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#1
Old 03-24-2016, 03:20 PM
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Join Date: May 2005
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San Diego Zoo VIP Experience? Worth it?

I'm taking my mother to San Diego for her 71st birthday. Pretty much all she wants to do is the zoo - she's a huge animal lover. Originally I was planning on the Backstage Pass add-on, but it's not available on weekdays, which is when we're going.

I'm looking at the VIP Experience. It's super expensive, especially for my budget. On the other hand, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my mom. If it's an incredible experience that offers animal encounters, behind the scenes opportunities, etc., then I just might splurge and do it, especially since the zoo is the only thing she really really really wants to do (we'll be here two days and do the zoo both days).

If anyone has done it or heard about it, I'd love opinions!
#2
Old 03-24-2016, 03:35 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Cebu, Philippines
Posts: 13,076
I thought the San Diego Zoo was a pretty disappointing experience, just entering with a normal visitor's day-pass. No idea what the VIP deal entails. But if she has a keen interest in such things, then go for it, its a gool gift idea.
#3
Old 03-24-2016, 03:59 PM
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Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 26,921
Never done it myself but TripAdvisor has a 5 star review of it from someone that has the same goals you do.

"My husband and I are animal lovers and we had just returned from Africa and decided to go to San Diego to see the zoo. Originally we were just going to visit but then decided to do the VIP experience (which they accommodated on very short notice). We called them on Wednesday and they had us all set up for our day on Friday. Really, this was part of a never ending quest to have an encounter with a Red Panda (which I didn't get to but I did get to get "backstage" to see them). We were met before the zoo opened and were quickly driven to the giant pandas/red pandas before the crowds started to form which was great. While we did get to see everything we wanted to we also got to interact with some of the keepers and just really learned a lot about the animals and their care. A highlight of the day was getting to feed the Galapagos Tortoises which is something we probably won't get to experience again. Everyone was extremely welcoming and friendly and clearly passionate about what they do. Great overall experience."

https://tripadvisor.com/ShowUser...alifornia.html
#4
Old 03-24-2016, 08:31 PM
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Location: Southeast Michigan, USA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
I thought the San Diego Zoo was a pretty disappointing experience, just entering with a normal visitor's day-pass.
Do you not like zoos? Or you just don't like this one? I'm wondering about your disappointment. I've been to zoos in a lot of countries and states, and I've never been to one better than San Diego's. Well, unless you want to consider Kruger National Park a zoo!
#5
Old 03-24-2016, 10:02 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: San Diego, CA
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I've had a membership to the San Diego Zoo for over forty years, and go there for walking exercise pretty regularly. I've never done the VIP Experience. There's plenty to see and do on the regular admittance package. The place is just jam-packed with wonders and treasures.

It staggers my imagination to think of anyone finding the zoo "disappointing."

I'm a zoo nut. I've been to the Phoenix and Pittsburgh Zoos, and admired them greatly. The Los Angeles Zoo is also a great place to visit.

(People in southern California might enjoy a visit to the Anaheim Zoo, which is kind of small, but has a lot to offer, and even the Orange County Zoo, which is so tiny, it doesn't even have restrooms -- seriously! -- but which has some very nice exhibits.)
#6
Old 03-24-2016, 10:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
I thought the San Diego Zoo was a pretty disappointing experience, just entering with a normal visitor's day-pass.
I just have to echo Balthisar and Trinopus to say that this comment is incomprehensible to me. With the caveat that I haven't been there in many years, it was a truly impressive experience when I was. The San Diego Zoo is I believe one of the finest zoos in the world, with one of the largest and most diverse animal collections anywhere. If I'm not mistaken they also pioneered the concept of animals having free range in some semblance of their natural habitat, at a time when a typical zoo still consisted of animals in cages. The place was fascinating and beautiful. I remembered it for years afterward, and I'd love to visit again.
#7
Old 03-24-2016, 11:07 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Meridian/280
Posts: 12,759
I went to quite a few "Breakfast with a Keeper" events when I was a member--not quite the same as the VIP experience, but getting "backstage" at the SD Zoo is really a treat. Beyond getting up closer to the animals, the keepers always had some really great stories to tell. For my money though, I would rather splurge on a Caravan Safari Adventure at the Wild Animal Park.
#8
Old 03-24-2016, 11:50 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Pacific Northwest
Posts: 10,877
San Diego zoo is huge. I only went there once, and that was with regulars and when my oldest was maybe 4. There is some amazing stuff like the polar bears swimming pool that seems pretty unique. I felt the sheer size was a detraction.

So, I would research in advance what you want to see and map out how to do it, and when/if you need to take the gondola.

(I really like the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, mainly because it's really walkable and I've taken my kids there a lot in the past 5 years since they were 9 and 5 respectively. And we went to the Shanghai zoo at least a dozen times because it was there and to see the pandas and red pandas. So, it's not a dislike of zoos but San Diego ended up being kinda "meh" for me and my wife.)
#9
Old 03-25-2016, 12:01 AM
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Location: San Diego, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfpup View Post
I just have to echo Balthisar and Trinopus to say that this comment is incomprehensible to me. With the caveat that I haven't been there in many years, it was a truly impressive experience when I was. . . .
If anything...it's better! They keep upgrading and improving.

Quote:
Originally Posted by China Guy View Post
San Diego zoo is huge. . . . I felt the sheer size was a detraction.
There's that! (And the San Diego Safari Park is even bigger!) It's also on a lot of steep hills, so you do a lot of uphill and downhill walking. Mighty fine exercise! You really can do the whole thing in one day, but your feet will know they've been through a workout!

(Having a pass is sinfully wonderful. I have gone in, solely to use the bathroom!)
#10
Old 03-25-2016, 06:56 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Cebu, Philippines
Posts: 13,076
Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthisar View Post
Do you not like zoos? Or you just don't like this one? I'm wondering about your disappointment. I've been to zoos in a lot of countries and states, and I've never been to one better than San Diego's. Well, unless you want to consider Kruger National Park a zoo!
I'm not a zoo connoisseur, and don't visit them very often, but I just felt it was a ho-hum experience. I went there because of its reputation, I expected more than I got.
#11
Old 03-25-2016, 11:35 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Toronto
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
I'm not a zoo connoisseur, and don't visit them very often, but I just felt it was a ho-hum experience. I went there because of its reputation, I expected more than I got.
I felt kind of the same way. It was a nice zoo, but most of it was the same elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes, etc. that I've seen at other zoos. I guess I was expecting hall after hall full of platypuses or goliath beetles or other weird things.
#12
Old 03-25-2016, 01:48 PM
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FWIW, CNN included the SD Zoo in their 2013 roundup of "12 VIP experiences actually worth the money"

Quote:
Originally Posted by hogarth View Post
It was a nice zoo, but most of it was the same elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes, etc. that I've seen at other zoos.
How do they commute? "Head's up, gang! hogarth is headed to St. Louis, let's start the migration!"

Last edited by Doctor Jackson; 03-25-2016 at 01:50 PM.
#13
Old 03-25-2016, 03:47 PM
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Join Date: May 2005
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Thanks for the input and the posted reviews. I'm also factoring in the fact that she's older, walks with a cane, and has limited energy. I read some reviews that said that you get driven around in a golf cart. I might do that one day, and then rent a wheelchair for the other days.

The animal encounters and behind-the-scenes stuff is what will thrill her!
#14
Old 03-25-2016, 04:01 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 36,997
Just a thought -- you can have an encounter with a grizzly bear out in the wood in some places, probably cheaper.
#15
Old 03-25-2016, 04:05 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 36,997
Wow! I just looked it up, and they want a minimum of $600 dollars (is that per person or per tour? -- it's unclear), and on top of that they're STILL going to stick you with the normal admission fee.
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