Backstage Peek: San Diego Zoo

Go in-depth and see how keepers interact with the resident beasties.

UP-EVEN-CLOSER: Backstage-y peeks and behind-the-scenes-style sessions existed long before cable shows ruled and the internet had caught our fancy (and eyeballs), but the modern era has seen a true flowering in opportunities to go a bit further and deeper outside of one's own day-to-day. Look up most any attraction or landmark or destination and you're bound to find some sort of tour describing how bottles are made or hotels are run or how the beasties get their morning chow. That last example, of course, is what you might see at an animal park, and one of the best-known on the planet boasts its own version of the get-more-knowledge tours that have become so very popular. It's the San Diego Zoo we speak of, of course, and the zoo's own Backstage Pass, which takes animal aficionados on a different sort of walk through the expansive Balboa Park grounds.

CHEETAHS, RHINOS, OH MY: The pass, which covers about 90 minutes and includes different areas of the zoo, puts the focus on a rhino feeding, conservation, and, wait for it, a cheetah-close photograph. When you call upon the rhino exhibit you'll have "the opportunity to touch and feed our gentle giant," and there shall be further "eye-to-eye contact with more of our exotic wildlife friends." Information on the animal park's work with conservation is part of the hour-and-a-half tour, too.

IF YOU NEED MORE BEASTIES... then there's another tour that should tempt: An early morning visit with the pandas. It's a separate ticket but also in-depth and up-even-closer. We say "up-even-closer" because you get pretty dang close already, as a zoo visitor. But those backstage-y peeks are pretty irresistible, especially when you need to know more about how a favorite place ticks.

WILL YOU MEET PALOMA, TOO? She's a wee sloth who is one of the stars of the Backstage Pass.

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