Hawaii Mom Blog: Off-Island: San Diego Zoo




February 6, 2013

Off-Island: San Diego Zoo

My husband and I love to visit zoos whenever we travel, so we were excited to take the kids to the San Diego Zoo for the first time recently.

Highlights of Our Visit:
The San Diego Zoo's 100-acre property is home to thousands of animals and plants, and we saw so many amazing creatures ranging from the super cute, like the giant panda, to the not so cute (but still cool), like the two-headed California King Snake (click on all photos to enlarge).

We saw many creepy, yet fascinating exhibits in the Reptile House and Insect House.  My boys would excitedly move from one exhibit to the next trying to find snakes, lizards, beetles, and stick insects.

We also saw many animals both familiar and exotic.  It's always neat to see gorillas, flamingos, rhinos, and warthogs.  It's even neater to see animals that we've never seen up close before, like the red panda and tapirs.

We did A LOT of walking throughout zoo (and also got lost a few times), and with three little kids in tow, we took advantage of the Skyfari Aerial Tram, the Express Bus, and the Guided Bus Tour to help us get around and see as much we could.

The Skyfari took us from one end of the zoo (the Discovery Outpost) to the opposite end (the Northern Frontier), and although my middle son was terrified at first to get on, he absolutely loved it. 

We used the express bus just once, but it was very useful as it allowed us to hop on and off at a stop near an exhibit we wanted to see without having to walk.

The Guided Bus Tour, which lasted for about 35 minutes, was a great way to tour 70% of the zoo.  We were able to get good views of the giraffes, California condor, bears, elephants, and more.

Towards the end of our visit, we stopped at the Fisher Price Playground.  It was a great way to let the kids release whatever energy they had left before the ride back to our hotel.

Mid-day we stopped for lunch at Hua Mei Cafe.  The boys got a Chicken Strips Meal, which came in a cute bag, and the meal also included a drink, Pirates Booty, apple slices, and animal cookies.  I got an Orange Chicken Bowl, and my husband got an Asian Chicken Salad.  Although pricey (as expected), everything was delicious.

There are plenty of other dining options at the zoo, and on the San Diego Zoo website you can even view menus to plan ahead. 

Visiting with a Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):
I know every child with an ASD is different, but we always try various techniques to minimize challenges whenever we travel.

My oldest son has an ASD, so I made sure to be prepared.  I know every child is different, and every child with an ASD will behave differently in various situations, but for our visit, what helped us was explaining to our son ahead of time where we were going and what kinds of animals we expected to see at the San Diego Zoo (if your child loves playing on the iPhone like my son does, there's a free San Diego Zoo app that comes in really handy), and allowing him to browse the zoo map and decide on which exhibits to see next at certain points of the day.

We also made sure to take lots of breaks to eat snacks, drink water, or simply to rest to avoid over-stimulating him.

Also, since I know my oldest son loves buses, we made sure to take a ride on the Express Bus and Guided Bus Tour.

Meltdowns were inevitable (like when we had to wait in line to go on the Discovery Bus Tour), but thankfully we were able to redirect my son's attention fairly quickly by focusing on what animal we'd be seeing next.

For those who have kids on a GFCF diet, or for anyone with any types of food sensitivities or allergies, it's probably best to bring your own food and snacks.  Large coolers are not permitted into the zoo, but we brought in a little lunch bag full of our own snacks and water.

Final Thoughts:
Overall our family had a great time at the San Diego Zoo. 

My oldest son loved the Skyfari, my middle son loved seeing the giraffes (too bad we didn't visit on a weekend, when people can buy biscuits to feed the giraffes), and my youngest son seemed to enjoy the elephants the most. 

I loved that there was so much to see and do.  Not only were there many amazing, informative exhibits, but there were also lots of fun statues of animals the kids could play on or take photos with, plenty of benches throughout the zoo for us to take mini-breaks, as well numerous signs, map displays, and friendly employees to help guide us.

We spent about 7 hours at the San Diego Zoo.  Although we didn't get to see every single zoo creature (due to closed exhibits, limited hours, or simply because the animal was hiding or sleeping) we had an wonderful time!

Below is a slideshow of more photos from our visit.  Enjoy!     

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

San Diego Zoo: 2920 Zoo Dr  San Diego, CA 92101; (619) 231-1515

Free Parking
1-Day Passes (includes unlimited use of Guided Bus Tour, Express Bus, Skyfari Aerial Tram) are $44 for adults (ages 12+); $34 ages 3-11.  Various other ticket packages and promotions may be found on the San Diego Zoo website.

Thank you to the San Diego Zoo for providing admission tickets.  All opinions are my own.  I received no monetary compensation for this post.

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