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Explore San Diego: The San Diego Zoo & Balboa Park @VisitSanDiego

The first stop on my recent San Diego adventure was the San Diego Zoo, and I am not exaggerating to say that the Zoo alone made my entire trip worthwhile!


Even before walking through the gates, I was already in love with the San Diego Zoo when I spotted these amazing elephant topiaries, and these were just a teaser of how well designed, cultivated and maintained the entire San Diego Zoo property is.

Perhaps one of the most famous zoos in the world (and for good reason!) the San Diego Zoo is home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered birds, mammals and reptiles, and the entire zoo is the perfect combination of fun and educational to delight all of its visitors, children and adult alike.

Above, a peek at a few of the San Diego Zoo’s fabulous residents: flamingos, a pygmy hippopotamus and Arabian camels. Believe it or not, that hippopotamus sculpture above is made completely out of sand!

While at the San Diego Zoo, make sure to check out Panda Trek which houses the Zoo’s newest resident, Giant Panda cub Xiao Liwu who’s name means “little gift”. One of only four facilities in the nation to host this critically endangered species, Panda Trek takes you through a bamboo forrest just like you would find in the panda’s native China and also showcases the Red Panda and Takins which look like a cross between a wildebeest, moose and bison!

In addition to the amazing array of animals, I was also pleasantly surprised at how great the food options were. My lunch recommendation is the pad thai near the panda exhibit which was delicious and a generous, split-able portion size for a yummy and reasonably priced lunch option at the zoo. I also recommend buying the souvenir cup which offers $1 refills all day long and can be refilled with water for free at any of the numerous water fountains around the park.

If you a major zoo enthusiasts, you can also make a reservation for Backstage Pass, Inside Look or Discovery Tour where you zip through the zoo on a private cart and zoo experts give you private tours including behind-the-scenes areas. Click here for more information on pricing, tour details and reservation information.

After spending a wonderful day at the San Diego Zoo, our San Diego adventure continued with an amazing afternoon at Balboa Park. Conveniently located within walking distance from the Zoo, Balboa Park is the nation’s largest urban cultural park, and a must see destination on your San Diego tour.

Often called the “Smithsonian of the West”, Balboa Park is home to 16 museums including the San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and many, many more. However, the amazing expanse of museums is just a sliver of what you will find in Balboa Park. The 1,200 acres of Balboa Park also includes 8 gardens, the Tony Award winning Old Globe theatre and some of the most incredible architecture I have ever seen. Whether you take a stroll through the gardens, pop into a museum or just find a nice bench to people watch, Balboa Park is a wonderful way to spend a day soaking up the fabulous San Diego weather.

The Botanical Building in Balboa Park (pictured above) is a stunning intersection of gorgeous architecture and beautiful gardens making it a must visit San Diego attraction. Built for the 1915-1916 Exposition, this historic building is one of the largest lath (lattice work) structures in the world and home to more than 2,100 permanent plants in addition to the seasonal flower displays and the lovely outdoor lily pond.

Overall, San Diego is the ultimate destination for an affordable and memorable family vacation whether you have kids, or even for a couple who are still kids at heart. Click to learn more about the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park and be sure to follow @visitSanDiego on twitter to stay updated on the latest and greatest deals on San Diego’s best attractions including their #KidsFreeSD October with huge savings on attractions, hotels restaurants and more!

To learn more about where to stay and what to eat while on your San Diego adventure, read my review here.

To learn more about two other fabulous attractions, SeaWorld and Old Town, read my review here.

Attraction admission provided for review.


Vera Sweeney, mom, blogger, social media influencer and New York resident, is the founder of She is considered one of the top female digital influencers in today’s social media space. Her lifestyle and parenting brand helps busy women stay on top of the latest trends in fashion, food, family and travel.

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