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We needed a break. It was a hot, sticky June day and after 2 hours of walking my daughter’s 3-year old legs (and attitude) were due for a little downtime. As we exited the Big Cat habitat, she squealed with delight.
Overhead, about half a dozen goats were strutting back and forth, bleating at the passersby. So, we made the detour into KidZooU and for the next hour or so, our daughter was in preschooler heaven. She took a few turns on the giant slide, played inside a giant indoor anthill, and brushed a few goats as they devoured their lunch.
The goats were the best part though. Sweet Pea actually followed one of the goats around the petting zoo yard, trying to convince it to stand still so she could brush it some more. It was really so precious to see her unwind and decompress. KidZooU was a fantastic break and only one of the nine reasons you really have to take your kids to the Philadelphia Zoo!
Our zoo trip was hosted but this is my independent review of the zoo.
1. Zoo360 Animal Exploration Trails
The most unique and coolest attraction at the Philadelphia Zoo is about 20 ft. up. The zoo has constructed animal travel systems for many of their larger animals (and some not so large) in order to feed their curiosity. Depending on your luck and timing, some of the animals you could see walking overhead include the big cats, gorillas, orangutans, many other monkeys, and the newest addition, Meerkat Maze.
2. First Niagara Big Cat Falls
This is a pretty great exhibit and it seems like the lions, tigers, and other big cats have a fairly large area to roam. What makes it great for visitors is the zoo provided several viewing areas (outdoors and indoors) so you can still see the Amur Tiger if he is trying to take a nap. Tip: When you enter this exhibit you will see a bunch of strollers lined up. We did this and had no problems. However, we also saw multiple strollers along the big cat falls route. So, you don’t have to park your stroller if you don’t want to.
3. PECO Primate Preserve
Like the Big Cat Falls, the PECO Primate Preserve does a great job of giving the animals room to roam, while also giving guests great viewing options. We were able to get pretty close to the Western Lowland Gorilla– albeit through a pane of glass. It is also fun to watch the smaller monkeys swing around and play. When we visited, the orangutans were in the middle of a family meeting. I think Dad lost the argument and wanted to hide.
4. African Plains
This section of the zoo is not as big as some zoos we have visited, but you won’t want to miss it because you will have a great vantage point to see the animals there. We were able to see the hippopotamus play with a log and then take a dip in the pool. Our 3-year old loved that! We also got pretty close to the giraffes, zebras, and rhinoceros.
If you are visiting with young kids, definitely plan to spend a little time here. There is a small playground with a big slide, a petting farm where kids can brush goats, and an indoor play area. I really appreciated this area because there are also lots of places to sit, and the indoor exhibits are air conditioned.
6. Bear Country
As with the other major zoo exhibits, the bears have a pretty great habitat and visitors can get a pretty great view of them. We were not able to see the polar bear on the day of our visit, but we had a lot of fun watching the Sloth Bear, Andean Bear, and Asiatic Black Bear playing.
7. Reptile and Amphibian House
We might have opted out of this zoo exhibit had it not started to rain. I am so glad we dipped inside for a visit though. We were treated to up close views of alligators, crocodiles, snakes of all sizes, and turtles.
8. Bird Valley and McNeil Avian Center
The McNeil Aviary alone boasts more than 100 species of birds. However, you can also get close to the beautiful flamingos, funny penguins, and imposing vultures. The highlight for this part of the zoo though was paying $3 for a cup of nectar to feed the lorikeets in the Lorikeet Encounter. These beautiful birds literally ate out of our hands. You can imagine that our 3-year old daughter was pretty excited about that.
9. Fun Kiddie Add-Ons
Definitely plan to spend a little extra on the fun additional activities at the zoo. There are quite a few of them. We opted for the Lorikeet Encounter, a ride on the Amazon Rainforest Carousel, and a couple laps around the lake on the Swan boats. You can also buy tickets for a zoo train, pony ride, draft horse ride, or camel ride. The biggest additional attraction though has got to be the Zooballoon. For $12 a ticket (or $40 for a family pack of four), you are treated to a 10 minute hot air balloon ride that ascends 400ft. in the air.
Know Before You Go
- The Philadelphia Zoo is accessible via the typical tourist buses. However, during the summer, you will have to get off at an early stop and catch a trolley to the zoo. This is because the tree canopy is fairly low and double-decker buses can’t safely drive through the park area.
- If you choose to drive, there is ample parking at the adjacent parking garage. The added bonus is that your car won’t be scorching hot at the end of a long day of walking. The parking will set you back $16.
- If you are local bring a stroller for any kid under 5 years old. If you didn’t travel with a stroller, you will want to rent a stroller at the zoo entrance for $10 a day. Trust me on this one– your kid(s) will be doing a ton of walking and by the end of the day you will be very thankful you don’t have to carry them.
- Tickets cost $23 for adults and $19 for kids over 2 years old.
- There are numerous dining options available on the zoo grounds. They are your typically mass produced-probably not healthy-great for kids options. You are also allowed to bring your own food.
- The zoo is large, but it doesn’t seem too large. There are lots of shady areas, not very many hills, and if you had to leave in a hurry it wouldn’t take long to walk from one end of the zoo to the other. Still– get that stroller for your preschooler.
- For more information, click on this link: http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/
Final Zoo Tips
- On the day of your zoo trip, aim to arrive as close to opening as possible. The zoo animals are much more likely to be out and active in the morning.
- Hot days are the worse– both for you and the animals. If it is a scorcher, consider postponing your zoo trip. Temperate weather is better for you and the animals are more likely to be out and happy as well.
- Bring water and plan to drink all the water you bring. You don’t want to get dehydrated.
- Bring a change of clothes for your kids. You just never know.
If you live in the greater Philadelphia area or if you are planning a trip to Philadelphia, you absolutely must plan a day trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. I promise it will be one of the highlights of your trip!
Thanks for reading!