Wheelchair Accessible San Diego Wild Animal Park
by M. Gacioch

Someone told me 
It's all happening at the zoo. 
I do believe it, 
I do believe it's true. ... 
-- At the Zoo Paul Simon 1967

The song is not entirely true. A lot is also happening at San Diego’s Wild Animal Park and much of it is accessible to disabled visitors.

San Diego County is perhaps best known for its world famous zoo situated in the heart of the city, but the Wild Animal Park easily rivals it for size and landscaping. 

Located about 40 minutes north of San Diego, the park is situated at 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road in Escondido, California.

Upon arrival, disabled visitors will find ample accessible parking ($6 per vehicle and $8 per RV). Accessible information packets are available at the ticket windows where admission is $26.50 for adults and children. 

Power wheelchairs are available for rent on a first-come, first-served basis near the entrance. Wheelchairs rent for $6 and electric scooters are $26.

The Wild Animal Park is enormous and chock full of an excellent collection of exotic animals. Miles and miles of beautifully landscaped lots are home to everything from Asian elephants to statuesque giraffes and beautifully marked jungle cats to soaring Condors and even a rare white rhino), so I wouldn’t advise visiting it on a low-energy day. Thankfully, the accessible Wgasa Bush Line Railway (included with admission) is available to ease wheelchair users a bit from a busy day of pushing. Disabled people are pre-boarded on the tram first for the 5-mile, 60-minute ride that takes us around the park’s perimeter. My service dog was also welcome on the tram.

Disabled visitors can also pick up a pamphlet at the entrance that shows the most accessible paths to use. Accessible restrooms are marked on the free map, and there is an attendant- assisted bathroom across from the administration building. 

Accessible telephones and a telecommunications device for hearing impaired people are also available.

While much of the park is easy rolling, there are steep grades where signs warn of the lack of usability. In particular the return route from “The Heart of Africa” and some of the paths within the botanical garden areas are challenging.

If you feel the need to take a rest for a while, there are several live animal shows to enjoy throughout the day.

The Elephant Show is a good place to take a pause and watch the trainers work with the behaviors of the 10,000-pound creatures. Viewing for disabled people is from above the amphitheater.

The Bird Show and Hawk Talk Show at the Benbough Amphitheater is a lively presentation guaranteed to make one laugh at the bird antics and tricks. 
Every day trainers periodically give personal talks to visitors as they show a variety of animals. Check at the entrance date to see what is offered on the day you visit.

There are also information packets, which included scripts for tours and shows for hearing impaired visitors. Assistants of visually impaired visitors receive free admission to the park.

Bring your own food or choose from one of several eating places at the park. We liked the Mombasa Island Cooker. They offered a choice of Italian and Asian food, as well as burgers and salad. 

If you feel like shopping for global souvenirs, there are dozens of colorful shops. 

The park is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through June 18 and until 8 p.m. from June 19 through September 6. Call the park at (760) 747-8702 or e-mail them at  pr@sandiegozoo.org

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