Tuesday, November 3, 2015
A Day at The San Diego Zoo
In order to stave off the last day blues, we decided to make the most of our red eye flight home and sop up as much of San Diego as we could in our remaining hours. It seemed like almost a law that we couldn't leave the city without experiencing the much acclaimed San Diego Zoo.
I have a lot of respect for the San Diego Zoo. They have a strong commitment to conservation. The majority of animals there are not there simply to be gawked at by humans. Some have suffered injuries or have health issues that make them unable to survive in the wild. Some are endangered species that the zoo is trying desperately to breed and keep alive. With that being said, and as much as it is revered, I can't say that the San Diego Zoo was my favorite zoo. That distinction still goes to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.
It may not have been the zoo's fault. Perhaps it is the drought, or that they just use their money towards conservation, but the thing I like most about zoos is the grounds and landscaping. I found San Diego's a bit dry and lack luster.
There were some lovely touches here and there, but I longed for more.
I'm sure you've heard it. The San Diego Zoo is huge. There is a tremendous amount of walking involved if you choose to visit.
Though we did spend a significant amount of time on our feet, it didn't exceed the amount of time we spent walking at Balboa Park, La Jolla, or Disneyland. The zoo also helps out in the walking department.
If you don't want to walk the whole zoo, you can see it all from one of their sightseeing buses.
Instead of killing your calves walking uphill, they installed nifty moving uphill walkways.
If you want to get from one end of the zoo to the other, you can take the Skyfari.
This was a highlight for me. With so many zoos, parks, and theme parks doing away with their sky rides, it was a treat gliding through the air.
The ride offered great views of the zoo, and of surrounding Balboa Park.
The only problem with the ride, it's too short.
I'm unsure if it is even possible to see the entire zoo in a single day. We did not make the attempt. We chose to make a few things a priority, bears being among them.
First the Kolas.
I read that the kola section can get super crowded, so we hit it first thing. The bears were happily sitting in their trees munching their breakfast.
I know, I know, kolas are notoriously grumpy animals, but I'd still love to at least attempt to cuddle with one.
The San Diego Zoo is one of the few zoos in the United States that has Giant Pandas. They have a dedicated breeding program, doing their best to save the dwindling panda population.This is another area to get to early. Everyone wants to come and see the panda bears. The entire section is set up more like a theme park queue. You may have to wait 15 minutes, maybe even up to an hour just to get a glimpse of the black and white bundles of fur.
For the most part the pandas at the zoo either have issues that make them unable to live in the wild, or they are still young pandas born at the zoo.
Of course it isn't all about the bears. We saw other animals too.
I was pretty excited about getting a chance to pet mini-goats.
Since some animals, though thankfully none at the zoo, are delicious, we took a break from zoo exploration to get lunch at the Hua Mei Cafe in the Panda Canyon section of the zoo.
I didn't have high expectations for zoo cafe food, but my orange chicken was darn tasty. One of the zoo employees recommended the orange chicken when we got a little turned around in the aviary.
"It's so big, I can never finish it all," she said.
I had no such problem.
I don't know what the rest of the food is like at the San Diego Zoo, but I can recommend the Hua Mei Cafe.
The San Diego Zoo was a good final activity for our trip. It provided enough physical exertion to make us nice and worn out for our red eye flight home, and we were so busy roaming around, there wasn't time to lament about leaving California. Okay, we might have lamented a little, California is pretty amazing.