Whenever we visit a new city with our toddler we always find ourselves going to a zoo or aquarium and San Diego was no different. San Diego is known as one of the best zoos in the world, and it certainly did not disappoint but if you are visiting San Diego Zoo with toddlers there are some things that are useful to know before you go. In this guide we round up our San Diego zoo with a toddler top tips, best things to do and itinerary to make sure you have the best day.
Visiting San Diego Zoo with Toddlers Top Tips
Buy Your Tickets in Advance
San Diego zoo is the largest zoo in the US, is one of the best things to do in San Diego for toddlers and has a reputation for being the best so it is unsurprising that the queues at admission can get pretty long. We therefore recommend buying your tickets in advance to save time. Click here to buy your tickets online in advance.
When we were in San Diego we purchased a Go San Diego City Car which includes admission to San Diego Zoo as well as many other San Diego toddler friendly activities.
Plan your Day
I knew San Diego Zoo was a big place but I hadn’t quite realised how big it is. You could easily spend a whole day or even two days at San Diego zoo and still not cover everything. Now even a toddler with great stamina would be able to achieve everything in a day so be sure to plan and prioritise what you want to see. For us that was the penguins, lions and the leopards.
Download the App or get a map
As I said, the San Diego Zoo is massive be sure to download the app with a map or get a paper copy on arrival.
Follow the Wheelchair Accessible Routes
One of the things I loved about the San Diego Zoo was how it was built into the valley. But this inevitably means that there is a lot of hills to walk up and down. When you are looking for your route around the park follow the signs for the wheelchair accessible route.
Try Different Forms of Transport
If walking gets too much there are many different forms of transport that can help you get around the zoo. The main ones are
- The Guided bus tour
- The Kangaroo Bus – the hop on hop off bus without commentary
- The Skyfari.
The kangaroo bus and skyfari are both included in the cost of admission and are a great way of seeing the zoo without walking.
If you are there at a busy time I recommend getting in line for the skyfari early as it does get very busy or alternatively head to the West Skyfari entrance at the bottom of the zoo as the queues are usually less there especially towards the beginning of the day.
The kangaroo bus is also a great option with toddlers as it gets you around the park quickly but as it doesn’t have commentary you won’t be worried if your toddler suddenly has a bit of a meltdown.
Note: Skyfari will only run in good weather and may shut due to wind.
Take Spare Clothes
With the new Wildlife Explorers Basecamp there are plenty of opportunities for your little one to cool off with some water play so be sure to take spare clothes for when they get wet.
Take Plenty of Snacks and/or lunch
As we were visiting during Spring Break the queues at the restaurants at lunchtime were around 30 minutes long. Having a plentiful supply of snacks will keep your toddler happy as you wander around the park but I would also recommend taking a picnic with you if you are visiting during a busy period.
Take a Stroller or Carrier
Even if your toddler isn’t using a stroller or carrier anymore I would recommend taking one anyone. San Diego zoo is large and hilly and toddler legs will tire quickly.
If you didn’t bring a stroller with you, fear not – there are some available fore rent at 14$.
Visit the Wildlife Explorers Basecamp
We went to this first thing in the morning as we were visiting the Zoo during a very busy Spring Break. However on a less busy day I might save this for later in the day to break up the day and give your toddler the chance to burn off some energy later in the day.
Best Things to do at San Diego Zoo with Toddlers
Wildlife Explorers Basecamp
The Wildlife Explorers Basecamp opened in 2022 and is a great new interactive area for toddlers and young children to explore. There are rope bridges, climbing tunnels, and water play areas to name a few things. This would have to be in any toddlers top ten things to do at the zoo if not the whole of San Diego
The Skyfari is a cable car tramway ride over the zoo. Toddlers will love getting an aerial view of the park
This hop on hop off bus is a great way for little legs to explore the park without getting tired.
Stroll Through an Aviary
The aviaries are some of my toddlers favourite exhibits at zoos. There are a couple of large aviaries in San Diego Zoo but we particularly enjoyed the smaller hummingbird habitat.