We flew back from Texas on Easter Sunday and went from the airport directly to my parent's home. They hosted Easter Dinner for the LA/OC branch of our family and there was a lot of good food and good times with cousins, aunties and uncles. We don't get to see each other often, so it was especially nice to hang out and catch up with each other.
After Easter, we were home for a few days to decompress, check in with the office, and deal with the mounds of laundry. Then we were off on another adventure...
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We've been regularly visiting San Diego for over ten years and even have a vacation home there. However, in all that time, we've never been to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly the Wild Animal Park). What a nice surprise! It's basically the model of how zoos should be run-- animals are given plenty of room to roam in an environment that is similar to how they would live in the wild. Well similar except for one important thing... the carnivores are kept away from the herbivores. :) I vaguely remember visiting as a child, but all I could remember was the tram ride. Well, they still have the tram ride and a lot more.
In addition to visiting the exhibits and riding the tram, there are several more options available-- From rope courses to private tours to flightlines to balloon rides and even overnight camping and more. It's smart of them to offer all those options as it appeals to a wide range of ages and interests. Everything beyond the basics comes at a higher cost of course. We stuck to the basics -- general entrance which means you are able to walk around the trails and exhibits (like a traditional zoo), view the free shows and also ride the narrated Africa tram into their "safari" park.
A few tips--
Be prepared for how off the beaten path it is. The park is located in the hills of Escondido, which is about 30 miles inland of coastal San Diego. It can get hot in the summer (about 10-15 degrees hotter than the coast), so be prepared with lots of water, hats and sunscreen.
Discounts are offered if you have San Diego Zoo passes, through the Automobile Club (AAA), if you have a San Diego multi-park pass, and sometimes at Costco. There are also discounts for active duty military personnel, airline employees and seniors.
Parking is competitive. If it's crowded, don't even bother with the upper lot. Why waste your time waiting for people to leave? On a crowded Saturday we easily found parking in the lower lot and rode the parking lot tram to the entrance. The kids thought it was a ride. :)
The one thing that I didn't care for was the upcharge for a lot of the activities (i.e. standing closer to the cheetah run will cost you $15 per person more) and food is pricey. However, they are a non-profit organization and everything goes back to the animals and to research, so if you have to spend money, there are worse places!
Besides the tram, the kids enjoyed the cheetah run and the birds. We spent a lot of time walking through the aviary, and around the "lake" where there are an abundance of very friendly birds. My kids have been to many zoos, so we didn't push too hard to visit all the exhibits. We just kicked back and enjoyed the unique experience that is the Safari Park.