San Diego With Kids: Wild Animal Park

San Diego Wild Animal Park - Entrance

On the last day in San Diego, after we made a quick stop at Cabrillo National Monument we made the trek up the highway to San Diego’s Zoo Wild Animal Park.

We should have arrived much earlier than we did. But after a grueling itinerary with non-stop visits to Legoland, San Diego zoo, Science museum and Sea World. I think it took a little toll on us. So we took it easy that day.

The Wild Animal Park is part of San Diego Zoo but is located in Escondido about 45 minutes from San Diego. So plan your trip accordingly. We chose to visit Wild Animal Park on the last day in San Diego so that we could continue our trip to Los Angeles from there.

The Kilimanjaro Safari Walk

San Diego Wild Animal Park - Path

When we first arrived at the park, I thought we were in Disney Animal Kingdom park. The park looks really clean with shaded path. After picked up the map, Miss J went into guide mode and studied the map.

Our first stop was the gift shop! Yeah.. Not such a good beginning but we forgot a hat for everyone. And we knew we would be doing a lot of walking in the Sun. So shopping it was.

San Diego Wild Animal Park - Feeding ducks

With the size of the park and knowing my kids’ energy level, I knew we had to lower our expectation. We wouldn’t be able to explore the whole park so we settled to only a few spots. First of, I saw the schedule for Cheetah feeding so we marched down the path heading to Cheetah’s area by following the Kilimanjaro Safari Walk. But it was almost at the totally opposite side of the park. But that didn’t mean that we didn’t stop to enjoy feeding ducks near the Congo Fishing Village.

I have read many reviews about the walking concerns for family and I agree. Know thy children! For younger kids, I would suggest a jogging or umbrella stroller. It will be much more pleasant for the whole family. I saw several moms pushing strollers along the path. Looked like a great place for a workout.

San Diego Wild Animal Park - Cheetah

So did we make it for the feeding? NO!

In light of trying to get it there, I actually missed the Cheetah area and kept on walking. By the time, I turned around the feeding was done.

Now, on to plan B.. A quick ice cream stop was in order. We stopped by in front of the entrance to Journey Into Africa and sat down to enjoy our ice cream before got in line for a ride.

Journey Into Africa

San Diego Wild Animal Park - Journey into Africa

If you have limited time and can only do a couple things, THIS is the one I would highly recommend. It’s a no gimmick safari ride that takes you to habitats where animals live together just like in the wild. There is no fancy story of chasing a poacher.

The ride was really educational and informative. I really love our driver who gave us great information. Now I know what make Wild Animal Park different from other typical zoos. The park is big on animal conservation and strives to provide a safe habitat for wild animals.

We rode on a tram along the fence-in area. It’s not really safari experience but hey.. we are in California so what do you expect. Even so, I still think it’s one of the closest experience we can get here and provide us with more understanding on what they are doing in the park.

Little Break for Little Ones

San Diego Wild Animal Park - Kids break

By the time, we were done with the ride, it was late in the afternoon. We decided to hike back to the entrance. It was quite a walk. Then we stumbled upon a staff who provided a much-needed distraction for kids of all ages with the bubble station. He was creating a huge bubble using special solution and allowed kids to forget about that long walk. This shows how family-friendly this park is. I love all this little details that they think of for family with kids.

Not Your Typical Petting Zoo – Petting Kraal

San Diego Wild Animal Park - Petting Kaarl Deer

We have been to many petting zoos in the past but definitely not this type of petting zoo. Most petting zoo you will meet goat, chicken, rabbit and other smaller creatures. But here you meet Kraal. Kids were nervous at first to get up-close and personal with big deers. But they were all very tame. Plus we read them the rules before we got in. Definitely, one of unique experience we had!

San Diego Wild Animal Park - Carousel

Our last stop of the day was the Conservation Carousel. This African theme carousel was a great fun to end our day!

So I have been wondering before visiting the Wild Animal Park as to what is the different between the Wild Animal Park and San Diego Zoo and whether it’s worth a trip.

My verdict

For family with younger kids, they might enjoy San Diego Zoo more. But for family with older kids, it’s SO WORTH it!! My kids absolutely loved the safari ride experience. They also begged us to get on the balloon ride but we stood ground on that request. :)

I just wish we had more time to spend and explore. It’s definitely worth extra money to buy the Journey Into Africa ride. There are so many other parts of the park that I wish we had time to explore.

Family Tips:

  • Arrive early because this park is huge. You will be able to explore more.
  • Bring stroller for younger kids.
  • Stop for frequent break with bigger kids. This will allow them to enjoy walking a bit more. There are many interesting things to see and check out along the path so the walk wasn’t that bad.
  • Go on Journey Into Africa!

Disclaimer: I received complimentary tickets from San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. However, this post is based solely on my experience and my opinion without any outside influence.

San Diego Things To Do

About Amy Querido

Amy is the owner & author of The Q Family Adventures Travel blog, family blog chronicles her family trips, tips and tricks. She hopes to inspire family to travel with kids one adventure at a time. Connect with Amy on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.


  1. I love Cheetahs! They are the cutest! If only for that, I’ll Journey into Africa! LOL!

  2. As with Jen, the Cheetahs ares great, love the picture. Do you happen to have a larger version I could have?

  3. Nice review — we took our son when he was 3.5 yo and he loved the tram ride (course he loves anything motorized!). Best to go during winter or spring as the summer heat is almost unbearable. Our favorite attraction was the Lion Camp (right next to the tram entrance). Seeing an entire pride of lions up close just as they would be in nature was way too cool!

  4. Great tips. Didn’t make it inside on this last trip, so I was curious to hear more about it from others. Thanks for narrowing down the differences.

  5. Those Cheetahs look awesome together. But for my niece, I’d bring her to the petting zoo – there’s something about those furry animals that tickle tiny hands.

  6. That looks great. I wish we made it out there.

  7. You still got a great cheetah shot! Sounds like a great day.

  8. I just love to see wildlife.It is more exciting to watch animals in their natural habitat, but zoo makes it easy viewing of all animals.I like aquarium more than zoo especially one with giant fishes.

  9. It’s amazing how much zoos have developed into complete entertainment experiences rather than animals in cages

  10. We’ve been to the park twice, and I know we still haven’t seen everything there is to see. I agree about the tram being the highlight.

  11. You are right about this being a great park for older kids. We took ours when they were about 9 and 12. The highlight splurge was the photo caravan safari. We got to hand feed giraffes and rhinos. We still talk about it!

  12. What an amazing experience. I’d love to visit some day.

  13. OK You really make it seem so easy with your priaentsteon but I find this matter to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the

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