Eat, Drink, and Be Wildly Merry This Holiday Season

It’s beginning to look—and taste—a lot like the holidays at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. From spectacular lighting displays to jolly entertainment, the Zoo and the Safari Park are decked out in their festive seasonal finery and are ready to spread the spirit of the season—and the joy of celebrating wildlife conservation. 


Jungle Bells, proudly supported by California Coast Credit Union, takes place on select days in December and January 1, 2024. The merriment begins just inside the Zoo entrance, where Jingle Brass sets the holiday mood with seasonal tunes on the Front Street Stage. The interactive fun of Reindeer Games also takes place at Front Street Stage for holiday activities and dances.

Aurora, the San Diego Zoo’s winter spectacular, is a highlight of our festive Jungle Bells celebration.

Since all that fun works up an appetite, it’s a good thing the nearby Sandwich Company will feature Chicken Pot Pie Soup and Safari Kitchen is cooking up Comet’s Chicken Sandwich to help quiet those rumbly tummies. Front Street’s Kettle Corn offers the sweet-and-savory Rudolph’s Red-Hot Popcorn; and Busy Bee Cafe will certainly be busy, serving tempting Santa Sweet Heat Wings and cocktails like the North Pole Breeze.

Busy Bee Cafe’s Santa Sweet Heat Wings will be on everyone’s “nicely spicy” list this year.

With its whipped cream vodka and blue curaçao mixed with pineapple juice, lemon juice, and simple syrup, the North Pole Breeze is holiday spirit in a glass. Since you’re this close to Wildlife Explorers Basecamp, take the time to revel in gold, copper, turquoise, and green lighting throughout, oversized ornaments hanging in the trees, holiday wreaths at the area’s entrance, and the appearance of a giant snowflake projected on the water globe. Watch for the prince of winter—our Jack Frost Juggler—as he shows off amazing skills juggling snowballs and icicles, bringing humor, fun, and a little magical winter chill.

More seasonal merriment awaits near Urban Jungle and Australian Outback, where light displays and festive décor offer the perfect backdrop for holiday photos. Enjoy an Apple Cider Spritz at the Boardwalk Beer Garden or a Pomegranate Salad from Sydney’s Grill while experiencing the hundreds of lights that cover the Boardwalk stage—as well as jolly entertainment including photo ops with costumed characters Dr. Harry and His Holiday Friends; the a cappella tunes of The Tinseltones; and the exciting acrobatics of Toy Shop Hop. Still hungry? Sabertooth Mexican Grill’s Snowdrift Churro and Holly Jolly Quesabirria are sure to please the palate, as are Treetops Bistro’s Gingerbread Churros. What goes nicely with those treats? Treetops’ Specialty Hot Chocolates, and drinks like a Peppermint Mocha or Gingerbread Latte from Zoo Brew. Albert’s Restaurant is brimming with holiday spirits—such as its Polar Bear Express Martini, which mixes vodka with a white chocolate liqueur, sprinkled with crushed candy cane. Another special sippable is Albert’s Ostrich OrnaMINT cocktail, a combination of maple bourbon, coffee, and simple syrup.

One sweet way to ward off the seasonal chill is with a Specialty Hot Chocolate at Treetops.

Make sure to find the way to Lost Forest, where Gingerbread Landing offers gingerbread-themed ornaments adornments and a gingerbread house complete with fun cookie décor pieces that make for festive holiday photo spots. Munch on a Gingerbread Churro available in the area. And no holiday excursion would be complete without a visit to Santa’s Factory at the Price Education Center, where the jolly ol’ elf himself awaits to hear wishes and take photos. This is also the place to hear classic seasonal songs by our strolling Holiday Troubadour.

Over at Africa Rocks, the Rady waterfall is cascading festively, accented with projected color-changing lights and snowflake effects. The Africa Rocks Stage is the setting for Dr. Zoolittle’s One Wild Night Before Christmas (you’ve never heard the story quite like this!), and the nearby Rocks Box snackery will have yummy, warm apple spice churros available. But save energy and room—the sights, sounds, and flavors of Aurora are coming your way! 

The Aurora Pathway Experience (encompassing Upper Center Street, Africa Rocks, and Lower Center Street)presents Aurora’s friendly sprites, symbolizing three elements of nature—wind, water, and ice—inhabiting these three areas of the Zoo pathways, engaging guests with spirited goodwill. Music, lighting, and special effects on these themed pathways lead guests to Hua Mei Plaza and the Aurora spectacular, where the fun—and delicious fare—continue. Sip Santa’s Cocktail (cranberry juice, Sprite, and vodka, with a touch of grenadine, topped with a maraschino cherry) at Bamboo Bar; or feast on Holiday Harvest Beef and Broccoli at Hua Mei Café.

The evening’s main event—the Aurora winter spectacular—brings lights, sound, live performers, and 3D video projection images, as it highlights the beauty of wind, water, and ice during two mesmerizing performances nightly. Families can get dinner at Hua Mei Café and enjoy the amazing performance. An Aurora VIP dining experience is also available.


Running select dates in December, Wild Holidays brings festive, seasonal fun and culinary delights to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Throughout Safari Base Camp, guests can get in the spirit via contemporary and classic holiday songs played by Safari Park Radio 197.2. This area is also home to the Wild Holidays Celebration Tree, and its sparkling lights and wildlife-themed decorations. Multiple times each evening, the village comes to life with seasonal merriment, as lights dance to a choreographed holiday music soundtrack for Light Up the Holidays. Ready for a treat? The Congo Kitchen has what is perhaps the pinnacle of seasonal sweets—a Holiday Churro with whipped cream, strawberry drizzle and festive sprinkles. Not to be outdone, Safari Coffee Outpost is ready to go nosh-to-nosh with any eatery, serving Holiday Nitro BrewPeppermint BarkHoliday Mini Doughnuts, and a variety of Gourmet Hot Chocolates. Of course, no holiday extravaganza would be complete without the man in red—Santa will have his spot in Safari Base Camp for photos up through December 25, and then it’s back to the North Pole for another year! 

The Enchanted Lagoon’s spectacular holiday lights glow and sparkle with holiday magic.

Nairobi Village is brimming with holiday cheer, beginning with the Safari Park’s own Safari Parker, who will share his “Twas the Night Before Wild Holidays” with guests in the Village Playground. In the mood for a festive sing-along? Our Holiday Troubadour and his acoustic guitar, also at the Playground, will add to the holiday feel. At Flightline Plaza, our violin duo—the Turtle Doves—will wrap seasonal music up with a “bow.” Keep your eyes open—and looking up—around Flightline Plaza and beyond, as the mesmerizing Firefly Stilt Walkers move about, casting their magical glow. The Enchanted Lagoon lives up to its name nightly, as Mombasa Lagoon comes to life with sparkling, flickering, floating holiday lights, adding seasonal ambience to the beauty of the lighted waterfall.

Wild Holidays Firefly Stilt Walkers dazzle and entertain around Flightline Plaza.

Holiday merrymaking is thirsty—and hungry—work, and there are plenty of delicious treats to enjoy around Safari Base Camp. Tuck into creamy Porcini Mushroom and Black Pepper Bacon Mac and Cheese; accompanied by Gourmet Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate at Thorntree Terrace. Or, savor the crunchy-and-creamy Onion Ring and Black Pepper Bacon Poutine and Gourmet S’mores Hot Chocolate at Mombasa Cooker. And for the ultimate sweet tooth’s sweet spots, the Oasis Deli is offering Festive Fresh Fudge, Peppermint Bark, and Gourmet Gingerbread Hot Chocolate; as well as Specialty Cocktails.

Spanning Safari Walk Bridge, the Bridge of Lights is a spectacular immersion of holiday glow and music that leads you into The Spirit of the Season, an immersive experience of lighted trees, holiday décor and magical touches at Tiger Trail, Sambutan Longhouse, Walkabout Australia, Zuest Woolshed, World Gardens, and Condor Ridge, offering spots for that perfect photo. At nearby Macan Market, you’ll forget all about sugarplums as you nibble delicious Peppermint Bark and Festive Fudge Cups; complemented by a cup of Gourmet Peppermint Hot Chocolate. Arbor Walk’s Forest of Color is another merry adventure, with its glistening lights, music, and amazing view of Condor Valley. More scenic photo spots await in the World Gardens’ Baja Garden, aglow with lights and holiday cheer. Guests strolling Walkabout Australia and World Gardens can catch a performance by Sweater Weather, a touring guitar-and-percussion duo playing fun, imaginative renditions of holiday favorites. Want to sip in between songs? Walkabout Australia’s Sheared Sheep is ready to serve you festive Specialty Cocktails.

The Safari Park’s Wild Holidays Ice Cream Sundae is the cherry on top of a festive visit.

Besides having a flair for celebrating the holidays, the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park have a lot in common, including a dedication to making every season special for the wildlife we care for. And you, our guests, are making this a wonderful time of year, as every one of your purchases helps support conservation and the Alliance’s efforts toward a world where all live thrives. For more information, visit