Playing Tourist at the San Diego Zoo

by on June 5, 2012 · 2 comments

in Culture, Environment, San Diego

This one is at the zoo everyday. (All photos by Judi Curry)

My daughter, her husband, and son came to visit me today. They live in Orange County and because of her working hours it has been difficult for them to visit for more than a day at a time. Lynn is my middle daughter who checks on me daily to make sure I am ok.

Because it has been more than 6 months since they have been here, I asked both of my other daughters and their families to join us. My oldest daughter was baby-sitting her grandchildren and could not make it. My youngest came with her family, and the two students I have living with me joined us as well, totaling twelve as we sat down for dinner. It was a fun evening, and we began talking about what we would do the following day.

My grandson Zac did not remember ever going to the San Diego Zoo and thought it would be a fun thing to do, so I found a coupon for $5 off each person, limit of 6 – there were 4 of us – and we headed to the San Diego Zoo on a Friday, an overcast nice day.

Our first surprise was the price of admission. With our $20 discount the cost was still $148. It included the guided tour, the express bus and the safari aerial tramway. When we went through the ticket booth, our hands were stamped so show that we had paid and would be allowed to take the bus and tramway free. (Upon returning home and while writing this article, I checked on something my daughter said to me – “. . . . why do they have to stamp your hand? We could not have purchased a ticket for entry into the Zoo alone. EVERYONE purchasing a ticket is entitled to the rides. She is correct. The only ticket for a 1 day pass is the one we purchased and we could not have purchased a zoo entry alone.)” The ticket seller told me that the $42, with the discount was less expensive than the senior citizen price.

Our first stop was to the guided tour bus. I remembered how large the surroundings of the zoo were, and there have been many changes since I was there last, so I suggested we find out where the animals were housed and go to those that we wanted to see. That is what we did, except before we could ever get in line, we had to have our picture taken, then given a card to give to the “nice lady at the start of the ride.” When I asked her what that was for she said it would be printed up and we could see it after the tour was over. I asked her if we had to buy it and she answered “no”. The ticket said that it could be posted to Face Book and I asked if we had to purchase anything for that to happen. She said “no” but that it was a ‘super-small” picture that might be hard to see. It wasn’t that it was “hard to see” – I couldn’t figure out how to transfer it to Face Book.

Then we waited in line for close to 25 minutes before we got on the bus. Our tour guide “Jonah” did a nice job in introducing us to the zoo. He was witty, informative, and asked questions that the riders tried to answer. Our problem was that we were on the top deck and the crowd on the bottom deck were able to joke with him: I wished we were on the bottom deck because they seemed to be having so much fun. There was one small chuckle for those of us with “dirty minds.” He said there was only one way to tell the difference between a male and/or female Indian elephant. “How do you tell the difference?” It certainly wasn’t what we anticipated the answer to be. (Or perhaps what you didn’t think the answer might be.) The size of the……… tusks, reader, tusks! That’s what determines the difference between the male and female elephant. (?)) The tour bus was well worth the money. Oh Yeah! It was free, all part of the admission. It was still free.

When we got off the bus, waiting for us at the exit, were the packets of pictures that had been taken when we first stood in line to board the bus. They were nicely done; looked good, but the least expensive packet was $30. There were other choices too, ranging upwards of $40.

From that point on we followed the zoo map – an intelligence test unto itself – to the different areas we wanted to visit. The fact that almost at every “intersection” there were zoo personnel asking us if we needed help should be some indication at how poorly the map was laid out. (At every “intersection there were poles that had arrows directing the visitor to a different part of the zoo. But if you stood to one side, you saw different placed areas, showing the same category, and arrows pointing in different directions. (Now, did that confuse you? It was meant to, because that was how the signs affected us.) I think we three adults are somewhat intelligent – after all, we all have Master’s Degrees and my grandson is in the gifted program. It was rather amusing to me because the first person that asked if we needed help was the custodian. (Who would better know the layout of zoo than he? It is so apparent that the signs are confusing and someone – maybe a fifth or sixth grader can design them better than they are now.)

After being there for several hours, my son-in-law and grandson were hungry. They thought they would buy some chips to munch on while we continued to view the animals. However, the small package of chips was $3.75 and they elected not to purchase them. About an hour later, the hunger pangs were active again, and we stopped at one of the restaurants to see about grabbing something to eat. The prices were exorbitant – and we, once again elected to wait longer. (See menu). BTW – the menu is only for the “munchies”. The one for the meals was ridiculously high. One of the amusing thing to me – and by now you know that I have a macabre sense of humor – was the sign for the “ATM” machine. I am used to see $$$ telling me how expensive a restaurant, a hotel, etc., might be. Look at the picture of the ATM. I wonder if the fees for using it were enormous.

We continued our visit and decided that the last group of animals we would see would be the Orangutans. We thought it would be less expensive to eat at a restaurant outside of the zoo premises. Which is exactly what we did.

However, we figured out that if we were a family of 4, admission at the standard price, food and drink also, it could easily cost close to $350. I don’t know about you, but I think it is pretty steep for a young family. I wonder if there would be more visitors to the zoo if prices were lower? True, you don’t have to pay for parking, and you no longer have to pay for the buses, but ee-gads! Three hundred and fifty dollars to have a family outing! Was it worth it? It was fun being with my family. But we might have had as much fun “People Watching” at the beach.

For the original, go here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel Wurz June 5, 2012 at 10:26 am

In other news, going to the zoo is a luxury. High prices are to be expected, and should not be a surprise.


Christine Schanes June 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Wow, Judi, your article feels like an expose of facts of which we should all be aware.

I’d love to see your reaction to the San Diego Wild Animal Park. How about going there next?

Thanks for keeping us all informed.



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