I’ve reached the point in my travelings where I’ve been to some of America’s most famous zoos and a number of its smaller ones. That includes the National Zoo in Washington D.C., the Bronx Zoo (hyperlink), and the Central Park Zoo in New York City.
When I headed to San Diego, there was agreement that if I had to narrow down tourist attractions, I should put the San Diego Zoo at the top of the list, especially given the celebration of its 100th anniversary.
And, indeed, it was well worth seeing. As I’d been to the other zoos, I’d seen some of these animals before. For instance, I had just seen a cheetah and a leopard at the small Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut.
What I loved most in San Diego? The bears,especially the pandas. (Yes, there has been DNA confirmation that pandas are, in fact, bears and not a larger type of raccoon.)
We were lucky in that the pandas were active and happy to let themselves be seen by those dying for a glimpse of them. Ditto with the polar bears, who seemed to be happily munching on something in their pool area when we went past. (Not as much fun as the polar bear I once saw playing with a ball at the Central Park Zoo but the San Diego Zoo information indicated that one of their polar bears also loves playing with a sturdy ball.)
The Asian bears, the black bears and the grizzly bears also were not shy. The big cats, of course, were lounging and sleepy, given it was early afternoon in California and correspondingly hot. The cougar was sleeping peacefully under a rock ledge, looking much like a resting house cat, save for the teeth.
I sympathized with the big cats, as the one drawback to visiting the San Diego Zoo in the middle of July was the heat. Luckily, the zoo knows that the heat can be as rough on visitors as animals and it has made accommodations for people who might have their energy-zapped from all that walking. A popular guided bus tour takes attendees around the entire facility. That allows attendees to catch glimpses of nearly every animal. Once the tour was over, I could prioritize what I wanted to see and chart the most efficient course.
Also a help to those with tired feet or those simply tired is the Kangeroo bus, which has designated stops around the zoo. Additionally, numerous shady benches and water fountains were available at regular intervals. (I contrast this with inside the Convention Center at Comic Con where the chairs or benches were constantly full because there were so few of them.)
Still, the best way to cool off and relax at the zoo may be the Skyfari, which not only offers spectacular views of the zoo and parts of surrounding Balboa Park but glimpses of downtown, including the planes that seem to be flying perilously close to skyscrapers. (A unique feature of the San Diego airport.)
In all, San Diego ranks up there with my top three zoos and I agree, it’s one of those must-see attractions in San Diego.