zoo
💰 What is the entry fee to the San Diego Zoo?
The San Diego Zoo tickets cost US$65 for adults and US$55 for kids. You can buy them from the official website or other authorized ticket sellers like GetYourGuide if they’re sold out.
📅 What is the best day to go to San Diego Zoo?
Usually, a weekday is the best time to visit San Diego Zoo in Southern California as that’s when most people are at work and the kids at school meaning the park is least crowded.
🅿️ Is parking free at San Diego Zoo?
Yes, there is free parking at San Diego Zoo for its visitors.
🆓 What month is San Diego Zoo free?
In October, children who are 11 years old or younger can visit the San Diego Zoo for free, when accompanied by an adult who purchased an entry ticket to the Zoo.
Who’s even more excited now to see lots of exotic animals? Oh my, you’re going to fall in love with this place!
I know this was a rather long explanation of all the things that you need to know about the San Diego Zoo tickets, but trust me, you will thank me once you see the ticket discounts that you’ll get with the city passes and the other things that I mention in the post.
So you can find your San Diego Zoo tickets on the official website or on other authorized ticket sellers like GetYourGuide. But if you are looking for the best value and planning on visiting a couple of attractions in San Diego, I definitely recommend buying a super convenient Top Attraction or multi ticket pass that will help you save a lot of money!
That’s probably the simplest form of explaining all this junk of information, but hey, don’t forget that the post has pretty much anything you’ve ever wondered about the San Diego Zoo tickets. And if I missed anything you can just drop me a comment below and I’ll answer ASAP!
Enjoy your time in the Animal Kingdom!
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