San Diego Zoo - Day trip from LA?

Old Jan 16th, 2006, 05:58 AM
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San Diego Zoo - Day trip from LA?

We are planning a family trip to California and are trying to accommodate everyone's "must sees". We had planned SF, Yosemite, LA. My 12 yo son now says going to the San Diego Zoo is his first choice "must see". Am I crazy to think we could do that as a day trip from LA? Looks like a 2 1/2 hour drive in good driving conditions.

Any help would be appreciated!
ccrosner is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2006, 06:27 AM
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Have never done it but I'd imagine it's possible. Depending on when you're going, zoo hours change. Right now they're shorter. In the summer they stay open quite late.

For those not interested in the zoo, it sits in Balboa Park where there are lots of museums as well. Gorgeous park.

There's also a train between LA and San Diego that might be worth checking out if you want to avoid driving. It's the Pacific Surf liner Route here
mclaurie is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2006, 07:00 AM
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We were in LA and did an overnight trip to San Diego and went to the zoo. Lots of driving if you do it in one day, but aside from that, the zoo can be tiring due to walking and strong sun/heat if it is summer (we went at end of June). There is a tram/truck thing that takes you around the zoo and you can get off an don at different areas for a fee. We did that, but we were still pooped at end of the day, and I would not have driven back to L.A. myself.
emd is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2006, 07:40 AM
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Yes, it can be done in a day. What part of LA will you be staying in? You will need to get an early start and recognize that with traffic conditions you may be a long time on the road. If you are thinking 2 1/2 hours, you may count on a longer time if you are unlucky. And with LA traffic being what it is, your chances of sitting in traffic are high. We live in Long Beach and we have occasionally driven in to San Diego for the day, visited Balboa Park, where the zoo is located, and returned in one day. I'm sure a lot of locals do it frequently. But again, be prepared for heavy traffic. Good luck.
annetti is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2006, 01:31 PM
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sure it's doable as long as your family doesn't mind lots of driving. i've done day trips to disneyland from san diego often. as mentioned, for the best enjoyment, choose your times carefully. hopefully you are staying in the south end of la. i'd recommend getting up really early and get off before rush hour starts. try to be out of la area by 7:00-7:30 a.m. drive down and have some breakfast by the beach before going to the zoo. then, on the way back, you could stop in laguna beach for a late dinner (great pizza place right on main street). get back to the la after 7:30 p.m. to avoid evening rush hour.
the bus tour around the zoo is a good thing to do. it will give you an overall look at where everything is. my favorite exhibits are the polor bears and the hippos. the restaurant in the center - tree top (can't remember the name) has pretty good food.
ltt is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2006, 02:20 PM
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The S.D. zoo has a great sit down restaurant called Albert's. The pizza restaurant in Laguna Beach is B'J'S.
sunshine is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2006, 04:35 PM
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Your departure hour and return time will depend on where you are staying in the LA area...some areas are very tight trafficwise in the morning. Sat. is probably the best day but the zoo is probably more crowded.

LA Zoo is terrific and maybe your son would change his mind if he knows that going to the LA Zoo would leave room for another outing on the same day such as Gene Autry Wild West Museum; La Brea Tar Pits & Page Dinosaur museum, Petersen Auto Musuem or Universal Studios Tour.
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Old Jan 16th, 2006, 05:21 PM
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Sure, you can do it, but I wouldn't. By the time you do the drive, deal with the traffic, get to the zoo, park and walk, walk inside the park, for miles to see it all, and then drive back, in San Diego traffic going up north as well as Orange Co and LA, wouldn't do it. My DH would be blowing a gasget on the trip home. I would save the zoo for a San Diego visit, IMO. It is doable, but not recommended.
Heavens is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2006, 05:27 PM
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We have driven to San Diego several times this past year since my son is attending college there (including just yesterday). We usually do it in one day, but that is quite exhausting. And the traffic varies...I've done it in less than 2 hours, but thats taking the "back" road - the 15 freeway. If you take the "5" freeway, you're risking hitting alot of traffic, even with the carpool lane. Yesterday, it was heavy traffic at 6:00 p.m. and that was frustrating even for us, seasoned "freeway drivers."
San Diego is SUCH a great city, I recommend finding an inexpensive hotel and spending at least one night there.

And I'm sorry to say, but to compare the LA Zoo to San Diego Zoo is not realistic. LA Zoo is a not nearly as nice, and if you are coming here in the summer it can be super hot. Take the time to visit San Diego, Balboa Park, maybe even Sea World and you won't be disappointed.
And forget the train unless you have 3-4 hours to spend - it goes slow and often is late.

I keep reminding my son that he is so lucky to attend college in such a great resort town like San Diego and quite frankly, we're thrilled to have an excuse to drive down there - we often make a "weekend of it" when we drop off/pick him up!Let me know if I can help you in any way to play your trip!
tennislvr1 is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2006, 05:32 PM
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Thanks for all of your terrific suggestions! Fodorites always offer the greatest advice.

I am beginning to think about reworking our California trip so that we can include a night in San Diego to make the visit to the zoo more enjoyable. Although I had originally thought that the drive down the coast was a must see, I realize that the kids will enjoy that less than I'd like to believe (they're fine in a car but aren't much into the 'scenic drive' thing). So perhaps we will just drive from Yosemite to LA by way of US5 to be able to add time in San Diego. My son has heard so much about the San Diego Zoo (as have I) that I don't think the LA Zoo will do (though I bet it's terrific!).

You may hear from me again as I tweak our plans. Just made ressies at Yosemite Lodge today as I knew that was important to lock in.

ccrosner is offline  
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