Where can you get up close to a hippo swimming underwater, giggle at the antics of lively monkeys or gaze at a panda gently munching through a bamboo snack?
With well over 4000 animals, San Diego Zoo will treat you to that and much more. It's one of the world's largest zoos and you'll definitely need a whole day if you want time to see a little of everything that swims, growls, pounces and swings.
The Zoo is divided into zones. I can give you a feel for some of the animals to see but there are so many that it's just a small snapshot. Start at the Urban Jungle and you'll be up close to giraffes. My two year old son was fascinated and I was wondering if we would get to see anything else as he wasn't keen to move on. After looping past the flamingos and kangaroos you can hit the big cat trail. I was completely captivated by the black panther who slinked past.
If you take a left after the two humped camel, then up Park Way you'll get to the Panda Trek. San Diego Zoo is focused on conservation and has a Giant Panda research station. Many zoos have tried to breed pandas in captivity with limited success. San Diego Zoo boasts six cubs born to Bai Yun since her arrival. The latest was born in July 2012 and if you're too far away to visit, then have a look on their Panda Cam
There are also regal elephants, hippos that can be viewed from above and below water as well as the very small but equally endearing turtles. Birds are often overlooked but you'll find you want to stop for a while in the leafy and shaded aviary, which doesn't feel like you're in a zoo at all.
The park is easily discovered on foot allowing you time to pause and observe these wonderful creatures. For a different perspective, take the Skyfari Ariel Tram up and over the park or jump on a guided tour bus.
There are a couple of drawbacks. It's a bit annoying when you're on foot and the buses come past but they only cover part of the zoo and you can easily wander a route without them. As in any theme park or major tourist attraction the food and drink is pricey. If you have time, I'd recommend bringing some soft drinks and a snack or even a packed lunch with you.
San Diego Zoo is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area and if you have kids then it will keep them happy for a whole day.