04-Feb-2018: Ar’s B’day was coming up and we were thinking of plans to celebrate it. Off-course we wanted to go out to some place but were going back and forth on which one to go. We tried asking Ar few times but she was not giving any definitive answer. After many iteration we finally locked in Sand Diego zoo, which we had been wanting to visit for a some time now, but somehow never managed to go.
Once the tickets were booked through AAA (tickets are priced around $54 for adults and around 10 less for kids, but we got good deal of 15% off from them), we got busy in our daily chores and nothing much happened on this front, until the day before. We bought some stuff like chips and all and had planned to have lunch there only. We had planned to leave early the next day so as to reach as close to the opening time of 9:00 am.
It was Sunday today, we woke up not too early and our pace was also quite slow. After we got ready, we had a small B’day celebration at home, packed our bags and headed out. We were running really late. It was 10:30 am and we were supposed to be at the park around 9:00 am. Luckily the traffic was quite thin that day and we were cruising on I-5.
The road runs straight down south on I-5 and then as you near San Diego you take I-805, which takes you to the exit for the city, from where after negotiating the small and tricky city streets you enter the Balboa park. This parks houses many attractions and one of them is the zoo. So we were in the parking lot at around 11:44 am and it was quite empty and so we got parking in the 4th row. En-route Ar had had a nice sleep and we munched on old Hindi songs, the drive had been pleasant but the weather was quite hot.
After a short walk to the entrance, we entered the zoo, which is quite large and is one of the oldest and quite famous ones in US. We got the map at the entry and were trying to figure it out, which if you have been to any of these big theme/amusement parks would know can be quite intimidating at first. We spotted the bus stop near by and decided to take the round of the place first to get antiquated with it.
The queue was quite thin and we were told that today we had got the fast lane as it was Super bowl day and only few of the folks like us were outside. Though we would have got the place in the first bus, but it was on upper deck and we had learned that the lower deck is better, so we waited for the next bus and were kept entertained by our host. We were running quite late now, it was almost 12:30 pm and were bit worried if we would be able to complete the park or not. The next bus came as our mind was going through this thought and we got good seats.
The bus takes you past all the major exhibits. It starts with majestic Flamingo’s, then passing through the Lion’s den, Tigers abode and Elephants grass lands, it covers the African section, penguins and lot. Ar thoroughly enjoyed it and we got a great view of Lion, Tiger and many others. The round the park trip took 40 minutes and we were back to from where we had started. We then decided to visit the interesting exhibits on foot.
Right next door to the entrance is the Tiger trail. This passes through thick forest, taking us to home of some other animals like many types of monkeys etc, passing through the Hippos home, though we could catch only a glimpse as it was not in the water but tucked behind a rock at an height. We then reached the Tiger’s den, but were bit sad to see he was sleeping. We went over its viewing area which is expansive and were about to leave we spotted the yellow stripes and then the big feline was out in open. It roamed around a bit, then again went to his den, then was back again, climbing down to come closer to us. We got one of the best views of Tigers we have had. Ar was quite excited and was readily taking pics with him.
We then decided to move on. We were bit hungry by now, but as we had started late, we decided to cover some more before taking a break. Next up was the Panda zone. We started the trail and got to see the Panda. She was having a nice time and was doing lot of funny things, she even showed some of her good climbing skills which were impressive. Ar found her theatricals funny and was not ready to move from there. Though Tiger and Lion are always on the top list when you visit the zoo, but Panda for sure is the star attractions as they are not that common in most parts of the world.
We then were out of that trail and were trying to understand the map, to see where the food zone is. It seemed that it was closer to one end of the very high bridge which was straight in front of us. We saw stairs rounding up from the base to the top and were intimidated by them and were thinking there has to be some lift also, but the escalator which takes you to the top was even more impressive. I don’t think we had seen such a long running escalator, taking you to such a height, though it was divided in some parts. We got on it and really enjoyed the ride, with some great views and Ar jumping around.
As we reached the top, we were not sure if we were on the right side of the bridge and which side to go, so we asked one of the attendants who sit on the help desks at many places of the zoo. As it turned out, we were on the right side and the tree top cafe was just across the bent. It was a nice cozy tree house type cafe, though the food options were limited. We took Cheese Pizza Kids menu for Ar (yay!!), Sandwich for G and Fruit bowl (melon) for me as I was not feeling well.
We got good seats on the edge, closer to the waterfall and we just overlooked the bridge. Nice breeze was blowing and amongst soothing sound of falling water on that sunny afternoon we had a nice lunch. Ar had her B’day Pizza and she was all energy that day. We then took some break and rested there. It was now 3:00 pm and surprisingly we had managed to cover a lot, credit goes to Super Bowl as well. We then decided to cover the remaining places we had marked on the map.
PS: This was the trip which Ar was enjoying in and out and she was full of energy for the whole day!