Maximize your trip to the San Diego Zoo

A trip to southern California's San Diego Zoo is an all day activity

     It's summer time, school is out, and the children are at home. How is a mother going to keep the children busy, under control  and entertained on a low budget? One of the ways to break up the monotony of many days at home, while keeping the children mentally engaged, and physically active outside of the house, is to schedule day trips to some of southern California's most renown attractions.

     Prominent among attractions which consume children's time, attention, and energy is a visit to the world famous San Diego Zoo, in southwestern San Diego's Balboa Park. The zoo ranges 107 acres and is owned by the city of San Diego. The San Diego Zoo is distinctive for a number of reasons. First, it features one of the most successfully active endangered species conservation and preservation breeding programs in the world. It houses and breeds a number of the world's threatened and endangered species, including the giant panda. It is one of only four zoos in the United States housing giant pandas. It routinely breeds endangered animals and releases them into their natural indigenous environments. For instance, San Diego has sent the five giant pandas born at it's zoo back to China, where they use them in their captive breeding program. In addition, it maintains a cryopresevation facility which preserves frozen endangered animal genetics for future uses. But the zoos preservation efforts are not only extended to animals, they are also very active in preserving America's native plant species. They are an official seed bank, with emphasis on rare and endangered plant species. They help preserve threatened natural U.S. habitats through their educational programs and their cultivation of the endangered plants of threatened and degraded natural habitats. 

     Second, the zoo is vast, with over 4,000 animals and 800 species. The largest number of koalas outside of Australia are at the San Diego zoo, and the largest number of New Guinea singing dogs are there as well. It features most of it's enclosures in large open air environments planted with vegetation indigenous to the animal's natural home. In fact, it helped to establish the trend of housing animals outside of small cages and keeping the in large open air habitats. Many enclosures feature multiple species which naturally occur together in their native environments. Some of the largest aviaries in the world are also at the San Diego zoo. Third, the zoo actually raises much of the food the animals eat. For instance, the zoo raises 40 varieties of bamboo to feed pandas and 18 varieties of eucalyptus to feed koalas.

     Fourth, the zoo offers guided tours for those who wish to spend the extra money to be more extensively informed about the animals and their behaviors, or their rarity. Fifth, the zoo offers a tour bus for those who aren't up to the rigorous challenge of walking the entire zoo route, which is extensive. A tour bus ride to cover most of the park, combined with walking the most popular routes is an effective way to make sure that one can see the entire zoo in a single day. Sixth, the zoo offers an overhead gondola ride called the Skyfari for another perspective on the animals while helping prevent leg strain.

     Food and beverages in the zoo are very expensive, however. For various purported reasons, not least of which is the effort to raise more revenue by selling more of their own food, the zoo has discontinued allowing visitors to bring their own food inside the zoo with them. So, if one needs or wants to keep the expense as low as possible, it's advisable to pack a picnic lunch and take it with you. Just in front of the zoos entrance is a public picnic area where groups can gather and eat lunch or snacks.

     While it is unlikely that anyone would have time or energy to see both in one day, the zoo features an adjacent affiliate park with animals roaming more freely in large acreage of open land, that one must drive through rather than walking through. It provides more of a natural unconfined setting, similar to how one would actually encounter the animals in their indigenous and natural environments. If one is travelling a distance greater than that which can facilitate their return home in one day, then it is a worth visit on the following day before returning home.