We are a family of animal lovers so it was a no-brainer for us to visit the San Diego Zoo, listed in Frommer’s 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up, while we were vacationing in southern California.
We began our day along the Lost Forest, an area with shaded winding paths to see one of our favorite animals, the tiger, before following the Hippo Trail to visit another animal that always brings a smile to our faces – the otter.
Although the more traditional San Diego Zoo doesn’t have the wide-open spaces and natural landscapes like its sister zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the San Diego Zoo does have one major edge over the Safari Park – Giant Pandas.
The line was already long for the Giant Panda Research Station when we arrived in the late morning, but it moved at a steady slow pace, giving everyone a chance to see these gentle giants.
The zookeepers don’t encourage dawdling after you’ve taken your pictures, so we moved onto the Northern Frontier to visit the hot and sleepy polar bear.
By now it was time for lunch and rather than hike uphill with hungry kids, we hopped on the Skyfari aerial tram, which deposited us back at the main entrance. The San Diego Zoo’s kids’ meals came in a fun souvenir bucket (perfect for playing at the beach) and with our bellies full, we headed to the Outback to catch a glimpse of an animal we hadn’t seen much in our previous zoo experiences – the koala bear.
Apparently the Koala, which isn’t a “bear” but a rather cranky marsupial, spends most of its day asleep in its eucalyptus tree. We were lucky, however, and saw the little guy when he woke from his nap, stared at the onlookers for about 2 minutes, and then went back to sleep!
We wound our way back along Center Street to the Asian Passage, a neat one-way escalator that connects to the Elephant Odyssey. I really like this area and how it linked prehistoric animals to their modern counterparts with statues of prehistoric animals like the Columbian mammoth placed next to live exhibits of elephants, as well as the Fossil Portal, with its pit of fake animal bones that filled with gooey tar (or at least something that looked like tar) since we had plans to visit the La Brea Tar Pits later in our vacation. We finished the day in the gift shop with the purchase of yet another stuffed animal for my youngest – “Mick” Jaguar – before heading back to our hotel and the beach at Coronado.
77 Places visited, 423 to go.