In 1859, Philadelphia became home to America’s first zoo.
The Philadelphia Zoo sits on 42-acres of land and is home to more than 1,300 animals, many of them rare and/or endangered. With animals such as Cheetahs, hippos, giraffes and so many more, the Philadelphia Zoo is one of the leading family attractions in the city and it brought in over 1.35 million visitors last year alone.
One of the things I love the most about the Philadelphia Zoo is that has focused on educating the public about exotic animals and that it actively promotes and participates in worldwide conservation efforts for endangered wildlife. The zoo features many state-of-the-art animal exhibits and that is one of the reasons they truly stand out.
My family has been to our fair share of zoo’s over the years, but the Philadelphia Zoo featured something none of us had ever seen before. It’s called Zoo360 and it’s a campus-wide network of see-through mesh trails affords more opportunities for animals to roam around and above Zoo grounds. Zoo360 is the first of it’s kind at any zoo worldwide.
There are several components of this innovative experience open: Treetop Trail, Great Ape Trail and now, Big Cat Crossing, and Gorilla Treeway with more on the way. The trails link existing animal habitats, so animals with similar habitat requirements can utilize each other’s spaces in a time-sharing system, and take advantage of having more room to roam. New destination exhibits will be created and designed to accommodate all of the species that would use each trail type. Zoo360 enhances the visitor experience, creating a more dynamic engagement as animals move 360 degrees — along, above and across visitor pathways. Yes, you can really watch the animals walk right above you.
Zoo360 benefits the animals by offering more opportunities for long-distance travel, greater variety in their environments and an increased ability to determine their own experiences. Similarly, Zoo360 enhances the visitor experience, creating a more dynamic engagement as animals move 360 degrees — along, above and across visitor pathways.
Treetop Trail is an elevated trail for small primates like the red-capped mangabey, black and white colobus monkeys, white-faced sakis, blue-eyed lemurs and mongoose lemurs, who love to travel and explore among the treetops.
The Great Ape Trail is another pioneering pathway, but for much bigger primates, at PECO Primate Reserve! This innovative rectangular network of flexible stainless steel mesh connects to the orangutans’ outdoor yard, enabling them to travel and explore outside of their usual home, crossing 16 feet above visitor pathways.
Big Cat Crossing is a 330-foot mesh-engineered overhead passageway, extending from First Niagara Big Cat Falls, above the Zoo’s main visitor path, encouraging large felines – lions, tigers, pumas, jaguars and more – to stretch their legs and explore.
Gorilla Treeway is a 300-foot mesh engineered overhead passageway extending 12 feet above the visitor path from PECO Primate Reserve, encouraging magnificent Western lowland gorillas to explore among the trees and expand their world.
Extensions with both elevated and ground-based components will be built for use by larger animals including gorillas and bears, as well as a fully ground-based trail for hoofstock including rhinos, hippos, giraffes and zebras will be implemented in 2015 and beyond.
Zoo360 wasn’t the only thing we loved at the Philadelphia Zoo, though. My boys truly loved spending time inside the Mc -Neil Avian Center, where they were able to discover over 100 beautiful birds from around the world, many of which are rare and endangered.
The Reptile and Amphibian House, which is a state-of-the-art facility exhibiting more than 100 species of reptiles and amphibians like king cobras, anacondas, rattlesnakes, giant tortoises, alligators and poisonous dart frogs, and more was also a favorite with my boys. We spent a lot of time in there looking at the different animals.
Our family also really enjoyed the African Plains, which is home to a white rhino, zebras, giraffes and hippos.
The PECO Primate Reserve, which features two-and-a-half acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits was also interesting to explore. That exhibit houses some of the world’s most endangered primates. We got to see gorillas, Sumatran orangutans, white-handed gibbons, black and white ruffed lemurs, golden lion tamarins and more.
The day we visited, it was really hot, so when we walked through the First Niagara Big Cat Falls, literally every big cat was asleep.We got to see snow leopards, pumas, Amur tigers, two prides of African lions, jaguars and Amur leopards, but again, they were all taking cat-naps that day.
We also loved checking out the Small Mammal House, Bear Country and The Rare Animal Conservation Center during our visit.
In addition to all the amazing animals at the zoo, they have some really fun attractions including swan boats, a carousel and camel & pony rides (they all cost extra, though). My little one was absolutely fascinated by the Channel 6 Zooballoon(R). It elevates above the zoo to heights of 400 feet so that people can enjoy spectacular views of Fairmount Park and the Philadelphia skyline. The tickets are $15 per person and the voyage last approximately 10 minutes. We didn’t do it because we just didn’t have time, but it’s on our list if we ever make it back to the Philadelphia Zoo.
The Philadelphia Zoo is open every day of the year except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. March through October the hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. November through February, it’s open 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Prices from March through October: Adult $20 Child (age 2-11) $18 Child (under 2) are free. Prices from November through February Adult $18 Child (age 2-11) $18 Child (under 2) are free.
The Philadelphia Zoo is located at 3400 W Girard Ave in Philadelphia, PA.
**Disclosure: My family and I received complimentary admission to the Philadelphia Zoo. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own and were not influenced in any way.