General admission tickets into the San Diego Zoo include a guided bus tour, the Skyfari Aerial Tram, and all regularly scheduled shows, but there are also lots of ways to upgrade from just looking at zoo critters to learning more about them, and even meeting special zoo “ambassador” animals.
One of the best upgrade options the zoo offers are the “early-morning” series, which gains a visitor access to the zoo before doors open up to the general public. Sure, you may have to set your alarm a little earlier, but it’s worth it—book an Early Morning Cheetah experience, or an Animals in Action experience, where expert trainers bring big cats, flamingos, and other animals out for visitors to touch, lend a hand with feedings, and even help train. A Sunrise Surprise Stroll will allow you to take in the animals’ sunrise routines with a zoo educator.
Throughout the day, Inside Look tours let you learn more about the zoo’s elephants, koala bears, penguins, and other creatures via guided views and shuttle cart access to off-exhibit areas.
The ultimate way to go? It’s undoubtedly the Exclusive VIP Experience, a totally customized tour where you can design a special tour that best fits your own interests, so you can talk with animal experts, see off-exhibit areas, and have special animal interactions.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, located 30 minutes away in Escondido, has its own array of adventures, such as the Roar & Snore Safari, available in all-ages and adults-only options, that let families and friends bed down in snug tents in a special area of the zoo, take private tours and walks after dark, and wake up to breakfast the following morning amidst the animals. Or go on a Flightline Safari, which will have you flying on the park’s two zip lines up to 130 feet in the air above the large animal enclosures. Closer to the ground, kids and fearless grownups love the Jungle Ropes Safari, where tightropes, rope ladders, hanging log steps, and other obstacles challenge the harness-equipped adventurer.