San Diego Zoo and Safari Park return draws thousands

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SAN DIEGO – One of San Diego’s best-known tourist attractions reopened this weekend, drawing in thousands of visitors for the first time since shutting its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials from the San Diego Zoo estimate approximately 6,000 guests showed up Saturday for the zoo’s reopening. It had been closed — along with SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland California and the USS Midway Museum — since mid-March, considered the first major hiatus in the world-renowned zoo’s 103-year history.

County officials announced the zoo could reopen on June 9, a decision which also included community pools, gyms, museums, galleries, aquariums, card rooms and wineries.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido also reopened this weekend.

But the park experience will be different for visitors. It’s now equipped with new health and safety protocols intended to keep both visitors and employees safe. Face coverings now are required for all visitors 2 and older; the number of guests on the grounds are being limited; and only some of the zoo’s dining and shopping areas will open for the time being.

Handwashing stations and social distancing markers also are scattered throughout the park.

Additionally, the zoo reopens with a new set of operating hours. It will be open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The zoo was not the only local entity to return this weekend. Officials gave the go-ahead for nail salons, massage and tattoo parlors and other personal care businesses to reopen Friday.

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