I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now: the giant pandas, who’ve called the San Diego Zoo their home (for as long as I’ve been alive) are heading back home to China.
Bai Yun, born in 1991, and her pander son, Xiao Liwu, born in 2012, will be departing sunny Southern California at the end of April so we wanted to bid them farewell for the last time, ever. We decided to hop on the wave shortly after they announced their return, and went for a visit the first weekend we learned of the news at the end of March.
Still, crowds were already growing, and lines were already long. If you’re heading to see Bai Yun, make sure you’re in line by 1pm, since her viewing times cease at 2pm! FYI - there are 2 separate panda viewing exhibits (with 2 separate lines): one for Bai Yun, and one for all of the other pandas, including Xiao Liwu and red pandas and such. They’ve extended the panda farewell celebrations till April 29, 2019, so you have until then to say goodbye to the monochromatic bears.
The World Famous San Diego Zoo
Throw on some sunblock, lace up your tennis shoes, and prepare yourself for a full day of walking.
First stop: STRAIGHT FOR THE PANDAS. (and yeah, there was a pretty long line)
Then, after about 30-ish minutes of queueing, we FINALLY laid eyes on the prize. Chunky little Bai Yun.
She was smaller than I thought she’d be, and when we finally saw her she began climbing down from her post and wandering around her exhibit. They were good at keeping people moving since the lines were long. It was just enough time for the two rows of observation to get a couple glances at her as she weaved around the brush.
The “Animal Zoo”
Back in 2007 or 2008, we visited the zoo with one of our best friends Nick and his little sister. She was a child at the time, and she always referred to the zoo as the “animal zoo” and that phrase stuck ever since.
So now that we were done with the main objective of the day (see the pandas!), we decided to grab some zoo-exclusive beers by Ballast Point and wander around like regular zoo spectators. It was (finally) a warm Spring day, and a perfect excuse to walk around with a drink in hand.
This would also be the first time we’d ever drank beer through a straw.
Onwards, to the animals… !
The Skyfari Aerial Tram
Admission also includes rides on the aerial tram, which offers sweeping views of adjacent Balboa Park and downtown. We hopped on and also got a refill of beer, because we had to get the second of the two zoo-exclusive beers — this one brewed by Hess. :P
We then had a quick bite of some nachos and Dibs (comment if you remember those?!) to settle our stomachs before heading out and finishing some errands and getting some real food elsewhere.
Thank goodness for huge escalators that take you up steep hills because our feet were TIRED after a day of walking. I think we’d already clocked in more than 10,000 steps at this point and it wasn’t even 3pm yet but we were done for the day.
As mentioned, we finished some errands, then decided to check out the new Shake Shack in Del Mar since we’d never been to the new One Paseo center yet. As you can see in the photos above, it was definitely cherry blossom season around the world and they had a cherry blossom shake special on at the time so we opted to try that also - it was soso.
After a long day of walkies for the humans and feeding our bellies, we had to return home to scoop up the fur child. Because this actually all happened at the end of March, you’ll be disheartened to hear that Bagel actually came home from doggy daycare with a bacterial eye infection that evening 🙄
He’s all better now, of course, but we’ve just about had it with this pattern of illness so we’ll be looking into other options in the near future as soon as our daycare days run up shortly! Poor pupper.
Anywho, go get yourself some panda bear visiting time before you never see them again! Time’s ticking!