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A zippy look at Wild Animal Park

August 04, 2010|By Cary Ordway, californiaweekend.com
(Photo courtesy:…)

Visitors who look skyward at San Diego's Wild Animal Park are now seeing more than the usual assortment of exotic birds. Up in the sky about six stories above the brown hillside is a new kind of flying species soaring overhead at about 40 mph, swooping to a sudden stop atop a platform the park has built especially for the species' arrival.

These creatures might logically be called the Smiling, Laughing Zip Line Riders because invariably that's what they do when they finish their breathtaking two-thirds-of-a-mile flight from a perch high above the hillside.

The Wild Animal Park's Flightline ride is attracting kids and adults of nearly all ages who want to try out the latest tourism craze. Zip lines are popping up all over California, from Catalina to historic Gold Country, and the state's leisure travelers are jumping at the chance to fly down a mountain with nothing but a wire and a pulley protecting them from a very unpleasant fall to earth.

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The zip lines are part thrill ride, part scenic adventure and can cost more than $1 million to build. But locations that have installed them are finding they have a wide appeal and give visitors just one more reason to visit their particular area. Catalina Island, for example, is heavily promoting its new zip line as a way to show travelers that, far from being stale, the island is always adding new activities to make a visit even more memorable.

The Wild Animal Park installed its zip line in spring 2009 and has seen a steady clientele paying the minimum $70 per person to fly. Other pricing options are available including packages with repeat rides and helmet cams for you to record your adventure. Keep in mind that about 30% of the price goes to wildlife conservation, so you know you're doing a good thing in addition to experiencing a unique ride.

We visited the Wild Animal Park and scheduled the 90-minute experience. The rides are scheduled throughout the day, usually on the hour, and during this particular Friday in July the ride was not overly crowded. There were no long lines and just a couple of other riders who would go with us during our timeslot.

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