San Diego Zoo: Discount Tickets & Tips

Zoos don’t always top my to-do list, but the San Diego Zoo is one of my faves and has something for everyone from innocent tot to jaded octogenarians. Fun for families? Sure. But you don’t need a kid to party with the zoo animals in San Diego.

If you’re thinking of going, here are my top tips for planning your trip.

Ways to Save on San Diego Zoo Tickets

1. Senior Discount

Seniors age 65 and older can get a 10% discount off the 1-Day Pass at the gate (but compare prices with deal sources 1 and 2).

2. AAA Member Discount

AAA members who show their valid membership cards at ticket windows for a 10% off One-Day Pass valid for up to 6 people. (Not available online, and can’t be combined with other deals.)

3. Travel Industry Deals

Airline- and cruise line-eligible employees presenting a company-picture identification badge or CLIA card and one accompanying guest will receive a 10% discount off the 1-Day Pass at the Zoo and Safari Park ticket windows.

Travel agents, wholesalers, and tour operators presenting a valid IATA or IATAN card with a picture ID receive a 10% discount off the 1-Day Pass at the Zoo and the Safari Park ticket windows. One accompanying guest will also receive a 10% discount.

4. Military Discount

While active military gets in free with ID at the gate (see above under “San Diego Zoo Free”), military families and retirees may qualify for a discount. You’ll need to contact your military MWR ticket office for specific information.

San Diego Zoo giraffes

Ways to Access San Diego Zoo Free

Throughout the year, the San Diego Zoo makes a few things available for free.

Kids Free in October

Each year, from October 1–31, children ages 3–11 get in free to the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and many other San Diego attractions when accompanied by an adult. Note: Not all services within the park are free on the free day (bus tour, etc. are extra).

Free for Military

A free one-day pass to the San Diego Zoo is available to active US military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and members of the Reserve components (Ready Reserve, National Guard, and Reservists in training); and also cadets of service academies and the US Merchant Marine Academy.

Just show your ID at the gate. (Contact your MWR office for possible discounts for military families or retired military.)

Free Parking

Parking at the San Diego Zoo is always free in the lot in front of the Zoo. You’ll also find free parking all over Balboa Park.

BANG’ TIP: San Diego Zoo has four electric vehicle charging stations in the free parking lot, plus one in a nearby handicapped spot. .

San Diego Zoo entrance Elephant (Photo by: I, Cburnett, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Hotels Near San Diego Zoo

A few hotels to consider that is around a mile from San Diego Zoo (and Balboa Park):

  1. Inn at the Park (< 1 mi)
  2. Studio 819 Residential Hotel (< 1 mi)
  3. Quality Inn San Diego Downtown North (1.08 mi)
  4. West Park Inn (1.08 mi)
  5. Days Inn San Diego/Downtown/Convention Center (1.23 mi)
  6. Holiday Inn Express San Diego Downtown (1.24 mi)
  7. Best Western Plus Cabrillo Garden Inn (1.27 mi)

Know Before You Go

Best Time to Go to the San Diego Zoo

The zoo is open all year and the weather is always great. Holidays can get crowded, though. For families, the best time of year to save money is in October, when kids get in free (but go early to beat the crowds.)

San Diego Zoo Map

You can download and print out a pdf map of the zoo to take with you.

San Diego Zoo Address & Location

San Diego Zoo, 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101 (just north of downtown San Diego).

San Diego Zoo Open Hours

Open 365 days a year, but hours vary by season, so check their calendar before you go.


General parking at the Zoo is free, with long spaces available for RV/buses.

Public Transportation

Rapid 215 and Route 7 stop at the Zoo and are an easy connection in downtown from Amtrak and COASTER trains at the Santa Fe Depot, downtown hotels, the Cruise Ship Terminal, Blue, Orange, and Green Line Trolleys, and other MTS bus routes.

Strollers & Wheelchairs

The zoo has a limited number of strollers, and motorized wheelchairs available for rent.

First Aid Area

The zoo has a First Aid office next to the Reptile house.  and a Lost and Found station, ATMs,

Best Infant Nursing Area

You’ll find a couple of options at the First Aid center, including a privacy curtain, a microwave for warming up a baby’s meal, and benches in somewhat private areas outside.


For a nickel, you can rent a locker at the Discovery Outpost across from Poppy’s Patio.

Official Info

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