San Diego Zoo vs SeaWorld San Diego: Which Is Best?


The San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego are among the many high San Diego sights. Both give attention to animals to a sure diploma, however the choices and vibe at every differ considerably.

Many guests, particularly when in San Diego with children, will seemingly decide to hit up each of those big-name theme parks. But let’s say you’re extra restricted and want to decide on or prioritize one.

In this text, I’ll break down the SeaWorld vs. San Diego Zoo query by highlighting the primary components that may probably affect which attraction you choose.

With this sensible comparability, you may determine which one is greatest to your trip. We have annual passes to each sights, and I speak to folks about these theme parks day by day. I do know who enjoys their visits and who doesn’t.

You can save on tickets, excursions, and lodges by means of my affiliations. If you make purchases by means of the hyperlinks on this publish, I could also be compensated. Also, costs at theme parks change quickly and should differ from what’s on this publish. Check earlier than you go.

Admission Comparison

Winner: Usually San Diego Zoo, except you’re lively navy or SeaWorld tickets are on sale.

Regarding the ticket value, San Diego Zoo edges out SeaWorld San Diego as a higher-value vacation spot. Why? The tickets are normally inexpensive – however not at all times.

What Admission Gets You on the San Diego Zoo

Prices keep comparatively steady as a result of tickets by no means go on sale. For this cause, we’ll use the net value since it’s $2 lower than in the event you had been to buy on the gate.

However, do not forget that I’ve low cost San Diego Zoo tickets that may prevent much more on 1-Day tickets than is listed under.

Here are the essential costs and particulars:

  • 1-Day Pass: Costing $65 for adults and $55 for kids ages 3 to 11, the 1-Day Pass gives admission in addition to a Guided Bus Tour, a trip on the Skyfari Aerial Tram, and a seat on the Kangaroo Express Bus everytime you need it. You can save a further $2 per ticket in the event you select a Value Day.
  • 1-Day Pass Plus: This ticket—$71 for adults and $61 for kids—provides to the above a screening on the zoo’s 4D Theater. You can save a further $2 per ticket in the event you select a Value Day. (The price of a 4D film is $7 per particular person and may be added on on the park. It’s cheaper to do that and purchase my low cost tickets.)
  • 2-Visit Pass: The 2-Visit Pass, which prices $110 for adults and $100 for kids, means that you can mix a go to every to the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Alternatively, you should use the move for a reduced two visits to at least one or the opposite vacation spot.

There are additionally restricted, or limitless zoo visits out there by means of San Diego Zoo membership plans. Some of those embrace blockout dates.

Parking is free. And, I’ve an unique low cost on 1-Day tickets.


I’ve unpublished deeper financial savings on tickets by means of my partnership with aRes Travel, a licensed San Diego Zoo ticket vendor. Grab it now with password lajollamom or textual content SDZOO* to purchase on-line now. I imagine it’s the bottom value you’ll discover!

*By texting the phrase SDZOO to 1-833-490-0799 you comply with obtain automated promotional messages with find out how to safe my deeper ticket low cost and this settlement isn’t a situation of any buy. Msg and knowledge charges could apply. 2 msg/mo. Reply STOP to cancel. Read my full privateness coverage.

What Admission Gets You at SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego discount tickets are easy to find.

Because they provide gross sales all year long, you’ll not often pay full value at SeaWorld San Diego. But, this makes a value comparability trickier. Here the gate costs for the commonest tickets.

  • Date-Specific Tickets: Tickets for a single day’s admission start at $99.99. This admission consists of entry to a lot of the rides and exhibits inside SeaWorld San Diego, although the Skytower and Bayside Skyride price a further payment. This ticket is sort of at all times on sale or may be bought at a reduction.
  • Ticket & All-Day Dining Bundle: For a retail value of $144.88, you may add to your single-day admission an entree and aspect or beverage each hour at SeaWorld San Diego. This can be normally on sale.

When the tickets go on sale, they are often as little as $59.99 for a day’s admission, bringing a one-day go to near the Zoo. A Ticket & All-Day Dining Bundle may be as little as $89.99.

We have tons of recommendation for getting low cost SeaWorld San Diego tickets. You’ll pay to park at SeaWorld San Diego.

Other choices embrace a SeaWorld Annual Pass, which apart from a yr’s value of SeaWorld admission, lands you free parking, free visitor tickets, and sure in-park reductions. Fun Cards additionally present limitless admission.

Active Duty navy personnel get pleasure from complimentary admission to SeaWorld San Diego (as do as much as three of their direct dependents).

There are additionally varied upgrades out there for SeaWorld admission, together with Quick Queue Unlimited for attending to the entrance of traces and Reserved Seating for exhibits.

Combo tickets & SightSeeing Passes

The all-inclusive Go San Diego Pass consists of each San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego admission along with over 50 different native sights.

Using this move removes admission as a consider figuring out which park to go to, plus you get entry to different fashionable museums, excursions, and sights.

In addition, a number of choices mix admission for the 2 sights:

Animal Exhibits

Winner: San Diego Zoo

SeaWorld San Diego and San Diego Zoo boast quite a lot of animal displays. That mentioned, there’s no query that the Zoo affords much more selection — not stunning, given animal shows are the core of its enchantment.

San Diego Zoo Exhibits

San Diego Zoo is dwelling to just about 13,000 particular person animals representing greater than 650 species and subspecies.

A go to right here takes you on a tour across the globe’s spectacularly various ecosystems and exhibits off simply how diverse and luxurious their lifeforms are.

A koala sits in a tree at San Diego Zoo.

The Zoo’s zones vary from Africa Rocks, Asian Passage, and Lost Forest to the Reptile House at Discovery Outpost. Animals calling the place dwelling embrace (to call only some):

  • Bonobos
  • Orangutans
  • Western Lowland Gorillas
  • Baboons
  • African Lions
  • Malayan Tigers
  • Snow Leopards
  • Jaguars
  • Mountain Lions
  • Cheetahs
  • Grizzly Bears
  • Polar Bears
  • Sloth Bears
  • Tasmanian Devils
  • African & Asian Elephant
  • Hippos
  • Giraffes
  • Red Pandas
  • Meerkats
  • Komodo Dragons
  • Green Anacondas
  • Alligator Snapping Turtles
  • Chinese Alligators
  • California Condors
  • Flamingos
  • Secretary Birds
  • Harpy Eagles

A couple of different issues to notice: The San Diego Zoo is carefully related to fashionable efforts to preserve the large panda, together with a well-known captive-breeding program. But as of 2019, large pandas are not on view on the zoo.

Also, plant lovers will revel within the botanical collections on the zoo, which of their manner are simply as complete because the faunal roster. Self-guided excursions of the zoo’s gardens and plantings can be found.

SeaWorld San Diego Exhibits

The displays aren’t practically so diverse at SeaWorld San Diego. But partly, that’s due to the theme park’s narrower scope.

After all, SeaWorld San Diego is an oceanarium and marine theme park. That means sea animals and leisure within the type of exhibits and rides dominate its focus.

That doesn’t imply there aren’t absorbing displays like interactive contact swimming pools and aquaria at SeaWorld San Diego.

Some of the principally marine residents embrace:

  • Beluga whales
  • Orcas
  • Sharks
  • Rays
  • Moray eels
  • Sea turtles
  • Penguins
  • Sea Otters
  • Sea Lions
  • Seals
  • Walruses
  • Pilot whales
  • Bottlenose Dolphins

Even a couple of “topside” organisms make the SeaWorld reduce, together with macaws, toucans, and two-toed sloths.

Young and outdated alike ought to thrill on the likelihood to pet a smooth ray at Bay Ray Shallows or a starfish within the SeaWorld tide swimming pools.

The identical goes for the up-close seems to be at hulking marine mammals by means of plexiglass panes. And the innocent however thrilling gauntlet of toothy grins you move by means of within the Shark Encounter tunnel is a dependable spotlight.


Winner: SeaWorld San Diego

When it involves rides, SeaWorld San Diego, with out query, has extra to supply than San Diego Zoo.

Rides at San Diego Zoo

The handful of rides on the San Diego Zoo are principally low-grade thrills and excursions however nonetheless very nice.

Skyfari Aerial Tram

The gondola expertise supplied by the Skyfari Aerial Tram, for one, consists of fabulous top-down views of the zoo and its Balboa Park environment.

Guided Bus Tour

Other trip choices preserve you firmly on the bottom. The first-come, first-served Guided Bus Tour is a 35-minute narrated introduction to the zoo’s format and inhabitants—undoubtedly advisable for first-time guests.

Guests ride the San Diego Zoo guided bus tour through the park.

Kangaroo Express Bus

Not actually a trip a lot as sensible around-the-zoo transportation, the non-narrated Kangaroo Express Bus makes 4 stops on its circuit.

Discovery Cart Tour (Paid Upgrade)

An extended narrated tour is out there by way of the hour-long Discover Cart rides which is an upgraded expertise bought individually from admission.

Balboa Park Minature Railroad

The Balboa Park Miniature Railroad takes zoo goers on a short three-minute, half-mile circuit by means of eucalyptus bushes simply exterior the Zoo.

Tickets price simply $3, however there are lower than fifty of those classic trains left operating.

Rides at SeaWorld San Diego

You’ll discover a way more in depth unfold of amusement rides at SeaWorld San Diego.

These vary from low-key, toddler-friendly choices equivalent to spinning teacups to a number of the gnarliest curler coasters within the Golden State.

Here are the primary thrill and household rides on supply.

A boat splashes as hit hurls down the track on Journey to Atlantis, one of the most popular SeaWorld San Diego rides.
Journey to Atlantis

High Thrill Rides

  • Emperor: California’s tallest, quickest, and longest dive coaster (143-foot vertical drop, 60+ miles per hour)
  • Manta: Launch coaster
  • Electric Eel: San Diego’s tallest and quickest launch coaster
  • Tidal Twister: Dueling rolling coaster
  • Journey to Atlantis: Flume trip

Medium Thrill Rides

  • Shipwreck Rapids: Whitewater trip with rapids and waterfall
  • Riptide Rescue: Spinner trip

Low Thrill Rides

  • Bayside Skyride: Gondola trip (paid improve)
  • Skytower: Tower providing 100-mile sightlines over Greater San Diego and out to the Pacific
  • Elmo’s Flying Fish: Kiddie trip
  • Tentacle Twirl: Swing trip
  • Abby’s Sea Star Spin: Swinging teacups
  • Sea Dragon Drop: Shot-n-drop tower appropriate for babies
  • Octarock: Kid-friendly swing
  • Oscar’s Rockin’ Eel: Kid-friendly side-to-side slide
  • Aqua Scout: Bumping kiddie trip

SeaWorld San Diego debuted Sesame Place San Diego in 2022, which incorporates water sights, amongst them a 500,000-gallon wave pool and water slides. This is a separate theme park positioned in Chula Vista.


Winner: SeaWorld San Diego

You’ll discover reside leisure with an academic element at each parks.

Generally talking, the exhibits on the San Diego Zoo are on a smaller scale and centered on training. Most could be higher referred to as talks or shows.

For flashier (splashier?) exhibits centered extra on leisure, SeaWorld San Diego is the place to go.

Which park you favor based mostly on exhibits alone is determined by which sort of present is extra significant to you.

Shows & Presentations on the San Diego Zoo

A keeper tells guests about meerkats.
A meerkat Wildlife Care Specialist Talk

Regular Wildlife Care Specialist Talks reveal a number of the inside scoop on assembly the behavioral, dietary, and different wants of particular species on the zoo.

The San Diego Zoo presents its varied animal ambassadors in day by day exhibits on the Africa Rocks stage, Rady Ambassador Presentation Area, and Wegeforth Bowl amphitheater.

Keep in thoughts that the zoo additionally affords quite a lot of upgraded excursions and actions that, if not precisely “shows,” are nonetheless participating and thrilling experiences.

These embrace the Crazy About Cats, Animals in Action, and Early Morning Cheetah experiences, plus the Inside Look Tours that absorb some behind-the-scenes goings-on associated to animal care.

Shows & Presentations at SeaWorld San Diego

Live exhibits are undoubtedly on the coronary heart of the SeaWorld San Diego expertise.

The killer-whale present, Orca Encounter, is the defining draw, providing you with a firsthand have a look at the wonder, agility, and intelligence of the ocean’s apex predator.

Also fashionable are the Dolphin Days and Sea Lions Live exhibits, every that includes its personal smooth and charismatic marine mammals.

There are slower-paced animal experiences as properly, together with sea-turtle feedings and sea-otter shows.

And not all the SeaWorld exhibits should do with sea life. The Sesame Street Meet-and-Greets enable youngsters to rub shoulders with their favourite Sesame Street characters. The Cirque Electrique performances embrace acrobatic and jet-skiing thrills on the Bayside Amphitheater.

Evening fireworks present an everyday spectacle as properly (test the calendar as they don’t happen day by day).

Crowds & Size

Winner: San Diego Zoo

Both the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego are main vacationer sights.

After all, we’re speaking in regards to the most-visited zoo within the nation and the unique SeaWorld location. Expect massive crowds, particularly on weekends and throughout the summer season or vacation seasons.

But, do they really feel crowded? Let’s discover out.

San Diego Zoo Crowds & Size

The San Diego Zoo covers 100 acres, with some hilly terrain to navigate.

You can count on loads of firm, notably across the bigger water-dwelling animals equivalent to polar bears and hippos. That’s as a result of visitors are inclined to hover across the glass that showcases them swimming underwater.

However, the dimensions of the zoo and its spread-out displays means it not often feels uncomfortably filled with folks.

But preserve the hilliness of the zoo’s grounds in thoughts (which is nothing anybody ever complains about). You could get a little bit exercise throughout a typical zoo go to, particularly in the event you push a stroller round.

The Kangaroo Bus and Aerial Tram come in useful once you want a break from strolling or are visiting with extra mobility-challenged associates or members of the family.

You don’t wait in line for a lot at San Diego Zoo since there aren’t any rides and folks have a tendency to maneuver by means of the displays at an affordable tempo.

SeaWorld San Diego Crowds & Size

Given the preferred sights at SeaWorld are rides and exhibits, count on a considerably extra crowded really feel. You’ll spend time ready in traces since rides are among the many hottest issues to do there.

SeaWorld San Diego is a giant place, too, overlaying some 172 acres. (Though it doesn’t really feel practically 2x the dimensions of the Zoo.)

Children reach into the reef shark touch tank at SeaWorld San Diego.
Reef shark contact tank

Who Visits?

Winner: San Diego Zoo

Needless to say, there’s fairly a little bit of crossover with regards to the Seaworld San Diego vs. San Diego Zoo target market.

Both spots rank among the many metropolis’s greatest household sights, although their enchantment—particularly with regards to the San Diego Zoo—isn’t in any respect restricted to kiddos.

SeaWorld affords a higher-octane vibe given its thrill rides and extra spectacle-oriented exhibits, however the zoo delivers a broader and richer general expertise.

Who the San Diego Zoo Will Appeal to the Most

The San Diego Zoo is an all-ages vacation spot. It’s definitely an impressive place to deliver children, particularly youthful youngsters nonetheless reliably wowed by firsthand encounters with the animal kingdom.

But, I can inform you that retirees, newlyweds, singles, and even enterprise vacationers exit of their approach to go to. Even locals will head over very first thing within the morning to stroll by means of the gardens and varied areas for train (at a brisk tempo or in the best sections, it’s a exercise). Looking for yard inspiration? Many of the 700,000 crops are labeled.

The Zoo’s a very potent draw in the event you or any individual in your celebration has a particular curiosity within the pure world or conservation. That mentioned, a roaring massive cat, gargantuan elephant, or inquisitive nice ape is prone to captivate nearly anyone, younger or outdated.

Who SeaWorld San Diego Will Appeal to the Most

SeaWorld San Diego’s attract is normally stronger for the youthful crowd.

Smaller youngsters will discover the contact swimming pools and the Sesame Street Bay of Play space intriguing. Many locals have season passes throughout the toddler years as a result of, properly, there’s Elmo, Abby, Cookie Monster, and the gang featured in tame rides, merchandise, and characters roaming the park.

Teens adore it for curler coasters. Other than the historic coaster at Belmont Park, these are the one ones in San Diego. And they’re massive and quick.

I don’t sometimes hear of or see many guests going with out children in tow. One exception could be when they’re operating meals festivals or vacation occasions.


Winner: San Diego Zoo

Given they’re designed to be half- or full-day locations, it’s no shock that each the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego are properly geared up to fulfill appetites.

The Zoo, although, wins for the range of eating choices. However, SeaWorld San Diego affords eating packages that would prevent cash in the event you plan to spend all day on the park.

Rest assured that grownup drinks are served in each parks! And each supply vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free choices.

Dining on the San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo affords a formidable lineup of eateries, snack bars, and watering holes properly distributed all through the grounds. From on-the-go snacks and sit-down meals to grownup drinks, they cowl a number of cuisines starting from hearty to wholesome.

A fish taco at Albert's, one of the best San Diego Zoo restaurants
A hefty Chardonnay pour and fish tacos at Albert’s.

Named for a well-known, bygone silverback resident of the San Diego Zoo, Albert’s within the Lost Forest is a full-service restaurant and bar with a superb patio beside a small waterfall. Along with its day by day lunches and dinners, Albert’s affords a well-liked weekend brunch.

Track down extra informal eating, in the meantime, on the following institutions:

  • Busy Bee Café (Zoofari Party Area)
  • San Diego Zoo Sandwich Co. (Front Street)
  • Front Street Sweet Shack (Front Street)
  • Safari Kitchen (Front Street)
  • Lagoon Terrace (Front Street)
  • Sydney’s Grill (Australian Outback)
  • Hua Mei Cafe (Asian Passage)
  • Sabertooth Mexican Grill (Elephant Odyssey)
  • Treetops Cafe (Lost Forest)

That’s not all: You’ll additionally discover shut to twenty snack-and-refreshments-style retailers within the San Diego Zoo, from the Northern Frontier’s Ituri Hut and the Lost Forests’s Jungle Java to the Boardwalk Beer Garden and Busy Bee Cocktails.

The San Diego Zoo additionally permits guests to usher in their very own meals and drinks (single particular person), although no glass containers, coolers, alcohol, birthday desserts, or celebration trays are allowed.

Dining at SeaWorld San Diego

Craft Beer, Fried Green Tomato, Brisket, Bratwurst Sliders that will be served at SeaWorld San Diego Zoo Days.
Sliders on supply throughout a meals pageant.

SeaWorld additionally affords a variety of eateries and snack stations however not fairly the number of the San Diego Zoo. And if I’m to be frank, the standard of the meals isn’t nearly as good although it’s fantastic for a theme park.

Its eating places and refreshment stands embrace:

  • Big Bird’s Bistro
  • The Waterfront
  • Calypso Bay Smokehouse (ribs listed here are fashionable)
  • Mama Stella’s Pizza Kitchen
  • Shipwreck Reef Cafe
  • Craft Beer Bar
  • Sea Lion Amphitheater Bar
  • Explorer’s Cafe & Bar

You may bundle all-day eating along with your ticket, which permits three gadgets at taking part eating places as a lot as as soon as per hour. There are some limitations, but when you’ll be spending time consuming, it may be a great deal. It may make traces lengthy throughout peak days.

SeaWorld San Diego affords a couple of particular eating packages and experiences. The most noteworthy is the Dine With Orcas deal, which gives a chef-curated meal on a personal poolside patio with orca-viewing and data.

Unlike on the zoo, you can not deliver exterior meals or drinks into SeaWorld save for bottled water. Exceptions are made for child formulation guests with sure dietary restrictions or meals allergic reactions.


Winner: San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego are each simply accessible from Downtown San Diego. The Zoo will get the sting with regards to the comfort of its location just because it’s a shorter Uber from Downtown lodges and Balboa Park is subsequent door.

But, critically, there’s no must get too hung up on their areas. The drive time between the 2 is normally about quarter-hour.

San Diego Zoo

Situated in Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo’s mere minutes from downtown and straight accessed by a bus line (the No. 7).

That location additionally means a complete host of different sights. Some of San Diego’s high museums and gardens—are inside prepared strolling distance from the zoo.

Balboa Park’s the most effective locations for strolling on the town and hosts an everyday calendar of concert events and different particular occasions. And heads up: You may trip the free Balboa Park Tram to get round within the neighborhood.

SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld is positioned on Mission Bay, about quarter-hour from Downtown San Diego.

The No. 8 and 9 Metropolitan Transit System buses supply public transportation to SeaWorld from the Old Town Transit Center. SeaWorld’s common neighborhood isn’t walkable to something.

But, when you’re there, you may take a brief drive to Belmont Park San Diego and the Mission Beach space (parking on the seaside may be robust throughout peak season).


Winner: San Diego Zoo

There’s ample parking at each the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego.

Parking on the San Diego Zoo

The zoo affords free parking in its City of San Diego-managed lot.

If the zoo car parking zone is full, which is uncommon however does occur, attempt in search of house alongside Park Blvd. or elsewhere within the Balboa Park neighborhood.

Parking within the Balboa Park parking tons can be free.

Parking at SeaWorld San Diego

You’ll pay for parking within the big SeaWorld lot: a separate payment from admission.

General Parking is $25, whereas areas near the doorway price $30 or extra for Up-Close Parking and $35 or extra for VIP Parking.

You can pre-pay parking on-line in the event you like, however you can too pay the attendant once you get there.

SeaWorld vs. San Diego Zoo: Summing Up

When all is claimed and finished, the San Diego Zoo is the extra universally participating vacation spot. The high quality of its animal displays and the breadth of on-site interpretation and training relating to its denizens and world conservation are excellent. It’s one of many world’s most extremely regarded zoological parks for good cause.

SeaWorld is definitely additionally properly value trying out, notably in the event you’re visiting San Diego with children. But it’s a bit extra one-dimensional, and may very well be a costlier day trip.

Here’s a mind dump of questions folks ask me when evaluating each parks.

SeaWorld San Diego San Diego Zoo
Reservations crucial No No
Discount tickets out there Yes Yes
Same-day tickets out there Yes Yes
Non-profit park No, however SeaWorld Entertainment operates nonprofits dedicated to animal
and habitat rescue.
Accredited zoo Yes Yes
Children’s sections Sesame Street Bay of Play Wildlife Explorers Basecamp
Free parking No Yes
Opportunities to the touch animals Touch swimming pools with rays, feeder sharks, tide pool animals. No, except you get fortunate throughout an upgraded tour.
Other sights inside strolling distance No Balboa Park is subsequent door.
VIP excursions Yes Yes
Bring in meals No (child meals and particular eating regimen meals okay) Yes
Stroller and locker leases Yes Yes
Gluten, vegan, and vegetarian eating choices Yes Yes
Adult drinks on the market Yes Yes

FAQs About San Diego Zoo or SeaWorld San Diego

How far aside are SeaWorld and San Diego Zoo?

The two theme parks are about 8 miles aside. The drive time with out visitors is about quarter-hour.

Can you go to SeaWorld San Diego and San Diego Zoo on the identical day?

In concept, sure, you may go to each parks on the identical day if in case you have monumental stamina. I might not advocate it, particularly with younger youngsters.

You will get essentially the most out of each parks in the event you see them on separate days.

Which Zoo is Best in San Diego?

The reply is determined by your pursuits. Most folks will vote for San Diego Zoo. However, there are three zoos in San Diego:

  • San Diego Zoo
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park
  • SeaWorld San Diego

Hopefully, this text helped you determine between San Diego Zoo or SeaWorld San Diego. We’ve lined San Diego Zoo vs. San Diego Zoo Safari Park as properly in the event you need assistance deciding between these two parks.

Get Your Discount Tickets


Check for unpublished deeper financial savings on tickets by means of my partnership with aRes Travel, a licensed San Diego Zoo ticket vendor.

*By texting the phrase SDZOO to 1-833-490-0799 you comply with obtain automated promotional messages with find out how to safe my deeper ticket low cost and this settlement isn’t a situation of any buy. Msg and knowledge charges could apply. 2 msg/mo. Reply STOP to cancel. Read my full privateness coverage.


An unique children free with a paid grownup ticket by means of 2022, reductions on common admission, and all-day eating.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here