10+ Thrilling Summer Adventures at the San Diego Zoo & Safari Park

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photo: San Diego Zoo

San Diego is known for its world famous Zoo and Safari Park––and there’s no doubt your little monkeys have blazed trails all over these locales like they’re a second home. But this summer even more exciting terrain and brand new experiences are being unveiled to discover by day and night. We’ve rounded-up a bevy of reasons you should corral your herd and stampede to the Zoo & Safari Park for awe-inspiring adventures. Read on to see where the roaring good times are rolling and why the newly opened Africa Rocks exhibit certainly lives up to its name.

San Diego Zoo

photo: San Diego Zoo

New Africa Rocks Exhibit is Now Open
From the savannah grasslands to the tropical rainforest, wind your way through six new habitats of African terrain. Just opened on July 1st as the largest expansion in the Zoo’s history, this sprawling $68 million exhibit features many types of African wildlife from endangered African penguins to baboons, leopards, lemurs and leopard sharks.

photo: San Diego Zoo

An amazing educational experience for kids (and adults), visitors to Africa Rocks will learn about over 40 species of mammals, birds and reptiles they never knew called Africa home, across land and water. The six exhibits are: Cape Fynbos, Kopje, Ethiopian Highlands, Madagascar Forest, Acacia Woodland and the West African Forest where families will see the wow-worthy 65 foot-tall Rady Falls, the largest human made waterfall in San Diego, that’s nearly 7 stories high. In Cape Fynbos, visitors will see penguins at the Zoo for the first time in 35 years. They’ll be swimming alongside leopard sharks in their 200,000 gallon pool––and guests can watch them by looking through a large underwater viewing window.

photo: San Diego Zoo

Nighttime Zoo
If you’re heading to the Zoo this summer, be sure to make a night of it with your little night owls! The Zoo rocks even more than usual during their summer celebration: Nighttime Zoo. Ready to be dazzled on sizzling nights? From now through Sept. 4th, you’ll enjoy African-themed entertainment, upbeat music, amazing acrobatics, stilt walkers and parades. New this summer: step into another world by interacting with the entertainment group Villagers of Africa Rocks, who will engage audiences with traditional dance and music. And don’t miss the new show “Dr. Zoolittle and Friends Explore Africa” led by the Zoo’s “fearless leader of fun” Dr. Zoolittle. Favorites on tap to return are the enthusiastic emcees Zoolahoops who wow crowds with fun and games, the Rock and Roar band who will get toes-tapping to popular songs, hip-hop dancing Funky Monkeys and the Chameleons brass brand with ever-changing tunes and wacky jokes.

When: Most activities get started at 4 p.m. The Zoo closes at 9 p.m. July 1–Aug. 19 and Sept. 1–4 and at 8 p.m. Aug. 20–31.

“Jambo!” Show
Jambo! (Hello!) Immerse the fam in the energy of Africa at the nighttime, 20-minute musical parade of beautiful, giant pageantry puppets along Front Street. From giraffes and rhinos to elephants and lions, you’ll get caught up in the magical beat that’s led by the Chameleons. Great photo op too!

Trampoline Bouncing Fun
Can kangaroos bounce off walls? Jump over to Sydney’s Grille to find out. Watch little faces light up at the acrobatic tricks (and kicks) of these furry creatures. Grab a pulled pork sandwich and a kid’s meal, sit on the large outside patio and it’s show time.

Watch more trampoline-inspired fun in a new trampoline show, “New Friends Rock!.” Acrobats will perform breathtaking acrobatics that will leave kids in awe.

photo: San Diego Zoo

Early Morning with Pandas
If you’ve been to the zoo, you know it’s a long line to see these cute furry creatures. Why not view the Pandas, before everyone gets there? A two-hour look plus a VIP tour around the zoo make this package a must-do. Cost: $99+/person (depends on date); plus Zoo entry.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

photo: Beth Shea

Festival of World Flavors
Do you love food festivals? Then the Safari Park’s summer taste menu is sure to please your palate. From Mexican corn and meat pies to pork bulgogi sliders and chicken shawarma pita (and even craft beer) you’ll get to sample treats from around the world. Cost: $25/five tastes; $45/ten tastes

Zuzu African Acrobats
These talented performers will literally jump through hoops to put a smile on your kiddo’s face. Your little athlete will be impressed by the flips, tricks and tumbling to an African drumbeat. Be sure to head to the Safari Base Camp for this crowd-pleaser.

photo: Susan U. via Yelp

Legendary Lions & Martial Arts
The crowds will roar with applause at this traditional Chinese Lion Dance that’s sure to get king-sized approval from your pride. Stay for the high-flying kicks and be amazed at the skills of the martial artist. Score a seat at the Safari Base Camp to experience these culture wonders.

Jungle Ropes
Survive the adventure of these three obstacle courses. From zip lines and rope bridges to rope ladders and rock walls, your crew is sure to love the challenge. Do you think you’re up for it? Cost: $50+/person (depending on the day)

Splish-Splash Zone
It’s good to know about this watering hole (especially as it warms up in the summer). Head over to the Savannah Cool Zone in the Lion Camp. You’ll find Slurpees and spraying water where kids can splash about. Remember to dress them in quick-dry clothes for the day.

San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Dr.
San Diego, Ca
Online: sandiegozoo.org

San Diego Zoo Safari Park
15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd.
Escondido, Ca
Online: sdzsafaripark.org

What’s your favorite San Diego Zoo or Safari Park adventure? Tell us below.

––Nikki Walsh

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