It was our first time visiting San Diego Safari Park. I told the hubby it’s probably gonna take us about 4 hours to see the whole place – Wrong! The place is so big, there is so much to do and see that another trip is needed to completely see the whole park and experience it all. I’ve put my tips for visiting San Diego Safari Park to help guide you on your future visit.
UPDATE: available for a limited time – $42.99 Discount tickets for adults and kids.
Is a trip to San Diego Safari Park worth it? Yes, it is! My favorite parts about our visit are riding the African tram to see the animals from the African Plains, seeing the gorillas, watching the Frequent Flyer Bird Show, the #SafariSelfie spots, and enjoying some frozen lemonade. On our next visit, I’d like to experience the Cheetah Safari, riding the Balloon Safari for a bird’s eye view of the whole park and checking out other animal exhibits we didn’t get to see.
SAN DIEGO SAFARI PARK:
San Diego Safari Park is open daily from 9 AM – 5 PM. Parking is $15 per vehicle; $20 for RV parking. It is located in Escondido, CA. 35 mins East of Legoland or 40 mins Northeast of Sea World.
Before going, I honestly thought that the whole place is for going on a safari but actually, it is both a safari and a zoo. Meaning you can ride a caravan/tram/carts to go on a safari in a huge area where the animals are but there are also animal exhibits much like in a zoo. So if you’re planning to visit a zoo, you might as well visit San Diego Safari Park so you can experience both.
Check out all our tips for visiting San Diego Safari Park below before going.
disclosure: this is a hosted visit to facilitate this post. This post may contain affiliate links.
TIPS FOR VISITING SAN DIEGO SAFARI PARK
ARRIVE EARLY AND PLAN A FULL DAY AT THE PARK
By arriving early at San Diego Safari Park, you get to park closer to the entrance. It’s quite a walk up on the hilly terrain if you park far. We arrived early and was able to park in row 5. Many of the animals are also “early risers” and might be a bit more active in the morning. There is so much to see and do at San Diego Safari park that by arriving early, you also get to see more especially if you plan to stay the whole day.
We stayed at a hotel nearby after being at Legoland the day prior and this enabled us to arrive at San Diego Safari Park early, 9 AM, their opening hour. Check out hotels near San Diego Safari Park.
Thanks to Toyota for letting us drive the 2018 Toyota Avalon XLE Premium for this trip. We were able to fit all 3 pieces of luggage and the 2 strollers we needed for the park.
PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS ONLINE
San Diego Safari Park tickets are $54 per adult and $44 per child (3-11), and free for kids 2 and under. If you purchase your tickets online, you can avoid the line at the ticket booth and just head to the entrance upon arriving. I didn’t have the tickets when I go there and had to wait in the line which was about 20 minutes. Check HERE for $42.99 tickets for adults and kids.
Your entry ticket gives you admission to the San Diego Safari Park, Africa Tram ride, and regularly scheduled shows.
SAN DIEGO SAFARI PARK DISCOUNT TICKETS
$42.99 San Diego Safari Park Discount Tickets for adults and kids – check HERE for availability.
If you’re planning to visit various San Diego attractions, I would suggest getting the 3-day pass to save on tickets. You get to visit as many San Diego attractions in 3 days with this pass including premium attractions like San Diego Safari Park, Legoland, and Sea World.
PLAN YOUR VISIT AHEAD AND GET A MAP
If possible, try to plan your visit or route around the park before your visit especially if you don’t have a full day to spare. Prioritize which safari, which shows, which animals you wish to see. Will it be the tiger, the elephants, the birds, etc.
You can also get easily lost inside if you don’t have a map especially if it’s your first time and you don’t know where everything is. Make sure to get a map. The map is available at the ticket booth or just after the entrance at the right-hand side.
BRING SUNSCREEN AND WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES
Most of the areas at San Diego Safari Park is well shaded by big trees but lather up on sunscreen if you’re planning to go on a safari and/or riding the free African tram. Also, make sure to wear comfortable shoes. The whole park is so big that there will be a lot of walking involved.
BRING A STROLLER
San Diego Safari Park is stroller friendly. I would suggest bringing yours so the kids don’t have to walk around too much. The pathways are also very wide so bringing a double stroller shouldn’t be a problem. If you do forget, consider renting at the park. To rent, a single stroller is $14 and a double stroller is $18 and is available on the left side upon entry.
RIDE THE AFRICAN TRAM FIRST
Riding the African Tram (a covered, open-air tram) is included in your admission tickets. It goes around the African Plains where you get to see rhinoceros, giraffes, and many more. The line for the African Tram gets longer by the hour so plan on going here first. Since the savanna is all open, riding the tram by noon would be warmer than in the mornings as well.
WATCH SHOWS LIKE THE CHEETAH RUN OR FREQUENT FLYER BIRD SHOW
We missed out on watching one of the must-see attractions at San Diego Safari Park which is the Cheetah Run. It happens in the afternoon where the sleek cat races on a straight 330-foot-long track that allows it to really stretch its legs and reach a maximum speed of about 70 miles per hour. But, something to look forward to on our next visit though.
We did see the bird show though and really enjoyed it. I’ve never seen the most of the bird species they featured in other zoos before. It’s also a nice way of adding breaks to all that walking around the park.
ADD A SAFARI (FOR ADDITIONAL COST)
Get up close and personal with your favorite African Plains animals by adding a Safari experience. Here are the Safari options:
Caravan Safari – Travel in the back of a covered, open-air safari truck to visit at least two field enclosures. Get an up-close view of Asian and African birds and mammals, with an opportunity to feed giraffes! For ages 6 and up.
Cart Safari – Travel by cart with a knowledgeable guide and learn about the Park’s inside story and answer any questions you may have about the animals. This personalized tour will allow you great photo stops and a unique opportunity to watch one of the animals receive a tasty treat. For all ages, 2 and under are FREE.
Behind-the-Scenes Safari – 2hrs. From the comfort of a safari cart, travel to keeper-only areas with a guide to see and learn how they care for their animals. For ages 3 and up.
Cheetah Safari – Get reserved, trackside seating to the Cheetah Run and get an exclusive meet and greet after the show. For ages 10 and up.
Jungle Rope Safari – Climb like a monkey on a challenging rope-course adventure. With rope bridges to cross, aerial tightropes to navigate, swinging log steps to negotiate, and moving platforms to cross, among many other thrills, Jungle Ropes Safari is perfect for adventure seekers. Ages 7 and up.
Flightline Safari – Take in a bird’s-eye view as you glide along a zip line for 2/3 of a mile over vast animal exhibits. For ages 8 and up.
STAY OVERNIGHT WITH ROAR AND SNORE SAFARI
You can do a sleepover at San Diego Safari Park which includes camp activities, an after-hours look at the wildlife of their animals, guided walks, a campfire program, dinner, an evening snack, and breakfast the following morning. It starts at 415PM to 930AM the next day. I didn’t see the area but it sounds like a lot of fun.
RIDE THE BALLOON SAFARI
For a bird’s eye view of San Diego Safari Park. Ride the Balloon Safari which can hold up to 30 passengers as the tethered helium balloon rises silently 400 feet. It’s located near the Cheetah Run.
LET THE KIDS PLAY
Give the kids a break from all the exhibits by letting them play. There’s Village Playground at Nairobi Village, Savanna Cool Zone at Lion’s Camp, Samburu Jungle Gym at African Woods, and Tiger Trail Play Area at Tiger Trail.
A carousel is also available near the park’s entrance. For an additional fee of $6 per child, they can go on unlimited rides at the carousel. Our girls went 4 times!
PACK A PICNIC OR DINE WITH A VIEW
Can you bring food to San Diego Safari Park? Yes, you can! We brought snacks but bought lunch at San Diego Safari Park before watching the bird show. There are various dining options at the park.
Guests may bring personal food items to the park but large food storage containers such as coolers are not permitted on grounds. There are picnic areas located near the Safari Park’s entry plaza, just get a hand stamped for re-entry.
We dined with a view at Samburu Terrance. After lunch, the kids ran around at the Samburu Jungle Gym next to it before going to the bird show scheduled at noon, also nearby.Some guests even brought their trays and ate their lunch at the bird show instead which actually was a good idea as you get to maximize your time.
TAKE IT EASY AND COOL DOWN WITH A COOL TREAT
There’s ice cream, shaved ice, and more cool treats at the park. We had ICEE with our lunch and frozen lemonade in the afternoon and it was so refreshing. We didn’t want to rush the kids so we took breaks and let them play, eat snacks, check out stores and then back to check out more animals.
LOOK FOR SAFARI SELFIE SPOTS
Make sure to take pictures of everyone in your group at these #SafariSelfie spots at San Diego Safari Park aside from taking pictures of the animals.
Restrooms and services—including many of the Safaris—are wheelchair accessible.
The daily rental charge for a manual wheelchair is $14; an electric scooter is $50 (must be at least 16 years old to operate).
EASY ACCESS PASS – Guests who have difficulty standing in line may request for an “Easy Access Pass” at the Safari Tickets/Guest Services booth, Ranger Base, or at the Africa Tram ticket window. This pass may be used at any venue where waiting lines exist. The attendant on duty will direct guests to designated areas. Three additional members of the guest’s party may accompany a guest with a disability. If there are more than three guests in your party, you may request to be seated while waiting for them to reach the front of the line.
SHUTTLE SERVICE – Shuttle service is available for guests with limited mobility and guests who use wheelchairs. Shuttle service can be arranged by asking an employee to call for service. That would really help get you near the entrance to the lower canyon where the African Tram is.
BRING SOME QUARTERS
Our daughters really wanted to try those viewing scopes. There’s a lot of them at the park but you needed a quarter to use it so make sure to bring some on your future visit.
PET THE ANIMALS
You can brush the goats at Petting Kraal. Seriously, this is one of our youngest’ favorite thing to do. She loves petting goats. She never ever wants to leave until she has had an opportunity to brush each goat.
VISIT THE STORES AND THE RESTROOMS BEFORE HEADING OUT
Hope you learned a lot from our Tips for Visiting San Diego Safari Park. Still have questions, leave your comments below.