The San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo: Gorillas and Pandas and Chimps, plus more
and Pandas...and Chimps, and more.
For some of us it's a circus or Disney World or Dad pushing us in a swing that transports us back to childhood. For me, it's a zoo, and San Diego's is one of the finest. Located in historic Balboa park, the San Diego Zoo is the country's oldest urban cultural park and a fabulous adventure even if zoos aren't your top entertainment choice.
Welcome to the San Diego Zoo.
A one-day pass will hardly give you time to enjoy all of the progressive and conservation-oriented exhibits and activities. The hundred acre park boasts 4000 rare animals. It's no easy task to introduce yourself to so many animals in the short span between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. in the summer). Admission doesn't come cheap, at $42 for those over 12 and $32 for children 3-11, the average family will spend nearly $150 for one-day passes. And that's before you start shelling out for overpriced, less-than-mediocre food and souvenirs. It may hurt less if you keep in mind it takes a lot of cash to feed all those rhinoceros and elephants and hippos.
Hearty appetites, a big part of the budget.
Add the cost of the conservation efforts and it eases the sting. Someone has to protect all those critters and their habitats. You'll begin thinking, thank goodness someone's watching out for our planet-mates, and maybe even want to leave a little donation.
To maximize your experience, arrive early and begin with the 35 minute double-decker guided bus tour which covers three quarters of the park and orients you to zoo layout. Your pass also includes the express bus and the aerial tram. While the latter was an effective and interesting way to move from one side of the park to the other, you won't get any in-depth views as you zip over animal enclosures too fast to enjoy what's happening.
Gorilla Tropics fascinated me, and I watched, mesmerized, for at least an hour. The big guys looked so - well, human. The 8000 square foot habitat of these famously gentle giants isn't the jungles of Africa, but it seems homey and comfortable. I hope the troops of gorillas that reside there agree.
This fellow seems comfortable and content.
And what's a zoo without giraffes and zebras?
Mainstays of every self-respecting zoo.
On the day of our visit The Polar Bear Plunge seemed a less apropos name than the Polar Bear Spa and Snooze would have been for this exhibit. The great bears seemed content to loll on the sidelines.
Chilling out and taking it easy.
If you want something to talk about at your next cocktail party, head to the Elephant Odyssey and watch these giant pachyderms get a pedicure.
This colossal fella prefers taking his own shower to a handler's scrub-down or beauty regime.
There are many combination tickets that include other attractions in Balboa Park and/or the San Diego Safari Park located 30 miles north of the zoo. Check them out on-line at sandiegozoo.org/tickets/zootickets.html and get a coupon for $3. off per ticket at sandiegan.com.
Which of these get your votes for faces only a mother could love?
Isn't this one adorable?
Julie Albrecht Royce, Travel Adventures Editor, is the author of Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast and Traveling Michigan's Thumb, both published by Thunder Bay Press. She writes a monthly column for wanderingeducators.com.
Julie is currently writing a weekly blog series entitled, "Ugly Shoes and Boomer Do Europe." This series captures the humor and adventure of her rail trip from Amsterdam to Budapest and then return river cruise back to Amsterdam. Log on to www.jkroyce.com/blog to follow along.
All photos courtesy and copyright Julie and Bob Royce