Children’s Nature Retreat vs. San Diego Zoo

Children's Nature Retreat vs. San Diego Zoo

There’s nothing quite as fun and memorable as taking the family out to see some wild animals! While most people have heard of the San Diego Zoo, there are many opportunities at the Children’s Nature Retreat that they may not know about! While they are both wildlife parks, they offer very different experiences. We’re not saying one is better than the other (because, of course, we’re a little biased), we want to give you a quick glance at each park’s offerings, so you can decide which one (or both) is better suited for you and your family.

Before we dive into the experience, we’ll look at both park ticket options and prices. We know that tends to be the first thing visitors want to know about, especially if they’re bringing the whole family.

Children’s Nature Retreat

1-Day Pass

Adult: $38

Child: $20

Senior (60+): $28

Child under 2 years old: Free

Military, first responders, and veteran families: 10% discount

Alpine, CA residents: 10% discount (purchase ticket at the Retreat)

Single-day Pass includes: Animal interaction from outside of the enclosures and free parking.

Year-Long Pass

Adult: $149

Child: $85

Year-long Pass includes: Free unlimited admission to the Retreat, 10% off boutique purchase and free parking.


Up-Close and Personal (inside the enclosure): Admission price + $35 per person per enclosure

90-Minute Guided Tour: Admission price + $250 for up to 5 people

Be a Keeper for the Day: $195 per person

Behind the Scene Tour: $495 (limited to 2 guests)

The San Diego Zoo

1-Day Pass

Adult (ages 12+): $60-$66

Child (ages 3-11): $50-$56

2-Day Pass

Adult (ages 12+): $100

Child (3-11): $90

3-Day Pass

Adult (ages 12+): $154 – $212

Child (3-11): $144 – $194

Year-Long Pass

1 Adult (ages 18+): $115 – $277

2 Adults (same household): $205 – $277

Child (ages 3-17): $60

Price valid only in zip codes 91900–92899


Animals in Action Experience: $99 and up

Inside Look Tours: $522 and up (per cart/up to 6 household members)

Exclusive VIP Experience: $675 and up (per person/same household)

Early Morning Cheetah Experience: $552 and up (per cart/up to 6 household members)

Discovery Cart Tour: $318 and up (per cart/up to 6 household members)

Crazy About Cats: $552 and up (per cart/up to 6 household members)

The Experience

At the Children’s Nature Retreat, we have 140+ domesticated livestock and exotic animals from around the world across 20-acres of terrain. We have 21 different species and 57 distinct breeds and are passionate about bringing children and animals together. Our goal is to provide a fun and teachable space for children through unstructured exploration and learning. We have six separate areas that reflect a different world in the animal kingdom. Within these six areas, you’ll find:

  • Big Farm
  • Mini Farm (our pasture of miniature animals)
  • African Animals
  • Bison Prairie
  • Mini Trio
  • Camel Oasis
  • Tortoises
  • Barnyard Alley
  • Aviary/Birds

We even cater to birthday parties, field trips, and more! To give you the best possible experience, we limit the number of visitors to 100 per day, so it’s not too crowded. Limiting the number of visitors allows you to spend more time interacting with the animals and less time waiting in line!

Children's Nature Retreat vs. San Diego Zoo

At the San Diego Zoo, along with the exhibits, they offer guided bus tours, an ariel tram overlooking the park, shows, theater, play areas, and more. The zoo consists of over 100-acre and is home to over 4,000 rare and endangered animals. The San Diego Zoo consists of 40+ attractions, so we recommend getting there early to avoid the long lines and to maximize the number of attractions you can see!

Our Takeaway

When it comes to pricing, the Children’s Nature Retreat is the cheaper option for 1-day, 2-day, and 3-day passes. The San Diego Zoo offers cheaper annual passes depending on which package you purchase. The biggest difference in pricing comes with the additional upgrades like the “behind the scenes” packages. But, the price shouldn’t be the deciding factor. If you’re looking for a variety of entertainment, we recommend checking out the San Diego Zoo. If you’re interested in a more intimate experience without lines, we recommend coming to the Children’s Nature Retreat. Since both parks offer unique experiences, we say try both out!

To learn more about the Children’s Nature Retreat, get in touch with us on our website. If you have any questions, you can always call us at (619) 320-4942. Note that attractions may be limited at both parks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s best to check before you go.