There is no question that San Diego’s Wild Animal Park has taken the concept of safari to the next level. A constant on the leaderboard of fascinating family-friendly activities in one of the prettiest cities in North America, the Safari Park has upped the ante even more, introducing each park goer to a live experience alongside nature, by removing the glass walled enclosures and getting us ever closer to the animals we’ve only ever seen on television.
Visitors can embark on an exciting expedition aboard the Africa Tram, a guided tour that travels along a ride path around some of the field exhibits to give guests a chance to connect with the animals on a closer level or take to the skies in a tethered hot air balloon that can hold up to 30 passengers for unbelievable views of the Sargenti shared only by the birds.
Want to even more personal with your favorite African Plains animals? You can add a customized safari experience: travel in the back of a covered, open-air safari truck to visit at least two field enclosures with an opportunity to feed giraffes (Caravan Safari); meet and greet the star of Cheetah Run - where the sleek cat races on a straight 330-foot-long track that allows it to really stretch its legs and reach maximum speed of about 70 miles per hour (Cheetah Safari); climb like a monkey on a challenging rope-course adventure (Jungle Ropes Safari) or amp up your adventure by adding a dose of adrenaline as you take in a bird’s-eye view gliding along a 2/3 mile zip line over vast animal exhibits (Flightline Safari) or spend the night during a special camping adventure (Roar & Snore Safari).
Taking things one step further, the park just opened its doors to the wilds of the Australian outback with the Walkabout Australia safari in May. Following a backcountry trail through bottlebrush blooms and eucalyptus trees transports you to walkabout down under. Kangaroos, wallabies, cassowaries, tree kangaroos, magpie geese and all the varied plant life of the Australian plain greet each curious pair of eyes along the many trails through the outback.
After our day on “safari," our family looked forward to winding down at the newly “reimagined” hideaway at Hotel Karlan San Diego (858-672-9100) - a Doubletree by Hilton property. Truth be told, our kids couldn’t wait to check in when they learned of the hotel’s signature welcome: a decadent warm chocolate chip cookie. Conveniently located right near the Safari Park, the Hotel Karlan San Diego’s new design is particularly apropos of our visit as it brings a touch of nature indoors.
Set among rolling hills and palm trees, the property features 174 stylish and super comfortable guest rooms and suites distinguished by oversized sleeping quarters - each with a private balcony or patio, two onsite restaurants with indoor/outdoor seating, fitness room, tennis court and outdoor pool. The Asado Grill showcases a delicious array of sustainable seafood and gourmet contemporary American culinary creations. Popular entrees range from a seafood mixed grill (kebab of shrimp, salmon, scallops, farm fresh veggies, aside aioli and served with cilantro rice) and Napa Valley beef short rib (in cabernet sauce and paired with pappardelle pasta) to the signature Asado burger made with 8 oz. of angus, aside aioli. lettuce, pico, avocado, pepperjack cheese and bacon.
This property was the perfect pick for our family weekend away - we couldn’t have asked for a more convenient location, spacious accommodation, dining with something to appeal to every palate (I love seafood, my husband is a meat eater and the kids always opt for kid-friendly eats, of which there were plenty of menu options) and a staff populated by extremely friendly, courteous folk.
Savanna is no longer simply synonymous with the roar of a lion or the wild gait of a giraffe. The zoo’s Safari Park welcomes you into the home of its many bright eyed, keenly aware multi-legged friends. Enjoy a caravan, cheetah, or jungle rope safari, and take in the bird’s view of the park on its ⅔ mile zip line through the park. Whatever the experience you’re looking for, San Diego is sure to make it a wild one.