Costumed characters will delight young visitors at Centennial Plaza. // © 2016 San Diego Zoo
Feature image (above): This year marks the San Diego’s Zoo’s 100th birthday. // © 2016 Samantha Davis-Friedman
In 1916, San Diego physician Harry Wegeforth heard the roar of lions left behind after the Panama-California Exposition and thought to himself, “Wouldn’t it be splendid if San Diego had a zoo? I think I’ll start one.”
Wegeforth set out to create a sanctuary that connects visitors with animals from around the globe — from the endangered to the exotic— and today, the San Diego Zoo is among the top zoos in the world.
So, what’s new at the zoo, which this year is celebrating its 100th birthday?
First, there’s an all-new centennial show at Wegeforth Bowl that features video packages — including a countdown of the top 10 reasons to celebrate the zoo’s 100 years — and animal ambassadors that educate and entertain the audience. There’s even a special meet-and-greet opportunity with the animal ambassadors and their trainers at the end of the show, when the zoo’s crew of costumed characters performs on a colorful birthday cake stage in Centennial Plaza. There, kids and adults can join in singing the San Diego Zoo’s theme song, “You Belong in the Zoo,” and enjoy birthday cupcakes.
The zoo is also debuting a centennial-themed bus tour, starting with an all-new film experience in Centennial Theater at the bus depot. The film highlights the zoo’s exceptional efforts to save species from extinction through global conservation. On the 40-minute tour, guides will share stories about the zoo’s animal residents, as well as some fascinating history about some of the people who have shaped the zoo over the last 100 years.
Also new for the zoo’s big birthday year is the Nighttime Zoo experience, which will run from July 19th to Sept. 5th. The zoo will be open late with special entertainment, animal encounters and a dazzling evening procession. Nighttime Zoo will also include a centennial-themed show featuring live music and starring the zany Dr. Zoolittle.
When Wegeforth founded the zoo on Oct. 2, 1916, he dedicated it to all the children of San Diego. Because of that, kids ages 11 and younger will receive free entrance into the zoo during the entire month of October.
With more than 3,000 rare and exotic animals from around the world and all-new centennial activities and events, there’s no better time for families to visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
6 Exhibits to Check Out in 2016
To commemorate the San Diego Zoo’s 100th celebration, the following prominent Balboa Park institutions are becoming “Part of the Pride” with animal-themed exhibitions.
Museum of Photographic Arts: “Beauty and the Beast: The Animal in Photography” - This exhibit, which runs through Oct. 9, examines how diverse photographers feature animals in their work.
San Diego History Center: “The Lore Behind the Roar! 100 Years of the San Diego Zoo” - This interactive exhibit, which will run through this December, traces the zoo’s history, from a random collection of animals leftover from the 1915 Panama-California Exposition to one of the leading zoos in the world.
San Diego Museum of Art: “Ferocious Bronze: The Animal Sculptures of Arthur Putnam” - Through Oct. 11, 2016, visitors can see a collection of animal bronze sculptures rendered by Arthur Putnam (1873–1930), considered the greatest sculptor of California and best known for creating the Art Institute of Chicago's iconic bronze lions.
San Diego Natural History Museum: “Whales: Giants of the Deep” - At this interactive and immersive exhibit, which runs through Sept. 5, visitors will come eye to eye with life-size and scale models of whales.
San Diego Natural History Museum: “The Machine Inside: Biomechanics” - This exhibit, which will run from Oct. 8, 2016, until Jan. 1, 2017, also at the San Diego Natural History Museum, examines the machines inside every living thing that allow us to move and survive through natural engineering.
Timken Museum of Art: “Jan Brueghel the Elder: The Entry of the Animals Into Noah's Ark” - Court painter to Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella in 1609, Jan Brueghel studied the Archduke’s menagerie of exotic and unusual animals from around the world. This experience, and the story of Noah's Ark, provided the inspiration for this painting. The exhibit will run from Sept. 23 to Dec. 13.