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The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Have Roared Back to Life — Here's What to Know Before You Go!

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Reopened June 20 - What to Do Before You Zoo-Entrance with new signageHip, hop, hooray! The San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are roaring back to life.  As of June 15, 2021, the zoo and safari park will no longer require dated San Diego Zoo tickets (or a reservation) to visit. In more hoppy news, as of June 15, masks will no longer be required (although people not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are recommended to wear a face covering) and buses and tours will open back up. Overall, the zoo and park will lift most COVID-19 restrictions, bringing your visit back to normal. Special experience tours will no longer be limited to household groups, which allows for individual pricing and more availability.

It feels so good to tell you that these changes coming June 15 will make most of this post pretty much out of date and hopfully part of our past. If you are looking to visit the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park, you can get your tickets from your favorite froggy friends! Hop on over to our other posts for tips and ideas:

We'll leave this below information here, but know that most of these restrictions will be lifted June 15 and you will be free to hop about the zoo and safari park!

We had the most frogtastic time hopping about the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park. Even though some exhibits and experiences were temporarily closed, we found that it gave us the opportunity to explore some areas and spend time with some animals we've somehow missed before.

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Reopened June 20 - What to Do Before You Zoo-Gorilla Play Area with Closed Sign

You may be wondering what visiting the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park will be like under the evolving safety and health guidelines. You can expect some changes in terms of limited hours and on-ground capacity during the reopening period. While the changes promote social distancing and disease prevention, the good news is both of these properties are large, outdoor spaces. We may miss a few rides, play areas and animal close-ups, but much of the visit is just like before. The employees do a great job of promoting social distancing and keeping everything clean. Some exhibits may have floor markers to show visitors where to stand in order to stay a safe distance away from other guests. We appreciated the "High Touch Area" stickers on glass at the zoo to remind us to sanitize our toddler's hands.

Here's a quick look at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park as it reopens to the public.

San Diego Zoo Reopening Dates and Details

San Diego Zoo Reopening June 20 - Some High-Touch Areas Are Closed

Both the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park reopened June 20, 2020. The zoo hours can vary by day, so check the Zoo hours and Safari Park hours before you visit. Expect longer hours during the holiday season, when the zoo lights up at night! The biggest changes are the reduced capacity and the limited shows, shopping and dining experiences in both parks. The zoos are reopening in phases. As the risk decreases, the zoos may also increase capacity.

San Diego Zoo Reopening June 20 - Keep holding fossilized dinosaur poopThe San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park are frogtastic and unique zoos. With lush plant life, hills and trees, there is so much more to do than just seeing the main attractions — the animals. Kids love all of the interactive play and learn areas. The kids miss those, but they were so distracted when faced with their favorite furry and scaly creatures. At the Safari Park, we had fun meeting Safari Parker, who taught us about bird feathers and animal poop (the tadpoles got a good laugh). So look for surprising opportunities for learning and fun in the Safari Base Camp.

We have some toadally awesome San Diego Zoo tips and Safari Park tips. However, you’ll need to slightly modify the plan during this reopening time to expect more walking and be flexible if some experiences are unavailable. Many play areas and hopful transportation were closed during the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park reopening, but the Africa Tram at the safari park and the Kangaroo Bus and the Guided Bus Tour at the zoo have returned. The Skyfari Aerial Tram is also open Thursday through Sunday. It's a great way to travel between the front of the zoo and the back.

During the park's initial reopening phase, weekend late morning and afternoon wait times to enter the San Diego Zoo were quite long — up to three hours! Visit during a weekday or arrive early on weekends to skip the lines.

Modified Zoo Touring Plan

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Reopened June 20 - What to Do Before You Zoo-Kids in front of the Giraffe ExhibitThe San Diego Zoo is very hilly, but you can use this to your advantage. We came up with a plan that will have you hopping downhill all day. When we entered the zoo, we made a right toward the Outback and Urban Jungle. We saw the koalas, giraffes, rhino and other exciting animals before entering Africa Rocks. We followed the path downhill, stopping to visit the exhibits along the way. By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, it was lunch time and a chance to remove those masks. We sat at the restaurant tables by Hua Mei Cafe and took a break.

After lunch, we rode the elevators up, crossed Bashor Bridge (getting a glimpse of San Diego's skyline) and then we made a choice. To the right is Elephant Odyssey and to the left is the Northern Frontier. Having just visited the elephants at the Safari Park, we opted to go left toward the polar bears and down to the Asian leopards and Panda Trek to see the red panda. That placed us right at the bottom of the elevator again.

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Reopened June 20 - What to Do Before You Zoo-Baby Pygmy Hippo and its Mother

Standing at the bottom, it was choice time again. We could have ridden the elevator up for two options: to see either the apes on the way to the park exit or to head to the back of the zoo to visit the elephants. Or we could hop on the Hippo Trail to see hippos, monkeys, apes or tigers. We were getting tired, but we chose the walk. An elevator ride up would ensure you never really climb uphill though. We love the shady trails of the Hippo Trail and Monkey Trail so we ended our day exploring that those areas, hanging with our favorite apes and even saw a baby pygmy hippo. OMG! Cuteness overload! It was nice to know you can still have a toadally downhill day without the Skyfari Aerial Tram or buses. The Skyfari is a fun transportation option that has reopened Thursday through Sunday (subject to change).

Get a view of the baby pygmy hippo in action and a whole herd of other exciting animals in Tad's video on our YouTube channel. He shot it just after the San Diego Zoo reopening.

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Safety Measures

San Diego Zoo Reopening June 20 - New Signage and ground markers at Safari Park Entrance

During the initial reopening stage, the zoos looked a little different with physical distancing guidelines, sanitation measures and rules to protect employees, visitors and its animal residents from COVID-19. But aside from a few signs and hand sanitizing stations, it was the same old zoo and safari park we know and love.

The San Diego Zoo follows state and local government plans for safely reopening, as well as guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. The San Diego Tourism Authority produced a San Diego Attraction Reopening Health and Safety Plan. The plan incorporated the sanitation strategies and protocols for the San Diego Zoo and other major San Diego County attractions.

San Diego Zoo Reopening June 20 - Parking Lot Health Screening

You can purchase San Diego Zoo and Safari Park admission tickets and tours before arriving. (You can purchase on-site but buying online reduces contact.) It's recommended to wear face coverings for unvaccinated family members ages 2 and up. Other changes, such as health screenings prior to entry, are no longer required.

Employee Screenings and Protection

  • Employees underwent COVID-19 training.

San Diego Zoo Reopening June 20 - Maintain a Lion's Territory Distance Sign

Social Distancing Measures

  • Capacity is limited to less than half of the usual number of guests.
  • Parking lot capacity is controlled.
  • Capacity is limited in gift shops.
  • Markings on the ground note where to stand in lines and in front of some exhibits.
  • At the Safari Park, look for fun signs that request, "Please maintain a lion's territory, stay 6 feet apart."
  • Some exhibits may distribute a visitation time to your party and give you a time limit to observe the animals before asking you to move on.
  • Increased signage shares health and safety information.
  • Indoor spaces, interactive spaces and narrow paths are closed.
  • Caravans and Safaris are limited to household groups only.
  • No indoor dining.
  • Play areas and some exhibits are not available.

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Reopened June 20 - What to Do Before You Zoo-People Physical Distancing at Exhibit

It's up to you to keep your distance. You cannot control other people, and your tadpoles may not be able to read the signs to stay away. So you will need to take responsibility for keeping your family at least 6 feet away from others. It's easy to get excited to see the animals and froget to stay away from people!

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Reopened June 20 - What to Do Before You Zoo-Toddler with hands against the glass and a High Touch Area sign

Another issue is high touch areas, such as the glass enclosures commonly encountered at the zoo. Chances are, if your toddler has his or her hands and face agains the glass to get a good look at the animals, other kids have too. You might see signs that say "High Touch Area" to remind you that it might be a good time to pull out those wipes and sanitizer.

San Diego Zoo Reopening June 20 - Child in Mask in front of elephant statue

Reduced Contact Measures and Face Coverings

  • Purchase admission tickets online in advance.
  • Purchase tickets for tours, safaris and other premium experiences before arrival.
  • Be aware that capacity is limited to less than half of the usual number of guests.
  • Parking lot capacity is also controlled.
  • Face coverings are no longer required for guests 2 and up (but are recommended for unvaccinated guests).
  • Admission is first-come, first-served. As guests exit, waiting guests can enter.
  • Touch-free entry is in place to minimize contact.
  • Plastic or plexiglass separates guests from guides and drivers on safaris and caravans.

San Diego Zoo Reopening June 20 - Employee cleaning glass enclosure

Disinfecting and Sanitation

  • Additional portable sinks and hand sanitizer units are around property for guest use.
  • Chairs and tables are disinfected after each use.
  • Commonly touched areas are frequently sanitized.
  • Frequently touched areas, such as enclosure glass (these areas may have reminder signs).


  • No indoor dining is currently available.
  • Chairs and tables are disinfected after each use.
  • More grab-and-go options are available to eat.
  • Plexiglass separate employees from guests when ordering.
  • Some tables are unavailable.

Safety Measures for Animals

The San Diego Zoo has measures in place to protect not only employees and guests, but also the animals who live in the zoos. We do not yet know how COVID-19 affects other mammals. In an excess of caution, the San Diego Zoo Global added heightened biosecurity measures to protect all mammals (including people). You can expect the following changes when visiting the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park (some may be behind the scenes):

  • Maintain social distance between people and susceptible species.
  • No animal feedings with guests.
  • No petting zoos.

Shows, Tours and Rides

  • Skyfari is open at the zoo limited days (Thursday through Sunday).
  • Plexiglass separates guests from guides and drivers.
  • Shows may be canceled temporarily.

San Diego Zoo Reopening Tips

San Diego Zoo Reopening June 20 - Safari van and giraffes

Be sure to purchase dated tickets or make reservations in advance. You'll want to plan your arrival to avoid a wait to enter the zoo. Once the zoo hits limited capacity, guests will have to wait outside to enter until other parties leave the zoo. That wait can reach hours midday on weekends. Arrive early!

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Reopened June 20 - What to Do Before You Zoo-People spaced at the Hippo enclosure

The bright side of all these changes is that with limited capacity, the zoos may feel less crowded than normal, especially if you can visit midweek. This may be the perfect time to book a caravan or safari (in advance). Call 619-718-3000 to book. Also, if you are visiting the Safari Park, those are the only ways to access certain animals and exhibits normally seen from the Africa Tram. We hopped on a Cart Safari and it was toadally worth it. Although now, the Africa Tram has returned and it is fully operational.

Even though many shows are canceled, you can learn valuable information from employees near major exhibits. Keep your eyes out for keepers who wander around with cool information.

Take frequent breaks. Bring snacks and water, since not all restaurants and food stands will be open. Remember to drink often to stay hydrated.

Be sure to check out these not-to-miss San Diego Zoo Exhibits and Attractions. Finally, share the expected changes with your tadpoles before they visit to prepare them and help set expectations.

Are you excited for your first trip back to the zoo? Remember to buy your San Diego Zoo and Safari Park tickets before you arrive. The San Diego Go Cards include admission (and many other popular attractions), as well. Do you have any further questions about the San Diego Zoo reopening? Please ask them in the comments section below. 

Related: What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen

Related: SeaWorld San Diego Reopening

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
View Comments
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Feb 8, 2022 at 4:36 a.m. alex Says...

Do you know if we can feed the giraffes on the weekends like we use to before COVID hit? Or is it cancelled because of COVID?

Aug 20, 2021 at 5:17 p.m. Megan Says...

Hi, do you know if the play areas are reopened at the San Diego zoo? We are planning a trip in September with our toddler and are choosing between the zoo & safari park. I know they are reopened at the safari park, but have heard it’s also hotter.

Aug 23, 2021 at 2:03 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Megan!

Play areas are temporarily unavailable at the zoo.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Aug 17, 2021 at 12:58 a.m. Andrea Says...

I’m coming from Oregon and they just started masks again here are you guys in a new phase now and how will this affect us coming to the zoo there as of Aug 18

Aug 17, 2021 at 9:13 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Andrea!

The current policy for the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park is that masks are recommended for anyone in an indoor space. Unvaccinated guests are required to wear a mask while in any indoor space. Policies can change frequently and suddenly though, so we'd highly suggest keeping a close eye on any changes leading up to your trip.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Jun 30, 2021 at 8:47 p.m. Ivy Says...

Hi! Are guests able to leave the zoo and renter at a later time?( to go eat for example ):)

Jul 1, 2021 at 2:28 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Ivy!

You sure can - you may get your hand stamped, but we'd also recommend hanging onto your ticket :)

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Jun 27, 2021 at 1:55 a.m. Jeannie Says...

What does (residency restrictions apply )means for the zoo

Jun 28, 2021 at 9:37 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jeannie!

As of June 15, 2021, the residency restrictions for the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park (as well as all other theme parks in California) have been lifted.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Jun 7, 2021 at 11:19 p.m. Edward Muns Says...

My wife and I are members. We want to give Guest Passes to our friends. We have a reservation for 4 for tomorrow. Can we simply give the Guest Pass and reservation to our friends and let them go alone or do we have to accompany them?

Jun 7, 2021 at 8:09 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Edward,

Members must be present with their guest(s) when using a guest pass.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

May 5, 2021 at 4:23 p.m. Nadin Says...

How do I use the go city pass to make a reservation for the day I want to go to the safari park with my family?

May 5, 2021 at 4:07 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Nadin,

All you have to do is proceed directly to the turnstile for park entry. An ID will be required when using the Go San Diego pass at San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The last name of the purchaser must match the name on ID. You must enter the park by 5:30 p.m., but you can stay until closing. Reservations are not required with a Go City pass.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Apr 28, 2021 at 7:25 p.m. Elicia Says...

I am planning to come in August, is this only for california residents? And since there is no tours have prices gone down?

Apr 29, 2021 at 9:38 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Elicia!

Currently, the zoo is open to anyone, regardless of location. You will need to reserve your date in advance. However, things are changing quickly, so we recommend checking back a little closer to your trip!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Mar 24, 2021 at 5:13 p.m. Justina Says...

Is the zoo and SeaWorld open to any US resident or only for California residents?

Mar 30, 2021 at 12:58 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Justina!

At this time, since both SeaWorld and the San Diego zoo are operating as zoos, they are open to guests from anywhere. However, once they begin to operate as a theme park, attendance will be limited to California residents, so this is subject to change.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Apr 7, 2021 at 8:37 p.m. Jeri Lundy Says...

Is the zoo limited to CA residents only?

Apr 7, 2021 at 4:10 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jeri,

No, zoos and aquariums are not subject to the California resident rule that the theme parks have.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Mar 24, 2021 at 2:38 a.m. Kim Says...

We will be visiting San Diego in mid April, and have already purchased the Go Pass. Do you know how we can make a reservation without having to purchase tickets online? Thank you!!!

Mar 30, 2021 at 12:59 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Kim!

You should be able to proceed straight to the turnstiles - no reservation necessary :)

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Mar 18, 2021 at 8:50 p.m. Ashlee Says...

Are there exceptions with masks for young children with autism?

Mar 19, 2021 at 1:44 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Ashlee!

All guests ages 2 and up must wear a face covering. The San Diego Zoo does grant health accommodations, but they do so on an individual basis, so you'll want to contact the zoo directly to see if your child would qualify.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Oct 26, 2020 at 2 p.m. Antonia Says...

Are the polar bears still accessible for viewing

Oct 26, 2020 at 10:27 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Antonia!

Yes they are! The bears were taking a long nap when we recently hopped by, but they are often playing in the water. You might catch a glimpse of them from home via the San Diego Zoo Polar cam. But they seem to have their own agenda and aren’t always aren’t always hamming it up exactly where the camera is pointed! :)

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Aug 11, 2020 at 11:09 p.m. Terra Says...

If we were doing a outing soon, would you recommend the Zoo or Safari park, with the closures they have currently?

Aug 12, 2020 at 11:59 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Terra!

Both are still great! The zoo is least affected by closures, but with transportation closed, definitely pick a path that takes you downhill and use the elevators to ride back up.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Jul 9, 2020 at 8:13 p.m. David Says...

Where is link to "Calendar" that you said we should check before visiting to be sure of opening? Is there a help so we can tell if it's too crowded, before we leave to come? Thanks

Jul 10, 2020 at 1:59 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi David!

You can visit the Zoo's hours page. Under "Zoo Hours," click “Search By Date” to open up the calendar and see operating hours. Look at Popular Times to find the least crowded times to arrive. There’s a link at the top of the page for the Safari Park. Hope this helps!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Jun 25, 2020 at 2:59 p.m. Karen Says...

Can we use refill cups and popcorn

Jun 25, 2020 at 3:22 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Karen!

We didn't use ours when we went to know for certain, unfortunately! We say go ahead and bring them, but expect that the process could be different to reduce contact (for example, it’s possible that employees might hand you the refill in a different container and you’d refill yours yourself).

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

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