I have vivid childhood memories of this place when the MO was to tour all of the animal exhibits in your own private vehicle. I remember when a giraffe stuck it’s head in the front passenger window and licked Grandma’s glasses right off her face! A few minutes later, an elephant dropped a huge rock on the hood of Grandpa’s Buick (and I heard a new range of vocabulary that I didn’t hear again until I joined the military). Now THAT was a vacation!
Not surprisingly, the Wild Animal Park stopped that practice and started operating a train within the park to shuttle tourists between animal enclosures (which were really vast expanses of natural habitat). This is the way I saw the park last time I visited - about 10 years ago - and this was what I was expecting this time. But not so. Now you WALK everywhere which would be fine if that was an ordinary zoo but it's not. You have to hike between exhibits "safari style" and you better bring good shoes and a camelback. Heck, an actual camel might be handy!
About 1/3 of the park is compact and flat and pretty easy to navigate comfortably due mostly thousands of feet of misting hose operating at max PSI to kiss your parched face as you pass by.
The other 2/3 (where 95% of the animals are) are like the Sahara desert, no shade, and littered with the bleached skeletons of a few unlucky park patrons who were unprepared for the rigors of the journey. No kidding, we hiked sixteen miles to take a 25 minute "Journey to Africa" ride (which was really good) and then we pushed 100 pounds of creaking stroller and sweaty, complaining, children up a 90 degree incline to get back.
After that ordeal, we decided to do a quick 4D show hosted by ZooWerks: "See the world through the eyes of an animal", at significant additional cost. As it turned out, the animal in question was Sponge Bob Square Pants and the "ride" involved being strapped into a cold hard chair and being shaken like a Bond martini for eight agonizing minutes. Naturally, the girls loved it.
Due to our Sponge Bob detour, we missed the start of the Elephant show and weren’t allowed to enter the amphitheater so we bought a big fat ice cream sundae and watched from a shady spot on the road above. Not a bad concession. A little while later, we returned to the same amphitheater to see an Africa show that was amusing but, oddly, didn’t involve even one single animal. No complaints though! The kids enjoyed it!
The girls slept in the van all the way back to the hotel and we extended the 30 minute trip by returning to Carlsbad via La Jolla. We didn’t get out of the van but that city looked really beautiful and we’d like to return someday.
After getting back to the hotel and cleaning up, we drove into Carlsbad and had a nice dinner then finished the day by letting the kids play on the beach. We didn’t have the camera with us so you’ll have to take out word for it that they were adorable and they loved it.