Friday, July 25

26 Days Of Vacation

Day 5: Balboa Park, CA

From extinct animals yesterday, to live ones today. San Diego is rich in California history and the Latin culture that gave birth to it. The heart of the city is Balboa Park, an urban playground of museums, architecture, gardens, and music. This is kind of an obvious choice, but no trip to southern California would be complete without a visit to the park's crown jewel, the
San Diego Zoo.

I can't really say much about this destination that wouldn't bore you. I mean, you have been to a zoo, right? Maybe, but you haven't been to this one. For almost a century it has been famous not only for its collection of animals, but for its botanical gardens and conservation efforts. These efforts are obvious in the care and attention to detail in every exhibit. The zoo has been a pioneer in enclosure design and enrichment programs, resulting in beautiful, spacious habitats for the occupants while allowing for great viewing by visitors. The staff is the best I have seen at educating the public about wild species and our conservatorship of them.

This is a LARGE zoo. Bring comfortable walking shoes and spring for the tram and skyway tickets. The baby panda is extremely popular, so expect a long line (and be quiet!) My favorite not-to-be-missed exhibits are the Galapagos tortoises, Gorilla Tropics, Tiger River, Sun Bear Forest, reptile house, and the world famous flamingo lagoon just inside the entrance. Be sure not to overlook the botanical specimens (the agaves and euphorbias are splendid) and keep your camera handy. This is an excellent zoo for photography.

Balboa Park has a lot going for it, but the zoo is only one of three major animal attractions in the area. The San Diego Wild Animal Park (35 miles northeast) and Sea World (10 miles northwest) are other options for an extended stay. Bring your credit cards!

Teasers on this trip: Hotel del, Old Town, Cabrillo, cross the border

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