A Visit to America'a First Zoo – The Philadelphia Zoo #VisitPhilly

A Visit to America's First Zoo  The philadelphia zoo

In 1859, Philadelphia became home to America’s first zoo.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We also loved checking out the Small Mammal House, Bear Country and The Rare Animal Conservation Center during our visit.

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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.

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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.

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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.

About Taylor Nikaci

133 comments

  1. Patrice M Foster

    I am so happy you had a great time at the Philadelphia Zoo my hometown. The kids look like they had a great time. Love your graphic!

  2. bree west

    This zoo looks so fun! I love that they have all those different pathways for the various animals!xo Breehttp://bree-west.com

  3. yumeating

    I think that is pretty cool, too. When they build pathways they provide more exercise and experience for the animals. Thats a plus in my book.

  4. Candia

    Beautiful photos! I’m glad you had a nice time!

  5. Planet of the Apels

    That’s so cool that it’s the first zoo! I just won a zoo pass for the year from the library. I want to go this weekend.

  6. Liz Mays

    I didn’t realize it was the first zoo either. Pretty cool fact!

  7. toughcookiemommy

    I didn’t know that either. I would have loved to check out the exhibits when it first opened years ago.

  8. LifeAsAConvert

    It’s been way too long since we have been to the zoo. I really want to take my kids soon.

  9. Theresa

    Us too. Our zoo can be walked through in about 20 minutes, so we don’t go ever. Only when we get to bigger cities.

  10. toughcookiemommy

    I would love to visit the zoo in Philadelphia. We have our own local zoo sensation, the Bronx Zoo.

  11. irishred13

    I had no idea there was a zoo in Philly let alone that it was the first one. So cool being able to see the Polar Bears!

  12. Alli

    I didn’t realize that this was the very first zoo. I always enjoy visiting different zoos. I grew up going to Zoo Atlanta and always had the best time.

  13. LifeAsAConvert

    Me either. That is so cool. Now it makes me want to go there and check it out

  14. Claudette P. Esterine

    What a great day this must have been! So glad for you all!

  15. aimee (@HouseofFaucis)

    I’d love to visit the Philadelphia Zoo. We’ve been up North once and hope to go back one day.

  16. Liz Mays

    I totally love polar bears, so that would be my favorite part!

  17. Dogvills

    I love polar bears, too. It would be fun to watch them swim/bathe right in front of you.

  18. Shann Eva

    We love going to our local zoo. This zoo looks fantastic.

  19. Heather

    It is a great zoo. If you’re ever in Phili it’s a must!

  20. Shannon P

    I love taking my son to the zoo, but the Philadelphia Zoo is way nicer than the one we have locally!

  21. Crystal

    The closest one to us is all monkeys. I love monkeys and all, but it’s nice to get a variety.

  22. aimlessmoments (@AimlessMoments)

    We love zoos! I like that they have things for the animals to walk across above. We have never been to the Philly zoo but we do have a list of zoos we want to visit so going to add to the list.

  23. Nikki

    This zoo is on my bucket list, we were going next month in philadelpia zoo, Im sure my family would love it especially my kids.

  24. Theresa

    We want to make a drive out that way next summer. I am going to see if Jason will add this zoo to our list of stops. It really looks like you could spend a whole day there and never get bored (unlike our crummy zoo!)

  25. Shannon Gurnee

    I love going to the zoo! That zoo looks and sounds like an amazing place to visit! Thanks for sharing.

  26. Carolyn

    Wow, that looks awesome! I may take my family there after seeing this. Thanks.

  27. Elizabeth O.

    I don’t think I’ve ever been to any Zoos in years. This one in Philly looks really fun to go to! I hope the kids had a blast!

  28. Annemarie LeBlanc

    Wow! 1859 was when the zoo first opened? Amazing that they were able to maintain the zoo after all these years. Thanks for sharing. The pictures are lovely!

  29. Dogvills

    What a wonderful time you had at the zoo. It’s so nice that they were able to maintain it for so many years.

  30. Joanne T Ferguson

    I love the Philadelphia zoo! Visiting the zoo is always so much fun and is a family day to also make lifetime memories!

  31. kristimaloney

    Looks like a fabulous zoo. I love the shot of the polar bear – very cool!

  32. MJ L. commenting for Mommyhastowork

    When I lived in NJ we used to go to this zoo, love it!!!

  33. Heather

    The Philadelphia Zoo is the best. We live about 40 minutes away.

  34. Jeanette

    What fun! I would love to have the animals wondering around above my head. It’s a great way to get more interaction with animals in a safe way! I live a little far from here to get there, but if I ever get that way we will totally check into this.

  35. littlemisscant

    The zoo is one of my favourite places in the whole world!
    Actually I probably should have been a zoo keeper to be totally honest with you.
    I love the idea of animals wandering over my head.. what a neat way to interact!

  36. Catherine S

    This looks like a wonderful zoo. I would love to go up in the Zooballoon that is so neat.

  37. tiarasandtantrums

    thanks for all the background information about the zoo in your city. We have our own zoo here in Chicago too – we love going there!

  38. Jason Young

    My boy loves the zoo. Especially the elephants lions and monkeys.,

  39. Rose

    I like to go to the zoo. How cool that the zoo there had a polar bear exhibit!

  40. Sunny

    We have a similar animal experience in my local zoo with orangutans. I love that they can be more open and it creates a very fun experience for visitors.

  41. Debbie Denny

    Wow. That is awesome. I did not know it was the oldest. Fantastic trip for all ages.

  42. Amy Desrosiers

    I would love to visit this zoo too! It looks like a wonderful place to spend an entire day unlike the zoos we have around here.

  43. Jennifer

    I’d love to visit the Philly Zoo. I think it’s so cool that it’s a combination of seeing animals and seeing the first zoo in the U.S.

  44. Pam

    I love that they are letting the animals move around more! That has to be great for the animals and for the guests.

  45. Tonya

    The Channel 6 Zooballoon® looks like fun! The Zoo360 sounds like a great way to allow the animals to be more active. I’ve never been to the Philadelphia Zoo but I’m hoping to visit later in the year.

  46. Nicole Lutzy

    Wow that looks like an amazing zoo! I wish our zoo had such an extensive amount of animals as this one has! So much to see!

  47. 3sonshavei

    I didn’t know it was the first zoo. How fun!

  48. Kathy

    I would love to take my kids to that zoo. We love going to zoos! We are huge animal lovers, so it’s always exciting to see all the animals at the zoo. The Philadelphia zoo looks beautiful!

  49. Michelle F.

    It looks like an amazing zoo. We are lucky to have a great zoo here in the Bronx too and we love going.

  50. Jaime

    What a fantastic zoo! I’ve visited Philadelphia a few times, but haven’t had a chance to visit the zoo yet.

  51. Gentle Bim

    I think it’s so cool that the Philly Zoo is the first in the nation. I’d love to go there and see everything. Get in a little nature science and a little history at the same time.

  52. Claudia Krusch

    I love the Philly Zoo! My son grew up going there! It’s one of my favorites!

  53. Michele

    I had no idea that the Philadelphia Zoo was the first zoo in this country! I would love to go see it someday. With the 360 degrees going on it has to be magnificent!

  54. Scarlet

    Zoos are such a great educational opportunity and outdoor activity!

  55. upliftingfam

    This looks like a great zio. I like that the animals have the ability to go long distances. Thank you for sharing your family adventure.

  56. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle

    That’s kind of awesome! New England is so rich with history, even the zoos have a story!

  57. sign4baby

    I did not know that Philadelphia is home to the first zoo! That big cat crossing looks so cool. We love seeing the polar bears up close too. If we make it out to Philly with the kids I will want to take them here.

  58. socialite123l

    Wow .. the Flamingoes are really beautiful! I’ve always loved pictures of “Zoo Adventures” It seems you all had so much fun!

  59. Jeanine

    Although I’m not a fan of animals I captivity I absolutely love zoos. This one looks amazing. That giraffe is so gorgeous, I love these pics. Looks like you guys had a lovely time!

  60. Valerie Remy-Milora (@vremilora)

    What a fun day! The Philadelphia zoo looks like a fabulous place to enjoy rewarding family time! Our zoo in LA has gone through quite a few changes over the last few years and is a place we enjoy visiting with the girls.

  61. Aimee

    I had no idea that the first zoo what in Philadelphia. Looks like an awesome one! We are zoo lovers at our house!

  62. Alicia

    I’m about 6 – 7 hours from Philly. This looks like an awesome zoo! I would love to go there w/ our family sometime.

  63. Amber NElson

    That sounds like a lot of fun. We love to go to zoos!

  64. Danielle

    My son absolutely loves the zoo and all the animals. We get annual passes every year for Zoo Miami and when we need something to do, we head to the zoo.

  65. Dee Mauser

    I’ve never been to Pennsylvania but would love to go to Hershey Park sometime. And Sesame Place with my grandson.

  66. Christina Bhattacharya

    Wow! This looks like a great zoo. I have never been to PA but I’d love to visit sometime.

  67. Ashley Sears

    This looks like so much fun! I love going to the zoo. The animals are so cool so see, no matter how often I see them.

  68. Andrea @ Honestly Andrea

    What a nice place to visit! Love your photos!

  69. Sicorra

    Going to the Zoo is a perfect summer family outting. I haven’t been in years, and I certainly miss it.

  70. Nicole Lutzy

    Wow they have Cobra’s? That is really neat, we have never seen Cobra’s in real life before.

  71. shaunatorres

    I never knew this was America’s first zoo. Very interesting. Sounds like a great time… Our zoo here is very small…

  72. Autumn Blues

    Always had a soft spot for this zoo. It was the first zoo we took our son too. I have fond memories (except for the traffic going in, lol) of the Philly Zoo.

  73. Lisa Rios

    Visiting a Zoo with kids is always fun & exciting. Its great to hear that Philadelphia became home to America’s first zoo. The pictures are beautiful & I love that cute group of mongoose lemurs in Treetop Trail.

  74. Mistee Dawn

    I seriously need to make it here one day. We only live one state away. Not sure why we have not visited there, yet!

  75. Allie D.

    Looks like you guys had so much fun! My family loves going to the zoo and seeing all the different animals. That is how my daughter fell in love with monkeys, apes, and chimpanzees.

  76. erikaawakening962161059

    Looks like you can see some pretty amazing animals at this zoo. I like the overhead walkways, never seen those before.

  77. coolchillmom

    That polar bear shot is amazing! I thought you were going to talk about the DC zoo! That taught me

  78. Ricci

    I visited Philly recently but we didn’t have time to go to the zoo. Looks like y’all had a great time!!

  79. Donna

    The Philadelphia Zoo looks really great. We love to visit zoos.

  80. Ann Bacciaglia

    The Philadelphia Zoo looks like a great place to spend the day. We love going to the Toronto Zoo when we can.

  81. Crystal

    You got to see the cats catnap. It sounds like a great day even though it was hot!

  82. Autumn @Mamachallenge

    The zoo is such a fun place to visit! My children love seeing all of the different animals.

  83. Amanda

    How fun to see America’s first zoo. Chicago has two great zoos, one free and one not so free, and I would love to see others throughout the country.

  84. valerie

    This looks like a great zoo! We have so much fun visiting a zoo and seeing all the animals.

  85. censie

    When we go on vacations we like checking out the local zoo. It is fun to see how each zoo is set up differently.

  86. tammileetips

    What an amazing zoo! I have not been to this one before it looks amazing with big exhibits.

  87. Annemarie LeBlanc

    Revisiting your post again. I enjoyed looking at the photos and I couldn’t believe that this all started in 1859.

  88. Sabrina @ Dinner, then Dessert

    My kids love animals so they get so excited for zoo visits!

  89. toxict15

    I had no clue that Philadelphia was the first zoo in the US! Also love the picture of the polar bear

  90. misstywatson

    I haven’t been to the zoo in years. It sucks when your kids get older as they don’t like to do fun things like this anymore.

  91. Seattle Travel Blogger

    I am glad that you took a picture of that sign. I was really intrigued to learn that the Philadelphia Zoo was America’s first zoo!

  92. Aubrey

    Looks like a really fun Zoo. We haven’t been to a zoo in a long time.

  93. Rebecca Swenor

    Philadelphia Zoo sound like a great place to go for a family activity. I love that they have more than just the animals. Channel 6 Zooballoon ride sounds awesome and would be a lot of fun to try. Thanks for sharing.

  94. martsvalenzuela

    You sure had a great experience there! I love going outdoors and recently been planning to go on a safari trip. Glad to see this! Makes me more excited!

  95. rika

    Great zoo.. we have animal park and zoo in San Diego. My daughter loves animal, my hubby always bring her to the zoo once a month

  96. HopscotchNJellybeans

    Looks like you had a great time at the zoo! Wow I want to take my boys there.

  97. Ourfamilyworld

    We love going to the zoos and we hope to visit this zoo one day. I didn’t know that it was America’s first zoo.

  98. Chubskulit Rose

    That’s huge! The one closest to our place is Pittsburgh Zoo which is a beautiful one too.

  99. Marcie W.

    America’s first zoo, imagine that! The open trail areas and extended places for the animals to roam are great.

  100. Jesica H

    I love zoos! I never thought about where the first zoo was and to bring in over 1.35 million visitors in one year!!! Wow! Did it seem packed!?

  101. traceyzimmer

    I love the zoo! I always make it a point to visit the zoo whenever I am in a new city. This one looks great!

  102. Krysten

    Oh how fun! I love going to the zoo!

  103. Lynndee

    Now this reminds me of our trip to Zoo Atlanta. It is always fun to go to the zoo. I didn’t know Philadelphia Zoo is America’s first zoo though.

  104. Lena

    That is pretty upclose and personal – it is etiher I haven’t been at the zoo in a while or this is a pretty awesome one

  105. manicurator

    I haven’t been to the Philly Zoo in many many years and I don’t remember it having the Zoo360 when I was there! Time for a return visit!

  106. Amanda Ripsam

    I have some friends who live near the phily zoo. I have never been there myself I would love to get to visit philly some day and see the zoo.

  107. Erin

    You were so close to me! I live an hour from there! But would you believe I’ve never been to the Philly zoo? I need to change that!

  108. Shanéy Maharaj

    My daughter loves visiting the zoo, she’s obsessed with animals. We try to take her at least once a month.

  109. yumeating

    My step-mother-in-law was born and raised in Pittsburgh. She talks about the Pilly Zoo all the time. One of these days I am going to take a trip back to PA with her.

  110. lisa @bitesforbabies

    I think I’ve been to the zoo once…when I was a child! I think it’s about time I take my kids!

  111. Krystal

    I had no idea it was the first zoo. My son is all about fish and dolphins right now. Would love to see the monkeys though!

  112. Amanda

    I love that every time I come visit your blog I get to see your adventures. I swear I need to move where you live so I can see all these great experiences too!

  113. Dawn McAlexander

    I love being able to see animals. Zoos are always fun!

  114. Summer Davis

    We don’t have a very big zoo near us, just a tiny one called Zoo World. I love going to the zoo and you totally get bragging rights for going to America’s First Zoo! That’s pretty cool.

  115. Mykidsguide

    My family enjoys visiting the zoo. There is only one zoo in our place and it’s not really big. We would love to visit this zoo.

  116. melisasource

    Oh wow what a fun time! I hope to take my family there one day!

  117. HilLesha

    I love going to the zoo, especially different ones! I try to make it bit of family tradition to go to one at least once during the summertime.

  118. Bonnie @ wemake7

    Now that is a zoo! I would love to take my family there. We have a animal refuge here in our state but it’s pretty boring compared to this.

  119. Bradley Finnearty

    Sounds like a great time at an amazing zoo. i have heard so much about it but have not in in Phillie in many many years. Would love to go back.

  120. Rorybore

    what a brilliant idea to make quality of life even better for these amazing animals!! I love going to the Zoo, and I especially love it when I can see that the zoo itself is dedicated to taking care of these creatures in a responsible manner. This place looks just incredible! now I want to take a trip to our Zoo in Toronto again.

  121. Jonathan Key

    Wow I didn’t realize this was the first zoo in America! Looks like you guys had fun!

  122. Shell Feis

    Big cat crossing sounds amazing! The big cats {especially cheetahs} are my favorite part of the zoo.

  123. joychasing

    I live in Philly and haven’t yet been to see these new features. Maybe I’ll take my nephew.

  124. Debbie L.

    We love going to the zoo. I will put this zoo on my must see list while visiting Philly.

  125. Yona Williams

    When I visited the Philly Zoo, I learned that it was the first as well. I had to take a photo in front of the sign located by the entrance. When I went, they had LEGO sculptures of animals everywhere.

  126. Brandy

    This is great! I have only been to one zoo, Yorks Wild Kingdom, if you call that a zoo? I wish we had more around here to visit!

  127. Fariha N.

    I had no idea that The Philadelphia Zoo is America’s first zoo, that’s really cool! My kids love going to the zoo and I enjoy it as well, we are all animal lovers!

  128. Katarina K

    The Zoo looks amazing, I love that it is so educational. I always have great time when I visit one!

  129. Maria S.

    Out of all the zoos we have ever been to, this one is my favorite. It’s a part of history and it is just a special experience knowing that you are visiting America’s 1st zoo. I want to plan a visit now, lol.

  130. mmgmom

    I love visits to the zone. There is something so amazing about wild animals.

  131. Victoria

    This looks like it was a great zoo visit. Your photos are great too, they make me feel as though I was there.

  132. Adrienne

    What a fun family outing. I’m usually not a big fan of the zoo (me and smelly animals do not mix. hehe), but I’ve always wanted to check out the Philadelphia Zoo and the Chicago Zoo just for history sake. Glad you guys had a good time.

  133. Sarah Bailey

    What a fantastic sounding zoo – i have to say I do love looking around such places. x

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