San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park No Longer Allow Outside Food

Thursday, February 5, 2009

News spreads fast over the web and bad news spreads even faster. I read a Tweet today from San Diego Bargain Mama that the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park will no longer allow visitors to bring their own food. An article on the San Diego Union Tribune's website quotes park spokesperson Yadira Galindo as saying the policy was brought in because of the number of guests bringing large coolers and bags into the park, which get in the way during the busy season.

The decision is supposed to make park visits more enjoyable for all guests. I do not agree with this decision and not just for financial reasons or because of the current economic climate (though those are definitely big factors).

I try to keep our family eating healthy and most of the options at parks are burgers, fries, greasy pizza and fried chicken fingers. We don't eat those types of meals too often at home, so why should we when we're out? I typically bring fruit, pretzels, sandwiches, crackers, bottled waters and other portable foods that are easy to eat while walking or waiting in line.

And what about the families who are dealing with allergies and special diets? Are they going to need a doctors note to visit? No one in my family has special dietary needs but for me and my son, we need to eat a little something every few hours. When our blood sugar gets low, it gets ugly real fast.

The Zoo and Wild Animal Park do not have lockers, nor do they have picnic areas where families can bring their food and sit either before entering the park or during their visit. Schlepping back to car to eat a meal has zero appeal for me, but I forsee a lot of tailgating and parking lots littered with trash.

For my family, we generally end up spending some of the money we save by bringing our own food on special treats like ice cream, a souvenir, feeding the giraffes or the Skyfari. Those things would certainly not be an option anymore. And how do I tell my son he has to choose between eating and riding on the double decker bus?

My son's school switched from a year round schedule to a traditional, which means loooong summer breaks. Up until now I'd argue that a Zoo/Wild Animal Park membership is one of the best values in San Diego. I was planning to renew our membership so we'd have more options on things to do this summer but now I'm not so sure.

Between the membership, gas to get to the parks, the parking fee at the Wild Animal Park and at least one of the extras, it's definitely an investment for a one-income family.
Let's hope the park takes our concerns to heart and comes up with a solution we can all live with.

*This story also posted on San Diego Mommy Spot with a discussion thread in the forums.


  1. They did say that they're not really going to check. I think you can still bring the food you usually bring--just pack it in your backpack.

    I find those policies annoying also--I virtually never buy food at places like the zoo.

  2. i think its stupid, families should be able to eat what they want as long its not interfering w/ other guests. I imagine they will accommodate allergies, but really, there is no harm in letting food in. Even disney does now.


  3. It does make me rethink my zoo visits. I'm definitely up for spending the money on greasy food I wouldn't eat at home.

    I'm disappointed with the new policy and hope that Jenn is right about packing the food in the backpack.

  4. My membership at the SD Zoo/Wild Animal Park is up for renewal next month. I will be mailing my dues envelope back without a check, and a note written in red across the invoice: "Canceling membership due to new arbitrary no food policy." If more people stood up like this, public outcry and opinion would be noticed.

  5. If the issue is large coolers or whatever, why not simply ban *those? Why ban outside food altogether? I don't get it.

    Good luck to all y'all in this fight, though. I'm with you.

  6. We went to the Wild Animal Park last summer on our annual visit to the southlands, and we LOVE that place. Because we came from an hour away, we stayed all day and bought lunch there. We didn't want to schlep a cooler around with us so we didn't, but just like most parents I choose to bring nuts, water, protein bars, etc. for snacks.

    Don't know why they couldn't simply ban coolers. I'm betting that's where this will end up, and you can still bring snacks in your backpacks.

    I could watch the lions all day, le sigh . . .

  7. Nicely said, Mel. I saw that article in the U-T and thought it was bizarre. Truthfully, I thought they always discouraged outside food, and that I've been sneaking until now. :) I guess I'll go on doing that because I have literally had a stomachache for THREE DAYS after eating zoo food. Blech.

  8. What is particularly difficult (besides, um, not eating decent cheaper food like you said) is trying to explain to the kids that we're going to break the rules because they aren't going to really check or care.

    That is a sketchy situation to put families in.

  9. It's hard enough for families to be able to afford the price of admission, now they want them to pay for over prices disgusting food too! Give hard working people a break.

  10. I didn't even know that such a policy existed, but we've been bringing food there consistently and eating out in the open, no problem whatsoever (WAP, not the zoo) for the past 4 years.


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