San Diego Wild Animal Park
The San Diego Zoo doesn’t keep too many large animals in the confines of its limited site. To see and experience the life and times of giraffes, lions, elephants, and other natives of spacious grasslands in Africa and Asia, visit the wildly popular San Diego Wild Animal Park (15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido, www.sandiegozoo.org/wap, daily 9 a.m.–4 p.m. or later, $28.50 adults, $17.50 children, parking $8).
Deliberately set well away from the center of urban San Diego, this huge park gives a variety of animals the space they crave to live more naturally. You could spend days in the Wild Animal Park and not see all the diverse species that live here.
Walking trails offer miles of adventure through different areas of the park, such as Condor Ridge, Lion Camp, Lorikeet Landing, and the Heart of Africa.
If you’re not up for a day of hardcore hiking, consider paying extra for one of the “Safari” tours that take guests out into different areas of the park in colorful vehicles. On Safaris, docents tell their groups about the wildlife (both animal and vegetable) as they come upon it.
You can experience the thrill of seeing a cheetah run full-speed, the simple pleasure of the grazers enjoying an afternoon munching grasses and leaves, or the vista of the full park from the air on the Balloon Safari.
The Wild Animal Park caters both to families and to adults without children seeking a more grown-up experience. Check your map for the location of playgrounds and family-themed attractions. On the website, you can find out which tours and dates are best for an adults-only day at the park.
Ample food, restrooms, and concessions cluster around the entrance area, but services get thinner as you get farther out into the park.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition