How to Score Cheap San Diego Zoo Tickets and Admission Discounts

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Looking for cheap San Diego Zoo tickets? Of course you are! The San Diego Zoo is in a class by itself. It’s widely regarded as one of the best zoos in the country, if not the world.

The zoo is huge, with aerial trams and shuttle buses available to move visitors around. Give yourself plenty of time. I ended up spending more than four hours walking around the place and catching glimpses of some of my favorite animals, and I still didn’t see everything.

The San Diego Zoo is super expensive. As of 2020, basic adult admission is $58, and kids don’t even get much of a discount, as they are charged $48. But there are way you can find cheaper admission. Read on for the best strategies!

How to Score Cheap San Diego Zoo Tickets and Discount Coupons

As noted, standard admission at the zoo is $58 for adults. This includes admission to see the animals, as well as their Guided Bus Tour, Kangaroo Express Bus, Skyfari Aerial Tram, and regular shows. For an extra $6, you can add the “4D Theater Experience,” which is weird, because “4D” is not a thing.

zebras

On the zoo’s website, you’ll find all sorts of package discounts and special deals. For instance, you can get a 3-for-1 pass that includes admission to the zoo, safari park, and Sea World, for $154 total. There are lots of other good deals for repeat visitors, but they are only valid for locals who have a zip code between 91900–92899.

If you really want cheap San Diego Zoo tickets, the first place to look is Theme Park Center. While fake ticket sellers online are a problem, Theme Park center is an official zoo ticket seller. Sometimes, their prices are exactly the same as regular zoo prices, but on other occasions, they are able to offer discounts. So you’ll want to keep checking that site before your visit to see if you can score a deal.

The benefit of ordering from a place like Theme Park Center is that you can secure your tickets in advance and skip the ticket booth when you reach the zoo.

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Are there other San Diego Zoo discount coupons? Yes, there are a few. AAA members can score a 10% discount on one-day admission, but it appears as though this benefit is only for local southern California members. (If you’re from outside the local southern California area and you are able to get a AAA discount, please let us know!)

Active duty military with proper ID receive totally free admission, while spouses and kids get a discount (reportedly 10% – check at the ticket booth for current info.)

flamingos

Get your cheap San Diego Zoo tickets, and you can spend as much time with the flamingos as you want!

 

Airline and cruise employees can get a 10% discount on a 1-day pass with proper ID. Costco also sometimes offers zoo discounts for its members.

What about seniors? As of this writing, there is a senior discount available. The 10% off senior ticket must be purchased right at the zoo front gate and cannot be ordered online.

If you’re coming with kids, the ultimate way to score cheap San Diego Zoo tickets is to wait until October. For the entire month, kids under 12 get in free. Expect big crowds during these days, but you’ll save a ton of money by coming that month.

PRO TIP: To save money on expensive food within the park, you can always bring your own sandwiches and lunches. It’s totally fine to bring your own food items with you inside the park – just no coolers, glass bottles, alcohol, or straws. The zoo also allows re-entry if you want to leave and eat somewhere else.

By the way, the zoo does have storage lockers for rent, starting at $8. The largest lockers are 18 x 27, which means you could fit a carry-on sized suitcase in there if needed. There’s a separate storage area at Front Street Rentals where you can store even larger suitcases than that (no size limits) for $15.

Backpacks are allowed inside the zoo, but drones are not. Leave those flying camera machines at home!

Animals You’ll See at the Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is known for being one of only four zoos in America that houses giant pandas. These endangered animals are notoriously hard to breed in captivity, but San Diego has had more success mating pandas than any other U.S. zoo.

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panda bear

Unlike some of the other animals, the pandas were very active. The little panda did a lot of running around.

panda small

Here’s my favorite animal in the world: The komodo dragon! This is one of the few creatures in the world that will sometimes eat humans if given the opportunity. They eat the entire body, bones and all, leaving no trace of life. I love their ruthless, no-nonsense attitude.

komodo dragon

The cute and cuddly koalas. Mitch Hedberg has a koala joke: “My apartment is infested with koala bears. It’s the cutest infestation ever. Way better than cockroaches. When I turn on the lights, a bunch of koala bears scatter. And I don’t want them to. I’m like, ‘Hey, hold on, fellas! Lemme hold one of you. And feed you a leaf.'”

koala in tree

Frequently asked question: Can you hold a koala at the San Diego Zoo? Nope, sorry. Koalas have sharp claws and they are too dangerous to hold. The zoo does not allow visitors to hold or pet any animals, outside of the petting zoo.

koalas san diego zoo

Something draws me to the South American capybara, the largest rodent in the world. Look at those adorable flat noses.

capybara

Speaking of flat noses, I present to you the bearded pigs.

bearded pigs

The living desert of Madagascar provided some visual context for the environment that some of these animals are living in.

living desert

Bears! Black ones and brown ones.

black-bear

brown bear

The kids especially enjoyed the primates.

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It was in the upper 50s and raining the day I visited. Poor monkey… someone get her a jacket!

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Who doesn’t love the giraffes?

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Pucker up!

giraffe-lips

Back to the unusual animals. This small African antelope is called a klipspringer. The sign indicated that these guys can jump ten feet in the air from a dead standstill. They jump across boulders and ledges to escape their many predators. They also mate for life, making them perhaps the most monogamous mammals in the world.

They’re really cute too. I want a pet klipspringer.

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The guanaco is similar to a llama. Go ahead and chew that grass with your freaky jaw!

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The peacock shows off his plumage.

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Back to the big boys. The polar bears in the San Diego Zoo are smaller than most polar bears, but they’re still pretty massive.

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The rhino was the one animal I felt bad for. They didn’t seem to have much room to roam. Two of them shared this tiny pool of water.

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The hippo had significantly more water in his tank. He liked rubbing up against the windows where the tourists stood to watch.

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Thanks to Fergie, I cannot see camels without hearing “My Humps” in my head. Look at those lovely lady lumps.

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The elephants kicked up dust on themselves.

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I always get excited for tigers in zoos, but they never seem to be doing anything but sleeping. Lazy cats!

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Get your discounted San Diego Zoo tickets and have fun! What’s your favorite zoo animal?

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About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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14 Comments

  1. Its always amazing to see beautiful wild animals in different habitat way far from their natural habitat. With such beautiful environment, zoos are just one step away of giving a home to many of these beautiful endangered animals as their plight is still in danger. With good animal protection and animal information to the masses, this is just one step in educating the masses how these animals are part of us as we are part of them.
    Lets Love all Animals to Save all

    1. True, it’s nice for visitors to get a chance to see animals they wouldn’t normally get to see. The San Diego Zoo is one of the best places for that.

  2. Looks like you got some great photos. I’m not a big fan of San Diego Zoo. Supposedly it’s one of the best zoos, but it depressed me last time I went and have since vowed not to go back. I just don’t think there is enough space in San Diego to have big enough enclosures for the large animals. They should close it down and move all the animals to the Safari Park. Sorry for the rant. 🙂 Glad you had fun though.

    1. I did want to check out the Safari Park, but it was too far out of town and I had no way to get there. I always support animals having more room to roam!

  3. The Komodo Dragon looks in a very bad mood to me!! The pics are wonderful, so many cute and adorable animals there. Can really spend a whole day there!

  4. Great pics Scott. That zoo is so massive, I think I spent almost an entire day from opening to close there and still didn’t see it all.

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