The San Diego Wild Animal Park located about 35 miles from its sister San Diego Zoo near Balboa Park in San Diego, changed its name to Safari Park to more accurately reflect its focus on environment.
There are other safari parks in the U.S. and throughout the world, and most are drive-through parks where you can take your car through the exhibit. The generally accepted definition of a safari park is a drive-through park. Wild Animal Park or San Diego's version of a Safari Park does not provide that option, however, so the name change makes the zoo unique in an odd sort of way. During the past several years new rides have been introduced to this animal park such as Segway rentals and zipline rides so you can now do more things during your visit and get closer to the animals by paying more money. Photo safari rides and sleep-overs at the Safari Park in San Diego have been at the zoo much longer and have been extremely popular while providing a great revenue source to help feed the hungry creatures and pay for their expensive medical care.
While the admission fee can sustain you throughout the day, you can also add a-la-carte tours in what nearly amounts to a drive-through, up-close experience that other safari parks have long offered.
One example of a reason you may want to purchase add-ons to your admission is shown in the photo above, a picture of people sitting in a truck looking at a giraffe. The photo was taken from the FREE tram tour that drives around the perimeter of the exhibit and doesn't stop to allow guests to take their best "shot". With a telephoto and quick response, you can get pictures of the people in trucks that are closer to the action. They paid another $90 in addition to admission for that privilege of riding right up to the animals and stopping to take photos. You have to admit that it's a wow! experience and probably worth it for those who can afford the extra expense.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is as close as you'll get to a drive through zoo. There used to be a drive-through safari park in Irvine, California. It was closed several decades ago.
One of the lesser known zoos in California that we actually like as much as San Diego's Safari Park is called Safari West. It is located in Santa Rosa. For around Take a tour in a jeep or enclosed vehicle that stops for photos. Safari West is closer in spirit to the type of place that its Southern California counterpart once was. Definitely check it out if you are visiting the Bay Area.