Philadelphia Zoo

The Philadelphia Zoo, located in Fairmount Park on the Schuylkill River, was the first zoo established in the U.S. Built in 1859, the official opening was delayed until 1874 due to the Civil War. Today, the Zoo is considered the major family attraction in Philadelphia, with over 1.1 million visitors each year. The 42 acres of Victorian gardens and historical architecture are home to more than 1500 animals, many of which are rare and endangered species. The Zoo focuses on survival and breeding in captivity, and visitors can observe the animals in their natural habitats.

Monkey Junction, an exhibit of Brazilian black spider monkeys, is the first attraction as you enter the Zoo. Then, on to the Peco Primate Reserve, 2.5 acres of indoor and outdoor cages of 10 species of primates, including Sumatran orangutans, gorillas, lemurs, and gibbons. The next attraction is Big Cat Falls, the $20 million exhibit that opened in 2006, featuring 12 endangered species including the snow leopard, cougar, and black jaguar. Further along, we come to the Dodge Rare Animal Conservation Center. This Center has some of the world’s rarest animals such as the Rodriguez fruit bats, naked mole rats, tree kangaroos, and blue-eyed lemurs. From here, we discover the Reptile and Amphibian House, with over 125 species of turtles, snakes, and other amphibians, and Carnivore Kingdom, the habitat of red pandas, leopards, and giant otters. The Zoo also features African exhibits of warthogs, antelope, gazelles, and zebras. Rare South American animals are represented with giant anteaters and capybaras, the semi-aquatic, herbivorous largest living rodents.

The Birds of Australia is a free open-air exhibit of tropical birds such as lorikeets and lorries, tame enough to eat from your hand or perch on your shoulder. While Humboldt penguins and Caribbean flamingoes live at Bird Valley, the 500-lb Galapagos and Aldabra tortoises spend their summers on the outdoor turtle trail at the Zoo. Mommy, one of the oldest living tortoises in the U.S., has resided here for 70+ years. Bear Country is a habitat of pools and waterfalls for black, sloth, and spectacled bears. Another favorite at the Zoo is the Prairie Dog exhibit, an 8-foot deep underground network of tunnels and chambers.

Dodge Wild Earth is an adventure-packed safari ride, where passengers can observe cheetahs, rhinos, and hippos through 3D projection screens. Safari tour guides relate animal facts and survival challenges, while riders experience a simulated trip across the African plains. In addition, there are camel and pony rides, talking storybooks, and the PZ Express, a Victorian style train ride through the Zoo. Children can pan for gems in chutes and waterfalls, or plant, play, and search in their own Wild Backyard. Here, they will learn about native Pennsylvania plants and flowers, help assemble a birdhouse, and participate in hands-on garden planting. The Tastykake Children’s Zoo has a special petting yard with farm animals, a bunny village, and backyard bugs. Families can enjoy interactive daily animal shows, watch macaws, porcupines, and owls in two exercise yards, or have ice cream and cake on the outdoor patio of the Tastykake shop. There are other recreational activities for everyone such as the Channel 6 balloon ride 400 feet above the Zoo for a view of the River and the Philadelphia skyline. Visitors also enjoy rides on Victorian swan boats (a type of paddleboat invented by Robert Paget based upon Wagner’s Lohengrin opera) and informative zookeepers’ talks.

The Philadelphia Zoo fulfills its mission of preservation and protection of wildlife locally, regionally, and throughout the world. It sponsors numerous research projects such as the Laikipia Predator Project in Kenya, a project for the protection of lions, jaguars, and other endangered big cats in Africa. It is recognized and renowned for its dedication as a zoological society and for its outstanding animal and hospital care facilities.

Hours: Open year-round, 9:30 a.m. — 4:30 p.m., except Thanksgiving, December 24, 25, 31, January 1, and the 2nd Thursday in June.
General Admission: Adults – $16.95, Military – $14.95, Children 2-11 – $13.95.
Additional fees: Zoo balloon: $10.00 weekends, $5.00 weekdays. Swan boats and safari rides: $5.00 and $3.00, respectively. Train rides: $3.00.
Parking: $10.00/per vehicle.

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