The new San Diego Zoo Wildlife Basecamp is now open and ready for you to jump in, climb up, splash and explore all around! Kids will discover four habitat areas where they’ll play right next to each animal species that lives there. Two indoor buildings house rare and spineless species for kids to discover like the axolotl and leaf bugs that look exactly like leaves. Peek directly inside a working bee hive, a live ant colony or into the naked rat tunnels. This new Basecamp is huge and there’s something for everyone whether you like bugs, monkeys or porcupines. Here’s your insider’s sneak peek into the brand new Basecamp!
Enter the 4-acre Basecamp at the Desert Dunes to find larger-than-life critters for kids to climb on, burrows to crawl in and ropes and rocks to scramble through. All while playing next to the fennec foxes, prairie dogs, desert tortoises, and burrowing owls.
TIP: Look for petroglyphs found among the rocks.
Spineless Marvels Invertebrate House
The Spineless Marvels Invertebrate House is filled with two stories full of bugs of all kinds! Kids can peer right into a live beehive and run through a butterfly migration all while checking out grasshoppers, beetles and looking for those hard-to-see stick bugs. On the bottom level are the arachnids, scorpions, a live working leafcutter ant colony and a naked mole rat tunnel system. All of which are backed up to the glass for the ultimate close-up experience.
TIP: These "cool" indoor exhibits will be perfect for those hot summer days.
Marsh Meadows & Cool Critters
Stroll down through the Marsh Meadows teeming with wildlife and take a peek below the waterline to find turtles, crocs, fish and more. This will lead you into the Cool Critters Reptile building where you'll find a rare Fijian iguana, lungfish and a Chinese giant salamander. Kids will love an up-close look through the microscope stations and figure out what animal they belong to.
TIP: Look for the amazing axolotl. There are only 1,000 of these species left and rumor has it that she's pregnant.
Walk out the back and into the Rainforest, where you'll be high up in the tree branches. This is a multilevel outdoor environment filled with caiman and tortoises. The stage is here for wildlife ambassadors that visit the Basecamp every day and where you can meet one up close!
TIP: Look for the two-toed sloth and prehensile-tailed porcupine nearby that you can visit every day.
Get lost in the treehouse and tunnels in the Wild Woods. You’ll find lots of places to climb, jump and even splash in the streams. On your way to the Wild Woods in the very back you'll pass by the new bathrooms, large people dryers and outdoor cave showers. This can only mean one thing—you will get wet in Wild Woods with their four different splash zones so come prepared!
TIP: Bring or wear kids' swim clothes, water shoes, towels and a change of clothes before you head back there.
Kids can run through the waterfall grotto and get drenched as water pours over eroded bluffs. Two zones have different splashing jets that will delight your water-loving kiddos. TIP: All of this water fills up a shallow stream that will be perfect for littles to sit and splash in; head towards the ends of this stream because they’re a little further away from where bigger kids will be playing.
After you're done with the water play, climb up the big oak tree, balance across the swinging rope bridges over to the treetops. Up here is where you'll find a cargo net for jumping and parallel play, right next to the squirrel monkeys that will be doing exactly what your kids are doing.
TIP: This big oak tree is like a treehouse with caves and tunnels below and a fun rope tunnel tube that climbs up to the top; this is hiding behind the tree.
Each of these unique landscapes will encourage learning about nature, active play and exploring new species. It's called a Basecamp because "it’s designed to serve as a launchpad for budding conservationists ..." Kids will have so much fun, they won’t even realize they’re learning and developing empathy for wildlife. They’ll be busy playing, but through these one-of-a-kind experiences with animals, they'll be connecting with nature like never before.
Busy Bee Cafe
For hungry little kids, there's a direct entrance into the brand new restaurant, Busy Bee Cafe. You can order up kids' meals with pizza, hot dogs or a cheeseburger. These come with apple sauce, animal crackers and juice or milk for $9.59. There's a cold food section for sandwiches, salads, fruit and vegetable trays or order from the hot foods menu with chicken sandwiches, burgers (vegan too), pizza, wings or hot dogs with bacon or chili. Drink options include the usuals, plus some alcohol mixed drinks, frozen margaritas and beer for the grown-ups. Desserts include their new bee-themed brownies and honey cupcakes, as well as cookies, churros and ice cream cookie sandwiches.
Admission, Hours & Contact
Wildlife Explorers Basecamp is included with zoo admission. Currently no advanced reservations are needed, but it's suggested to buy your tickets online to avoid waiting in line and to save money.
Generally open from 9 am-6 pm daily
Spring Break hours are 9 am-7 pm
Summer and Holidays have extended hours
1-Day Pass: $53-$65; Free for ages 0-2.
2-Day Pass: $100-$110; Free for ages 0-2.
There are 11 different membership options with discounted memberships for kids and San Diego Residents and all memberships include the Safari Park in Escondido as well as the San Diego Zoo. The kids' annual pass is called Wildlife Explorer ($67 for ages 3-17). The locals adult annual passes are called San Diego Resident/Premium ($95 excludes weekends/holidays; $119 has no blackout dates). The next level up includes free parking at the Safari Park and is called Wildlife Protector/Premium ($139 excludes weekends/holidays; $159 has no blackout dates).
Free and plenty
San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Dr., San Diego, CA 92101
located in Balboa Park