A big thank you to the San Diego Zoo view for hosting us and sponsoring this blog post. As always, the content and opinions expressed here are my own.
Inside the Africa Rocks Exhibit
The San Diego Zoo is located inside Balboa Park and is one of the largest and most renown zoos in the United States. I hadn't visited for years and I was very excited to go back and check out all the new exhibits they've added. The zoo's big news of the summer is the Africa Rocks exhibit which gives us a glimpse at the African wildlife you may have never known about. For example, did you know there are penguins in Africa? I didn't either until our visit!
While most of the new Africa Rocks showcase is still being built, we had a great time exploring the newly revealed penguin and shark habitat. Those little penguins are so freakin' cute! And because I'm such a sucker for pretty plants, I especially enjoyed all the new cactus and succulent gardens they just installed.
Top 10 Things to Explore at the San Diego Zoo
1. Africa Rocks - The exhibit was designed to mimic the giant granite boulders that are found on Boulders Beach in South Africa, a place where these penguins naturally live. The contrast of the penguins living in harmony with sharks is a sight to see, they swim side by side like little buddies.
2. Panda Trek - The San Diego Zoo is one of the few zoos in the United States that has successfully housed and reproduced pandas. These lazy guys love to chill out relax with those "hakuna matata" vibes.
3. Have a Margarita! - I had no idea that the zoo was such a party place, they have a full bar serving cocktails and spirits. Cheers!
4. Elephant Odyssey - Elephants are my all-favorite zoo animals and it's a fun walk through the exhibit. The elephants are neighbors to the big cats like lions and jaguars.
5. Find the San Carlos Penguin Rock - While snapping photos I came across this cute little painted penguin rock (see image). On further inspection, this little guy is part of the Facebook hide and seek game. Find him and play!
6. Bird Aviaries - There's multiple aviaries around the park with lush tropical greenery and so many colorful and spunky birds. They came right up to us, singing and tweeting.
7. Take a ride on the Skyfari - Ride high in the sky and take in aerial views of the zoo and Balboa Park. It's an easy and fun way to get around the zoo!
8. Stop and smell the roses - The zoo boasts a huge botanical collection with more than 700,000 exotic plants.
9. Stay late and enjoy the sunset - During the daytime the San Diego summer sun can be intense but luckily the park stays open until 9pm. The temperature becomes perfect right around 6:30pm and the pink skies start putting on a show.
10. Make plans to visit the Safari Park - The sister park of the zoo is definitely worth a visit. I love the concept of the park, so many of the animals are able to roam free in sprawling open fields while visitors ride around in carts to see them. It reminds me a lot of a zoo version of Jurassic Park. For all you hot mamas, this will be a new favorite spot for the kiddos!
Cactus Garden in Balboa Park
Tucked away behind the Balboa Park Club is a quaint and historic garden known as the "Old Cactus Garden." This spot is a hidden gem and the perfect location for a desert themed style photo shoot. Most people know of the major attractions in the park such as the Botanical Building and the Pavilion (which are definitely worth a visit as well!), but the cactus garden is a very calm and peaceful retreat away from the crowds. I loved all the plant formations, textures and shades of green in this garden. There's so much to see and explore!
Top 10 Sights to Discover in Balboa Park
1. Botanical Building and Lily Pond - One of the most photographed scenes in Balboa Park and a “must-see” destination in San Diego.
2. Ride the carousel - Have some old-fashioned fun and take a spin on the historic carousel which dates back to 1910. The original hand-carved European craftsmanship is full of charm and evokes old-world feelings of romance.
3. Take a tour inside the California Tower - This San Diego icon was built in 1915 but was closed to the public for nearly 80 years. It has recently opened for tours to the public.
4. Spanish Village Art Center - A haven for art lovers, walk over the rainbow cobblestone and admire all the works from local artists.
5. Japanese Friendship Garden - Say hello to the koi fish and walk among the blooming cherry blossoms.
6. San Diego Art Institute - Examine and ponder creative and abstract pieces of art, and possibly discover the meaning of life.
7. Plan a picnic - Pack up your blanket and basket, find a friendly grassy null and set up camp. Make sure to take advantage of one of the many view points in the park. Alcohol is permitted from noon until to 8:00 p.m. in designated areas, so bring your favorite wine and enjoy!
8. Explore with Fido - Invite your furry friends along to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. There are a few leash-free zones for your pup to run free.
9. San Diego Museum of Art - Examine works of art from the old masters of Europe and escape to another time.
10. San Diego Natural History Museum (theNat) - Are you fascinated by dinosaurs (like Ross from Friends!)? Take a stroll through a recreated prehistoric scene and walk alongside these reptile giants.
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