Are you searching for San Diego Zoo discount tickets? Well, stop the search and start the savings with Reserve San Diego. We make it easy to save money while going wild at America’s favorite zoo.
Instead of waiting in the never-ending ticket lines, purchase your tickets from Reserve San Diego for extraordinary savings and convenience. You’ll spend less money and more time exploring one of the top zoos in the world!
What to Expect at the San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo offers 100-acres of endless animal fun with 4,000 rare and endangered creatures of more than 650 species, as well as more than 700,000 exotic plants. From lions to crocodiles, there’s something wild to see around every corner.
Some of the wild animals you’ll encounter along the way include:
Of course, that’s only a handful of the 4,000+ rare and endangered animals at the San Diego Zoo! In addition to animal exhibits, the San Diego Zoo boasts a myriad of experiences you don’t want to pass up.
The Guided Bus Tour is one of the best ways to maximize your experience at the zoo. This 35-minute bus ride is included in your San Diego Zoo tickets and offers a narrated tour of the zoo. Keep an eye out for your favorite animals!
If you’d rather see the zoo from up above, head over to the Skyfari® Aerial Tram for an unparalleled sky-high experience. Although, if your family prefers to keep both feet on the ground, check out the zoo’s 4-D Theaters and Animal Shows for a wild time!
Tips for Visiting the San Diego Zoo
Once you’ve got your San Diego Zoo discount tickets from Reserve San Diego, you’ll likely want to know how to best plan your day. Luckily, we’ve got you covered there too! Watch this quick video for everything you need to know about visiting the San Diego Zoo.
More Ways to Save at the San Diego Zoo
Having San Diego Zoo discount tickets is only the start of your savings. Save even more money with these tips:
The San Diego Zoo offers free guest parking, so there’s no need to take extra cash out of the ATM for the day.
Bring Your Own Stroller
If possible, we recommend saving money and bringing your own stroller. However, if needed, stroller and wheelchair rentals are available from the zoo on a first-come, first-served basis.
Pack a Lunch
To save money, pack a lunch for your family. You are allowed to leave the zoo and return, so long as you get your hand stamped on the way out. Pack a lunch and have a picnic at the designated areas around the park. Remember, that while you can bring food into the park, coolers and large containers are not permitted.
Purchase the 2-Day/2-Park Pass
If you’re visiting the San Diego Zoo, you’ll want to also visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. To get the most for your dollar, purchase the 2-Day/2-Park San Diego Zoo discount tickets from Reserve San Diego. The best part is that you have the choice to use the admission for both parks or two days in one park. It’s completely up to you!
Save Big with San Diego Zoo Discount Tickets
For a wild family vacation, head over to Reserve San Diego and purchase your San Diego Zoo discount tickets today!
No matter if you’re a longtime resident or casual visitor, there is always something to see and do in San Diego. Between the historic landmarks and endless outdoor adventures, deciding what to do next can be difficult. To eliminate the hassle of planning, take this San Diego bucket list with you on your next trip!
By experiencing these 18 activities, you’ll have visited some of the best destinations San Diego has to offer.
Everything at Balboa Park should be on your San Diego bucket list.
1. Explore All that Balboa Park Has to Offer
Featuring museums, performing arts venues, gardens, outdoor activities, and so much more, it’s impossible to encounter everything at Balboa Park in a single day. With attractions including the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Art Institute, you will discover something new every time you visit.
2. Learn about the Animal Kingdom at the San Diego Zoo
While you’re at Balboa Park, a trip to the San Diego Zoo is a must. This iconic zoo is home to all of your favorite wild animals, from gorillas to pandas and beyond. You can’t visit San Diego without a trip to the zoo, right?
3. Embark on a Wild Safari at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
While you can learn about your favorite animals at the zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park takes it to the next level with engaging safaris and activities. Roam the park searching for your favorite animal or hop on an interactive safari and get up close with wild animals from cheetahs to meerkats. If a safari isn’t on your San Diego bucket list, you’re missing out!
4. View Sea Lions and Harbor Seals at La Jolla Cove
Speaking of favorite animals, sea lions are mine! If I were to write my own bucket list, visiting the sea lions and harbor seals at La Jolla Cove would be at the top.
La Jolla Cove boasts both California Sea Lions and Harbor Seals, so it’s best to know the difference between the two. The most prominent difference is how the animals get around. Seals move on their stomachs, while sea lions are more upright with prominent front flippers. If you still can’t tell the difference, look at their ears—sea lions have external ear flaps while seals do not!
While the sea lions and seals are used to humans, be safe and respectful by giving them their space. They are wild animals, after all.
5. Go on a Whale Watching Cruise
During the winter months, your San Diego bucket list should include a whale watching cruise. Due to the migratory patterns of the whales, your best bet is to reserve a whale watching cruise anywhere from mid-December to mid-March. Remember to bring a camera and a jacket to battle the wind!
6. Discover Tide Pools Throughout San Diego
Kids and adults alike can appreciate the wonder of the ecosystems found within tiny tide pools. Throughout San Diego, there are several places to find tide pools, including:
Shell Beach, La Jolla
Cabrillo Tide Pools
False Point, La Jolla
Cardiff State Beach
While exploring San Diego’s mesmerizing tide pools, you’ll see everything from crabs to barnacles.
Phier at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons
7. Hike Torrey Pines
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve offers trails for hikers of all experience levels. These trails boast scenic overlooks, fields of gorgeous wildflowers, and adventurous twists and turns. It is recommended that novice hikers start with the Guy Fleming Trail, which is a ⅔-mile loop featuring panoramic views, ferns, and more.
8. Golf at Torrey Pines
Hiking isn’t the only activity you can do at Torrey Pines. Did you know it has an upscale golf course as well? In addition to pristine golfing conditions, the course also features views of the Pacific Ocean, a pro shop, and lessons.
9. Face Your Fear of Heights at Torrey Pines Gliderport
Clearly, Torrey Pines needs to be on everyone’s San Diego bucket list.
At the Torrey Pines Gliderport, you can face your fear of heights or channel your inner daredevil by paragliding or hang gliding! The attraction offers tandem flights for newcomers, meaning you’ll fly with a professional. Would you soar through the California sky at this bucket list worthy attraction in Torrey Pines? I would!
10. Tour the USS Midway
At the USS Midway Museum, guests enjoy the once in a lifetime opportunity of experiencing a day in the life of a crew member on board a massive naval aircraft carrier. The museum offers self-guided tours and live demonstrations from USS Midway veterans and docents.
Image via Pacific Surfliner / Facebook
11. Take a Train Ride Along the Coast
Everyone knows the California coast is stunning. When you ride the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train from San Diego to San Luis Obispo (or vice versa), you’ll have the opportunity to see miles upon miles of that beautiful coast. With stops including Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, a train ride along this route must be part of your vacation, if not your bucket list.
12. Hike Potato Chip Rock
If you’re an avid hiker or are looking for a bit of adventure, Potato Chip Rock should be on your list. The rock is located at Mount Woodson and the trail is an 8-mile loop. With the rock’s hilarious potato chip shape, it’s worth the hike up just to get a picture!
13. Visit the Cabrillo National Monument
As one of San Diego’s most notable landmarks, Cabrillo National Monument is a must-see destination for all. The monument was built in honor of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who was the first European to step foot on our west coast in 1542. Don’t forget your camera! Not only is the monument picture worthy, the ocean backdrop is unbeatable.
14. See Old Point Loma Lighthouse
While visiting the Cabrillo National Monument, make your way over to the historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse. This quaint lighthouse stood watch for San Diego Bay, beginning in 1855. You can either tour the lighthouse on your own or participate in a ranger-led walk around the property.
15. Make Your Way to Old Town
As California’s first settlement, Old Town is full of history, authentic Mexican food, and interactive attractions. You can take a tour of a haunted building, visit the shops, and learn about San Diego’s heritage all in one visit. And that’s only the beginning of all this destination has to offer!
16. Make a Splash at SeaWorld San Diego
No San Diego bucket list is complete without including a trip to SeaWorld! While at the popular San Diego attraction, take the time to learn about SeaWorld’s dedication to conservation, rehabilitation, and marine life education. As you might have guessed, my first stop at SeaWorld is Sea Lion Point!
17. Become a Master Builder at LEGOLAND® California
Built for kids (and kids at heart), LEGOLAND® California Resort is the perfect addition to any bucket list. From the creative designs to the Master Builder workshops, you don’t want to miss out on a trip to LEGOLAND®. For those looking for a thrill, the theme park does feature exhilarating rides for those looking for a bit of an adrenaline rush!
18. Watch the Sunrise or Sunset from a San Diego Beach
It’s no secret that San Diego boasts multiple picture-perfect beaches. What makes these beaches even more delightful? Watching the sunrise or sunset from the comfort of the sand and the ambiance of the waves crashing along the shore. Claim your spot in the sand in the early morning or evening to watch the sky light up with shades of pink, orange, and even purple. Trust me, it’s a sight you’ll never forget.
What’s on Your San Diego Bucket List?
Did we miss any of your favorite bucket list worthy activities in San Diego? Let us know in the comments.
Have you considered jetting off to San Diego this summer? The city has so much to see and explore, from intriguing museums to adventurous hiking trails. With a wide variety of activities, San Diego has something for every type of traveler. Choosing to spend part of your summer in San Diego is a decision you won’t regret.
Wondering what there is to do in San Diego throughout the hot summer season? We’ve got you covered. Add these 10 things to do to your San Diego summer itinerary.
Take the guided bus tour to see the majority of the zoo.
1. Go Wild at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park
If you plan a trip to San Diego and don’t go to the zoo, did you really vacation in San Diego?
The San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park are staples for any summer vacation. On top of seeing all of your favorite animals from around the globe, the parks offer interactive experiences including safaris.
Keep in mind that some theme parks are not located in the immediate San Diego area. A little road trip never hurt anyone, right?
No matter which beach you choose, the setting will be serene.
3. Soak Up the Sun at the Beach
Grab your bathing suit, a towel, and some sunscreen. It’s time to hit the beach!
What summer vacation is complete without a day (or several) at the beach? When spending the summer in San Diego, going to the beach is a must! San Diego boasts several public and secret beaches that are absolutely worth your time. Each blissful oasis has it’s own unique perspective, from a haven for watersports to catering to dog owners.
Want to amplify your San Diego beach endeavors? Go early and watch the sunrise, or stay late and watch the sunset. Just be sure to pick your jaw up off the ground after the fact.
Visit the California Surf Museum on Tuesdays for free admission! Image via California Surf Museum / Facebook
4. Save Money and Explore San Diego at the Same Time
It’s a common misconception that a summer vacation in San Diego will empty your savings account. In reality, the greater San Diego area is riddled with free activities, landmarks, and attractions. You’ll find free museums, concerts, parks, and more!
With so many free things to do in San Diego, you’ll have more money in your pocket for additional excursions, meals, and shopping. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Combine education and entertainment at the USS Midway Museum.
5. Education + Entertainment = Edutainment
Even though the kids may be out of school for the summer, there is still so much to learn! San Diego offers a multitude of museums, art galleries, and experiential learning opportunities for all ages. Kids and adults alike love touring historic landmarks such as the USS Midway Museum and watching a mesmerizing IMAX movie at the Fleet Science Center.
For the pinnacle of entertainment and education, head to Balboa Park. This gorgeous park is home to 17 museums, multiple performing arts venues, a wide array of gardens, hiking trails, and other educational activities.
When you explore San Diego, you never know what views you’ll stumble upon.
6. Get Outside and Explore
No matter where I end up on summer vacation, I make it a point to get outside and explore. You can find me hiking, biking, or on the water wherever I may be.
With the diverse landscape and numerous outdoor activities, San Diego is the perfect place for travelers who love to be outside. When in San Diego, be sure to take advantage of outdoor activities such as:
Among the most popular San Diego landmarks is Gaslamp Quarter. This neighborhood is beaming with excitement, entertainment, and culture. Take a peek at the exquisite architecture while you stroll through this charming area of San Diego.
Don’t forget to visit Cabrillo National Monument during your summer in San Diego, too. As one of the top historic landmarks in the city, this monument should be on your “do not miss” list!
Image via San Diego County Fair / Facebook
8. Attend a Summer Festival
From cultural celebrations to San Diego-born traditions, there is an abundance of festivals for you to attend while on vacation. Before you go, check out our Events Calendar to see what thrilling events and festivals are scheduled during your trip.
Top annual summer festivals in San Diego include:
San Diego County Fair
Festival of the Bells
Rock ‘n Roll San Diego
Numerous food and beverage festivals
Find a festival that suits your interests and check it out!
Take a day trip from San Diego this summer.
9. Take a Day Trip from San Diego
While San Diego is a fun place to visit, there is plenty to explore beyond city limits. In fact, you can reach multiple California adventures from San Diego in a day!
In one day’s time (or less), you can visit California wine country, stunning national and state parks, and spacious beaches. This summer, why not extend your vacation discoveries beyond San Diego?
The fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down in San Diego.
10. Stay Out Late and Experience San Diego’s Nightlife
You’re on summer vacation, there’s no such thing as a “bedtime.” Stay up late, go out, and see what San Diego is like when the sunsets.
During summer in San Diego, the city comes to life at night. Whether you choose to roam through Gaslamp Quarter, head to a baseball game, or visit one of the many bars/lounges, there is something for everyone in San Diego at night.
Enjoy Your Summer in San Diego
No matter if you plan to explore the great outdoors, attend a festival, or take a tour, you’ll find something to do this summer in San Diego. Don’t forget to check Reserve San Diego for great deals on activities, hotel rooms, and more!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could spend an entire family vacation relaxing by the beach? While it sounds ideal, it’s not realistic for those traveling with kids. The beach can only provide so much entertainment. Instead, turn your trip into an exhilarating learning experience by visiting these eight educational things to do in San Diego.
Your kids will love the hands-on activities, historic landmarks, and wild adventures and you’ll love all that they learn. It’s a win-win vacation for everyone!
Let your kids explore their creative side at the New Children’s Museum. Photo via the New Children’s Museum / Facebook.
The New Children’s Museum
For interactive activities and endless learning, bring your family to the New Children’s Museum. This particular museum focuses on art-related activities with the goal of promoting creativity among kids. In addition to the mesmerizing and engaging art installations, the museum also offers art projects, labs, and activities for kids and adults alike to enjoy.
Currently on display is the Sketch Aquarium, where ocean drawings come to life! You do not want to bypass this interactive exhibit that’s making waves (literally) throughout San Diego.
Your kids will discover an underwater world at Birch Aquarium at Scripps.
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Speaking of aquariums…
Instead of sitting by the ocean, why not learn about the thousands of animals and plants that live in it? Boasting more than 5,000 fish in 60+ habitats, it’s no wonder that Birch Aquarium at Scripps is one of the most popular educational things to do in San Diego. Watch as your kids learn about everything from sea turtles to seahorses in a single day. Don’t forget to catch the shark tank feeding!
From giraffes to cheetahs, your family can experience it all at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
At the zoo, your kids can learn about the entire animal kingdom while coming face-to-face with their favorite animals. With more than 650 species onsite, you’ll have a wild time exploring everything the zoo has to offer. But the animal fun doesn’t stop there.
At San Diego Zoo Safari Park, your entire family can embark on a one-of-a-kind safari and learn about endangered animals from around the globe. For an exceptional safari experience, use these quick tips.
Learn about life aboard the USS Midway at this one-of-a-kind museum in San Diego.
USS Midway Museum
Also among the many educational things to do in San Diego is the USS Midway Museum. Guests can climb aboard this historic naval aircraft carrier and experience a day in the life of a sailor. The museum has onsite docents who have served in the Navy and even served on the USS Midway. Your children will love walking around the ship, checking out the flight simulators, talking to the sailors, and listening to the self-guided audio tour.
Check out restored historic vessels at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
Maritime Museum of San Diego
For even more historic and nautical fun, bring your family to the Maritime Museum of San Diego. This intriguing museum has a global reputation for exceptional vessel restoration and captivating educational exhibits.
Kids can explore historic vessels including a 1914 tall ship, an 1898 steam ferry, and an accurate replica of an 18th century Royal Navy frigate. The museum also hosts revolving special exhibits and festivals all year long for even more fun. What’s even better than touring these vessels? Sailing in one! For an additional charge, the museum offers various sailing experiences including whale watching tours.
Enjoy hands-on science activities at the Fleet Science Center. Photo via Fleet Science Center / Facebook.
Fleet Science Center
Do you have a science-obsessed kid on your hands? If so, head over to the Fleet Science Center for a world of immersive learning opportunities. From IMAX movies to self-guided exhibits, the Fleet Science Center has everything a science-loving kid could possibly want. Your child can learn about the science behind constructing a building, discover the cells of the human body, create their own inventions, and more all in one place.
With so much to do, see, and learn, it’s easy to see why the Fleet Science Center made our list of exciting educational things to do in San Diego.
By Robert Arends (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Cabrillo National Monument
The Cabrillo National Monument is one of the top tourist destinations in San Diego. The statue commemorates the moment Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first European to step foot on North America’s west coast in 1542.
Your first thought might be, “Sure, it’s an iconic landmark. But what can my kids learn from a statue?” The answer is: a whole lot. There is far more to do at this historic area than stare at a finely constructed statue.
At the southern end of the park, you’ll find the low tide pools. Here, your children can get a glimpse at the aquatic life living below the water. Tide pools are made up of three different zones: splash zone, the middle intertidal zone, and the subtidal zone. With different aquatic species living in each zone, your children will go on an adventure trying to find and identify each species they discover. From crabs to sea urchins, there’s a whole universe to be explored in the Cabrillo National Monument tide pools.
While at the monument, your family can also see the Old Point Loma Lighthouse that has watched over the bay since 1855. Although the lighthouse no longer operates, guests are invited to learn more about the history of the San Diego Bay and the famous lighthouse.
17 museums. Multiple performing arts venues. Tons of gardens and trails. One educational experience.
Once you step foot in Balboa Park, you’ll see why it is arguably one of the top educational things to do in San Diego. Noted as “where culture, science, and nature collide” the park boasts 17 museums, several performing arts venues, spacious gardens, various trails, and other educational attractions.
Your family can easily spend more than one day exploring all that the park has to offer, from the Japanese Friendship Garden to the San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT). For the ultimate experience (and best savings), I recommend purchasing the Go San Diego Card.
Visit San Diego for the Best in Educational Fun
Clearly, there isn’t a shortage of educational things to do in San Diego. From soaring in a flight simulator to coming up close with a giraffe, the learning opportunities are endless. Start planning your educational San Diego adventure by visiting Reserve San Diego today.
We can all agree that the most stressful part of a vacation is sticking to a budget. Everything from attraction tickets to hotel rooms can eat through a travel budget in seconds, especially in a top travel destination such as sunny San Diego. To stay within budget, start by determining where to stay in San Diego on a budget.
When to Visit San Diego
For the ultimate savings, it is best to travel during the off-season. However, in San Diego, the off-season comes with a caveat. The winter months draw the lowest number of visitors to the area and for a good reason — lots of rain. If you’re willing to forgo the beach and deal with several rainstorms, you’ll find extraordinary prices on San Diego hotels during the winter.
If you’re like me and can’t pass up an opportunity for a beach vacation, you’ll want to visit either in the spring or fall. While summer is perfect beach weather, it’s also when San Diego is the busiest. Locals and frequent San Diego visitors agree that March through May and September through November are the best times to visit.
Where to Stay in San Diego on a Budget
Once you’ve decided when you’ll travel to San Diego, you can begin to research the hotels that will fit your budget. For an affordable vacation, I recommend staying at these San Diego hotels.
*The hotels listed below show pricing based on the spring season. Prices will vary by season.
Whether you’re planning a family vacation to LEGOLAND® or visiting on business, the Best Western Oceanside Inn offers a convenient location. With attractions such as SeaWorld® and the San Diego Zoo® nearby, you’re in the middle of it all (and at a great price).
This affordable hotel offers comfortable accommodations and amenities such as a complimentary continental breakfast and an outdoor pool. The Best Western Oceanside Inn is an excellent choice for travelers deciding where to stay in San Diego on a budget.
Standard Room, 2 Queen Beds (Newly Renovated) – $108.00 per night
The Good Nite Inn is also conveniently located near San Diego’s top attractions such as SeaWorld®. This budget-friendly hotel is perfect for the traveler who only needs a place to sleep and recharge after a long day of exploration and attractions.
In addition to the recently renovated rooms, the hotel also offers complimentary coffee and tea in the lobby each morning. For renowned hospitality and comfortable accommodations at a price you’ll love, the Good Nite Inn San Diego is your top choice.
No family vacation to San Diego is complete without visiting Knott’s Berry Farm. For families looking to maximize their vacation time and budget, Knott’s Berry Hotel is the perfect hotel solution. This family-friendly hotel is seconds away from the theme park and water park and offers amenities such as an onsite restaurant and pool. Plus, just for the kids, the hotel features an entire Snoopy themed wing known as Camp Snoopy!
The Western Inn Old Town is situated right in the heart of San Diego, minutes away from the airport, the San Diego Zoo®, and other top attractions. Determining where to stay in San Diego on a budget isn’t difficult once you look into this hotel.
Get a good night’s sleep with the hotel’s comfortable room accommodations and recharge the next day with a free continental breakfast. Visitors should note that the hotel requires self-parking, in-room safe, and other additional fees.
Deluxe 1 King Bed or 2 Queen Beds – $131.71 per night
For a budget-conscious hotel with superior decor, book your stay at Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel Old Town. The 200-room hotel features decor inspired by the Spanish mission and is surrounded by gorgeous ocean and city views. While at the hotel, guests can dine at the Old Town Tequila Factory Restaurant and Cantina, or go for a swim in the outdoor pool.
While the hotel does offer a free airport shuttle, guests should be aware of the self-parking and pet fees that apply.
If you’re trying to decide where to stay in San Diego on a budget and are hoping to procure a hotel room near Mission Beach, you’ve come to the right place. Best Western Mission Bay is pet-friendly, near the beach, and only 4.5 miles away from SeaWorld® and others points of interest.
Amenities provided by the hotel include a free breakfast, outdoor pool and whirlpool spa, a fitness room, and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Traditional Room, 2 Queen Beds – $139.18 per night
Those searching for upscale accommodations at an affordable price will be pleased with their stay at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel, Mission Valley. With a prime location, guests enjoy easy access to the San Diego Zoo, Mission Valley, SeaWorld®, and more.
The hotel offers a variety of rooms as well as top amenities such as a 24/7 health club, Internet access, and an outdoor pool. This 4-star San Diego hotel also features modern decor and an onsite restaurant. Do note that several fees are in place, including:
Family Suite, Multiple Beds (1 King Bed and Bunk Bed) – $139.45 per night
The Wyndham Garden San Diego hotel is ideal for families who need spacious and convenient accommodations. Located around the corner from the airport and SeaWorld®, families can reserve suites or rooms that suit their needs.
From complimentary WiFi to an onsite restaurant, this hotel has everything families need for an exciting and budget-conscious vacation in San Diego. Like other San Diego hotels, the Wyndham Garden does have an overnight parking fee.
Located minutes away from San Diego’s top attractions, the Hilton San Diego Mission Valley hotel rounds out the best budget-friendly hotels in the area. Featuring contemporary decor, various room types, and premium amenities, guests have everything at their fingertips here.
With hotels such as this, multiple fees are in place such as parking fees, pet fees, breakfast fees, and more. If you’re fine with flexing your budget a bit for top-notch accommodations in San Diego, choose this hotel.
Book Your San Diego Hotel Today
Now that you know where to stay in San Diego on a budget, what are you waiting for? Book your room through Reserve San Diego today for the best value.
One hundred aces, 3,700 animals, and over 650 species – this is the San Diego Zoo. A true modern marvel, the zoo is one of the finest in America and should be a part of any San Diego vacations nearly impossible to see it all during one day, so it is best to have a plan of action before you enter the park. Come along as I guide you on how to make the most of your day at the zoo.
The San Diego Zoo offers a guided bus tour that covers 70% of the park. I suggest hopping aboard this tour to get an overview of the park before you take to the pavement. Tours depart starting at 9 am, and last about 35-45 minutes. The open air upper deck of the bus has the best animal sightseeing, so try to sit there if you can. During the tour, you’ll get to see Elephant Odyssey, Africa Rocks, Outback, Urban Jungle and Northern Frontier. I was impressed with the views of polar bears, giraffes, elephants, and lions. Plus, the tour lets you see some areas of the park you might not have time to traverse to during your day. After all, this park is massive.
All the Animals
Once you have a good overview of the park, it’s time to get an up-close look. Grab a San Diego Zoo map, then head to Panda Canyon. It is an absolute must visit as the San Diego Zoo is one of the only four U.S. zoos home to these amazing mammals. Visit this attraction first thing as it is extremely popular. A baby panda born July 29, 2012, currently calls the zoo home too. If that doesn’t make you hightail it here I don’t know what will. Fill your camera with multiple “aww-inducing” shots. Then head to other areas not seen on the tour such as Lost Forest.
There are a lot of winding, hilly trails within this area but it’s worth the trek. I’m absolutely crazy about apes, so the stoic gorillas and acrobatic orangutan’s were amazing to see. At the time, the orangutan had a baby leading to infinite cute sights. In the Lost Forest, you’ll also want to hit the Tiger Trail. The open viewing areas here provide excellent observation and photographing points. Head to the hippos next. They might be hiding, but look for them. When you find them, you’ll wonder how you missed them as they are some of the largest hippos I’ve ever seen!
What’s Included with San Diego Zoo Tickets
At the Zoo a SkyFari ride is included in your one day San Diego Zoo tickets. I used it to traverse have the park in 4-minutes, and save myself some walking. Take it to the Northern Frontier to see the polar bears swim and play in their large water enclosure. There’s still a lot to see at the Zoo, but you’re probably feeling a bit tired from all the walking. Luckily, the Kangaroo Express Bus is available in this section of the park. The Express Bus lets you hop on and off at five different stops throughout the Zoo. Just wait at one of the stops for a bus with a green Express banner to arrive, about every 15 minutes. Use the bus to see lions, elephants, giraffes and more. Don’t forget about the koala bears either!
This exceptional Zoo provides an in-depth look at a diverse array of animals. With exhibits designed in a natural form and a lush botanical garden surrounding much of the park, a true habitat-inspired atmosphere thrives. Explore the San Diego Zoo for a closer look at the wild side.
Keep in mind, the earlier in the day you visit the better. The sun won’t be as warm, which many of the animals seek refuge from making them less lively. Plus, the lines and crowds aren’t as bad early in the day so you can get even better views of the animals at the zoo.
When you think of San Diego, what comes to mind? The sunny beaches? The culture? The price tag? People often believe that a vacation in San Diego will cost an unimaginable amount. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
You and your family can enjoy a memorable San Diego vacation without going over budget by using these tips.
A vacation in San Diego doesn’t have to break the bank.
Where to Stay in San Diego on a Budget
First and foremost, you need to figure out where you’ll stay during your time in San Diego. Depending on a number of different factors, room rates can range from affordable to astronomical. To save money on lodging in San Diego, consider the following:
Most travelers prefer to stay in hotels with a convenient location, which means finding a hotel in downtown San Diego. However, these hotels can charge premium rates due to their prime real estate downtown. If you don’t have a location preference, consider staying at a hotel just outside of downtown San Diego for lower rates.
Do you need a hotel room to sleep in after a long day of exploring, or do you prefer a suite decked out to the nines? As you know, hotels with premium amenities have a larger price tag. If you don’t need luxury amenities, look for value hotels that offer cozy accommodations for a price within your budget.
Make your reservation at one of these low cost, comfortable hotels around San Diego:
Look for Hotel Deals
Remember to check resources such as Reserve San Diego for exclusive hotel and attraction packages as well as other savings. You never know what discounts you’ll find when planning your vacation in San Diego!
Travel Off Season
Hotel rates spike during peak tourist seasons and lower during off-peak seasons. To avoid crowds and surge pricing, visit San Diego from March through May or September through November.
Save money and see the sights by taking the Old Town Trolley.
The San Diego Trolley
Instead of spending money on gas and a rental car, rely on the San Diego Trolley to get you around the greater San Diego area. The San Diego Trolley covers approximately 50+ miles of the city and stops nearby large attractions and destinations, from Gaslamp Quarter to Little Italy.
For even more savings, combine your sightseeing adventures with trolley transportation on the Old Town Trolley Tours. You’ll learn about San Diego’s history, landmarks, and more while heading to your next attraction or destination. Purchase a 1 or 2-day hop-on, hop-off pass to make the most of your vacation in San Diego.
Consider the Cost of Parking
Parking in San Diego can be tricky to find and expensive, especially downtown. To keep a few more dollars in your wallet, consider taking public transportation or an Uber/Lyft around San Diego instead of a rental car. Should you require your own car, be prepared for high parking prices and limited space.
A trip to the San Diego Air and Space Museum is affordable with a Go San Diego Card.
Affordable (and Free) Attractions in San Diego
With several notable attractions located nearby, it is easy to understand why people think a vacation in San Diego costs a fortune. Actually, there are plenty of affordable (and even free) activities throughout the greater San Diego area.
Take advantage of these low-cost activities and attractions while in San Diego.
The Go San Diego Card is a must for every vacation in San Diego. With this exclusive pass, you receive admission to all 44 San Diego area attractions for one discounted price. The Go San Diego Card includes admission to attractions and activities such as:
With 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7-day passes, the Go San Diego Card is the best way to experience San Diego’s greatest attractions at a price you can afford. Simply present your card at any of the 44 attractions during operating hours and enjoy!
The Balboa Park Explorer Pass
Balboa Park is a beautiful park in San Diego that houses 17 captivating museums. Of course, visiting 17 museums with multiple people can deplete a vacation budget in a matter of seconds. To help guests save money and experience all the park has to offer, Balboa Park offers an Explorer Pass.
By purchasing an Explorer Pass, you gain access to all of the museums for one low price. When on a vacation in San Diego with multiple people, this pass is the perfect way to save money and see it all.
However, if strolling through a museum isn’t your style, you can visit the park itself completely free of charge. Balboa Park includes various gardens, 65 miles of hiking trails, and more for guests to discover.
Whether you decide to purchase an Explorer Pass or roam the park, visiting Balboa Park is an affordable way to spend your vacation in San Diego.
Visit San Diego with Kids in October
Will you be traveling to San Diego with your children? If so, visit during the month of October when San Diego offers more than 100 free activities and attractions exclusively for kids. From free theme park admission to free events, your family can save money without skipping out on the best attractions and experiences.
Go on a Sightseeing Tour
When you travel to San Diego, sightseeing needs to be on your list of things to do. From the monuments to the iconic neighborhoods, there is so much to see. Traveling to and from all of these destinations over the course of a vacation can quickly become expensive. Instead, reserve your spot on the San Diego tour of your choice.
From drool worthy food tours (my favorite, naturally) to landmark sightseeing tours, San Diego is bursting with fantastic tours that cater to every type of traveler. You’ll experience all of the top sites, maximize your time in San Diego, and keep a few dollars in your wallet all at the same time.
A trip to one of San Diego’s many beaches is nearly free!
Lounge on the Beach
You know a day at the beach is practically free, right? Plus, a vacation in San Diego isn’t complete without at least one day by the ocean. Visit these sunny San Diego beaches (for free) during your trip:
No matter when you visit, a stroll through Gaslamp Quarter is magical and doesn’t cost a thing. From the architecture to the shops, there’s always something to see and experience in Gaslamp Quarter. Don’t forget to bring your camera and capture your memories of the Victorian buildings and vibrant decor for years to come.
See the Sea Lions at Scripps Park
Those who know me know I can’t pass up an opportunity to see sea lions! One of the best places to spot these lovable marine mammals is at Scripps Park at La Jolla Cove. Why pay for aquarium admission when you’ve got one sitting right in front of you?
See? A vacation in San Diego can be inexpensive and fun!
Start Planning Your Vacation in San Diego
Now that you know how to vacation in San Diego on a budget, it’s time to start planning. Don’t forget to visit Reserve San Diego to take advantage of savings that will help you stay within your vacation budget!
Need to escape the everyday? Break away from the norm by treating your family to a San Diego Spring Break. The temperatures are warm, the ocean is nearby, and there are a variety of things to do that will keep kids young and old entertained. What should you do on your San Diego Spring Break vacation? Read on.
San Diego Zoo
Go Wild at the San Diego Zoo
If there’s one thing the whole family can agree on, it’s the San Diego Zoo. Famous the world over for its renowned animal care and exhibits. The urban paradise can easily take a whole day to see, as this place is a lot more than your typical zoo. Start your day off with a guided bus tour of the park. Gaining perspective on this nearly 100-acre park is key to making the most of your day. Decide which exhibits you want to visit again during your San Diego Spring Break vacation, then trek through the botanical canopy of the zoo for a closer look. Highlights for me always lie in the Lost Forest, home to gorillas, tigers, and hippos; Panda Canyon, home to Giant Pandas; and Elephant Odyssey, home to elephants, lions, and jaguars. Your San Diego Zoo ticket includes the Kangaroo Express Bus and Skyfari Aerial Tram. Use them! They make traversing the park much easier and save you tons of time.
Highlights for me always lie in the Lost Forest, home to gorillas, tigers, and hippos; Panda Canyon, home to Giant Pandas; and Elephant Odyssey, home to elephants, lions, and jaguars. Your San Diego Zoo ticket includes the Kangaroo Express Bus and Skyfari Aerial Tram. Use them! They make traversing the park much easier and save you tons of time.
Build Memories at LEGOLAND
If you have children under the age of 12, LEGOLAND California is just for them. If you’re a parent, you already know the love for LEGOS. At this theme park, that love explodes with larger-than-life LEGO sculptures, Imagination Centers, LEGO-based rides with mild thrills, silly shows featuring LEGO people, and so much more. This spring visitors have exclusive access to LEGO Movie 4D: The Next Adventure, too. Right outside LEGOLAND is SEA Life Aquarium and it’s included in your ticket purchase. Total bonus! The aquarium incorporates LEGO statues and designs into the underwater scene, a perfect complement to your day at LEGOLAND.
Torrey Pines Natural Reserve
Take to the Outdoors
Be sure to spend at least one of your San Diego Spring Break vacation days sightseeing. Spectacular sea cliffs, rugged desert terrain, and endless ocean combine to create a natural beauty that can be appreciated at any age. The first time I visited San Diego, I discovered Torrey Pines and have been singing its praises ever since. As a natural reserve its home to not only threatened plants and unique geological formations but stunning overlooks of the coastline and surrounding La Jolla. The Cabrillo National Monument at Point Loma, with its tide pools, tall cliffs, and lighthouse, is another favorite as is Seaside Cliffs, a stretch of coastline known for its epic sunsets.
Sun, sand, and surf are sure to bring the smiles!
Hit the Sand & Surf
San Diego has some pretty great beaches so it would be a shame to not spend any time at one. And there are so many to choose from! Coronado Beach, with the iconic Hotel Del Coronado framing its shores, is a classic beach consistently voted one of America’s best by the Travel Channel. Mission Beach is ideal for families as the meandering coastline has calm waters, there is lifeguard service during peak season, beachside eateries make it easy to snack and Belmont Park is nearby. Family-friendly La Jolla Shores has sandy beaches and mild waves so young kids can play in shallow waters and bigger kids can body board and even try to surf. Other family favorites include Del Mar, Moonlight Beach, and Tide Beach Park.
Sneak in Some Edutainment
There’s no reason kids can’t learn something new while on a San Diego Spring Break vacation. At the New Children’s Museum families will find a dynamic atmosphere filled with inventive and engaging art experiences. Get hands-on with activities and performances at this one-of-a-kind attraction. Tour the USS Midway for a unique glimpse at U.S. history. There are 60 exhibits, 25 restored aircrafts, aviator simulators and so much more to learn aboard this historic aircraft carrier. Balboa Park, with 15 educational yet entertaining museums, is known as the “Smithsonian of the West” due to its vast cultural offerings. Kids especially enjoy the San Diego Air & Space Museum and San Diego Model Railroad Museum.
Village Pizzeria Bayside/Facebook
Play with Your Food
Okay, I’m not really advocating playing with your food. However, eating in San Diego can certainly be categorized as fun which equals playtime in my book. Kids are notorious for being picky eaters, but kid-friendly San Diego restaurants cater to not only their taste buds but their creative side. The Village Pizzeria offers a Build-Your-Own-Pizza night every Wednesday, where kids receive their own pre-rolled dough, marina, cheese and 3 toppings of their choice to create their own specialty, custom pie. Bonus: There are 11 craft beers on tap for adults, seriously scenic views and nearby grassy area for the kids to roam. Waypoint Public has a designated kid’s area with books, games and astro turf for kids who thinking sitting still is for the birds. Plus, they have an affordable just-for-kids menu with hots dogs, mac ‘n cheese and burgers, while adults can enjoy a selection of over 30 craft beers and inventive food menu. Another notable mention is the throwback Corvette Diner, which has a massive arcade room, magicians, and live entertainment.
San Diego Spring Break Fun Awaits
Put these San Diego Spring Break vacation ideas for families to use on your escape from the ordinary. Your kids will thank you!
Be sure to book all your attraction tickets and hotel rooms with Reserve San Diego for the best money-saving deals and insider tips.
Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.
San Diego offers visitors a tremendous amount of things to see and do. Home to stunning scenery, miles of sandy beaches, and an abundance of attractions for all ages, like SeaWorld and San Diego Zoo, this Southern California destination is teeming with activities for visitors. Plus, there are plenty of free things to do in San Diego that are fun for those of all ages. In San Diego, visitors can have fun without spending a fortune to do so.
The Best Free Things to Do in San Diego
1) The Beach
There are over 30 beaches open to the public in San Diego—all of which are free to visit. So, suit up, grab your beach bag and towel, and make a day of it by sunning, surfing, searching for seashells and building sandcastles. A few recommendations include Coronado Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla Shores.
La Jolla Cove
2) La Jolla Cove
For an up-close look at local sea life, La Jolla Cove is ideal. Sea lions frolic along the shoreline and nap in nearby rock and sand embankments, putting some serious cuteness on display. Watching these sea lions in their natural habitat is a first-hand look at the natural side of San Diego.
3) Gaslamp Quarter
The Gaslamp Quarter, 16-block historic district in downtown, has a distinct turn-of-the-century Victorian vibe and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built in the 1860s, the name of the area comes from the gas lamps used to light the streets. These still adorn the walkways and streets of the area, now home to over 100 shops, restaurants and bars.
Oceanside Municipal Pier: Flickr/Ted
4) Oceanside Municipal Pier
When you walk along the 1,942-feet of the Oceanside Municipal Pier, you’re walking on a landmark. This pier is the oldest wooden pier on the West Coast, and is great of fishing and wave watching.
Stone Brewing Co.: Flickr/Bernt Rostad
5) Brewery Tours
San Diego is the home of America’s craft beer scene, so where better to go on a brewery tour? The Green Flash Brewing Co., Karl Strauss Brewery, Stone Brewing Company and Lo Jolla Brewing Company all have free tours. Sample free beers while getting a behind-the-scenes look at suds making.
6) Cowles Mountain
Hike to the top of Cowles Mountain for prime panoramic views of San Diego County. At 1,593-feet the summit is the highest peak in all of San Diego. The hike is a rather strenuous switchback-style uphill hike, but the views are worth the effort. Arrive early for the best views.
7) Point Loma & Cabrillo National Monument
The Cabrillo National Monument, located on Point Loma, commemorates the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542. Along with the monument, there is a historic lighthouse, with views all the way to Mexico, a veterans memorial, sea cliffs and tide pools to explore.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
8) Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Hiking at Torrey Pines is one of the best ways to see the natural beauty of San Diego. Trails curve around sandy mountains, with views of the bright blue coast, jagged sea cliffs and rare Torrey pine trees dotting the way. Plus, you can swim at the base of the Torrey Pines cliffs.
9) Old Town State Historic Park
Trek through the history of California’s birthplace at Old Town, San Diego’s first downtown. There is a distinct feeling of Old Mexico within this 6-block, 12-acre park, with historical sites covering shops, restaurants, museums, preserved adobe buildings and more. It’s easily one of the most authentic free things to do in San Diego.
10) Balboa Park
Balboa Park is teeming with free things to do in San Diego. There are over 65 miles of walking trails at Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in America. In addition, there are gorgeous gardens, botanical gardens and spectacular Spanish Colonial Revival architecture to see. Don’t miss the Spreckles Organ Pavilion which hosts free outdoor organ concerts on Sundays at 2pm.
California Surf Museum/Facebook
11) California Surf Museum
Surf’s up at this museum, home to a permanent collection of historic boards, photographs and videos. Located in Oceanside on Highway 101, tour through the displays on Tuesdays for free admission.
Summer concerts in San Diego
12) Summer Concerts
During the summer season, a variety of venues host free concerts. From the Coronado Summer Concerts in the Park to the La Jolla Concert by the Sea, there is an event planned for every week of the summer. Click here for a comprehensive list of free summer entertainment.
13) Seaport Village
Stop by lively Seaport Village for a leisurely stroll along the bayfront, where window shopping, free entertainment and affordable cafes await. Seaport Village hosts the annual Busker Festival each spring, and offers over 75 stores and restaurants. Pop-up concerts and strolling entertainment featured on the weekends.
14) Sunset Cliffs
The rugged Sunset Cliffs are juxtaposed with modern highways and homes. Truly lovely during the day, the cliffs are made even better in the evening. Watch the sun sink into the ocean horizon and witness an array of pinks and oranges painting the sky.
Mt. Soledad: Flickr/Oleg
15) Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial
Located in La Jolla, Mt. Soledad is an easy-to-access peak with 360-degree views on San Diego. While you enjoy the views, be sure to pay your respects to the brave men and women of America’s armed forces at the Veterans Memorial. Black granite stones tell the stories of those lost, encircling a massive cross honor those who served faithfully.
As you can see, it’s easy to find free things to do in San Diego. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, history buff or entertainment junkie, you can’t go wrong with these absolutely free options. Visitors can experience a fun and unforgettable vacation experience without breaking the budget.
Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.
There’s no doubt that San Diego has something for everyone. From a baseball game for the sports fans to a day at the beach for the outdoorsy folk, San Diego is a great place to vacation. With so much to do and see, it can be difficult to fit everything into one vacation. Instead of trying to pack in every site, make sure these 7 San Diego landmarks are on your itinerary for an unforgettable vacation.
See all of your favorite animals at the San Diego Zoo.
San Diego Zoo and Safari Park
When you visit San Diego, you have to go to the San Diego Zoo. As one of the top zoos in the world, it’s a rite of passage to visit this legendary attraction. From monkeys swinging from branch to branch, to towering giraffes and trumpeting elephants, the San Diego Zoo is home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals and counting. Plus, did you know the zoo is also a botanical garden with over 700,000 types of plants?
For the best San Diego Zoo experience, follow our expert tips:
Arrive as early as possible to get a phenomenal parking spot and see the animals being active. During the afternoon hours, most of the animals tend to rest.
Take advantage of the Bus Tour. The tour departments every half hour and provides one of the most thorough tours of the zoo. It’s a great way to see as many animals as possible during your day.
Check out this quick video guide to a day at the San Diego Zoo for more advice.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park is another treasure you don’t want to miss. The 1,800-acre park allows visitors to go on a safari adventure unlike any other. Between the behind-the-scenes experiences and seeing animals in their natural habitats, you’re sure to have a wild time at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
The San Diego landmarks on our list have their own story and the Cabrillo National Monument is no exception. The historic monument commemorates the story of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who arrived at San Diego Bay in September 1542. Upon discovery, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo actually called the area, “San Miguel”. It wasn’t until 60 years later that the area was named “San Diego” by explorer Sebastian Vizcaino.
While at the monument, you can explore the statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, learn about his voyage, and gaze out into the ocean from the Old Point Loma lighthouse.
Climb aboard the USS Midway Museum for an unparalleled San Diego experience.
USS Midway Museum
Climb aboard the USS Midway, an authentic U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, for an educational experience you’ll never forget. With 60+ exhibits, self-guided tours, 29 restored aircrafts, and outstanding ocean views, there’s something for everyone at the museum.
Among the most historical of San Diego landmarks, the USS Midway allows visitors to hear stories from Desert Storm pilots and experience life aboard the famous vessel. Plus, daredevils can hop into a flight simulator and “jet off” into the sky!
Book your trip to the USS Midway Museum using Reserve San Diego to skip the ticket lines and spend more time inside the aircraft carrier.
Image by richmbythesea / Flickr
Did you know Balboa Park is known as one of the best parks in the world? The park houses 15 museums, performing arts venues, botanical gardens, cultural and recreational attractions, and the San Diego Zoo.
With over 1,200 acres to explore, you can spend the majority of your San Diego vacation in Balboa Park and never get bored! As the nation’s largest urban cultural park, it’s easy to see why Balboa Park made our list of San Diego landmarks you can’t miss.
Visit the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve for unbeatable views and outdoor adventure.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
California is home to hundreds of beautiful national and state parks. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the 16 parks with reserve status. This means that everything in the reserve is exactly as it was before the entire city of San Diego was built. From the calming trails to the incredible beaches, this natural reserve is one of San Diego’s true treasures.
When you visit Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, follow all of the rules put in place by the California State Park System. The point of the reserve is to keep it safe from waste and harm while tourists visit the park.
Visit Gaslamp Quarter to combine history and fun in one neighborhood.
Located in the heart of the historic city, Gaslamp Quarter is known as San Diego’s entertainment district. With 16.5 blocks of Victorian architecture and stories of San Diego’s past, everything for a phenomenal vacation is at your fingertips.
As a result, you’ll find the following throughout the famous neighborhood:
Live Music and Bars
Museums and Attractions
Luxury Hotels and Lodging
We guarantee you’ll love Gaslamp Quarter, especially since it’s one of the top San Diego landmarks!
Don’t forget to stop by Old Town San Diego too.
Old Town San Diego
Known as the birthplace of California, you need to visit Historic Old Town San Diego. In 1968, the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation announced the establishment of Old Town, therefore preserving the area’s rich history. Throughout the neighborhood, you can learn about San Diego’s past, visit local shops, or attend a festival.
With so much history and fun packed into one neighborhood, it’s no wonder why it made the list of top San Diego landmarks!
Reserve Your Vacation to See All 7 San Diego Landmarks Today
With so many San Diego landmarks to visit, it’s best to plan your trip ahead of time. Eliminate the hassle of booking a hotel room or purchasing tickets on several different websites by using Reserve San Diego. From hotel reservations to travel tips, Reserve San Diego has everything you need for the San Diego vacation of a lifetime in one place.