Most people go to the beach for spring break, but our family opted for a few days in the city of brotherly love. Philadelphia has tons of family friendly things to do including one our favorites, the Philadelphia Zoo.
All I can say is wow! America’s first zoo opened in 1874 and has an impressive array of rare and endangered animals. While there is a statue of African elephants, there are none currently at the zoo.
Highlights for our family was seeing a polar bear, giraffes up close, and laughing at the animals antics in the PECO Primate Reserve. If your child loves the program Zooboomafoo, the animal known as Coquerel’s sifaka, is in the Primate Reserve. A baby sifaka was born there this past January.
Since I knew the Amazon Rainforest carousel was only operating on a limited schedule, I made sure to take my daughter there first. The all-wooden, hand-carved and hand-painted carousel features endangered species found within the Amazon Rainforest. I’ve seen a lot of carousels and this one is the coolest I’ve ever seen. It moves slower than the average carousel which is great for small children, has safety belts and is just visually beautiful. At $3 per person, it is worth it.
For fans of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, the Philadelphia Zoo has a special presentation until October 31, 2012 titled “The Trail of the Lorax.” The interactive experience shares the message of the endangered orangutan. A lesson in saving wildlife and conserving natural resources are told through the trail which culminates at the Lorax Loft.
Children can explore the Orangutangle and learn how to make a hammock for the Lorax which is inspired by the orangutans home. Grab a pair of 3D glasses (provided by the zoo) and head for the trail to save the lorax and the orangutans!
The Children’s Zoo was the least impressive feature at the zoo to me. The Backyard Bugs exhibit was closed and the bunny village had only two bunnies inside. There is a neat Massey-Ferguson tractor to climb and a life-like cow for children to milk. A sad looking donkey and cow kept far away in their homes while the only animal you could feed was a sheep (the goats were not around).
Thankfully I had quarters because the only fun part was my child and I feeding a pool of ducks. Yes, it looked like they were swimming in a giant pool. Bathrooms with changing tables and first aid station are inside the children’s zoo. The zoo is currently building a new Children’s Zoo and Education Center which should be completed in April 2013.
Of the bathrooms we encountered, there wasn’t a traditional changing station, but there was a table where this would be allowed. The majority of the zoo is stroller accessible and strollers are also available to rent.
To save money, we brought our own drinks and snacks. Concession stands offer the usual fare, but there was a healthy options cart selling wraps. Many of the stands closed two hours before the zoo closing which disappointed some patrons. There were plenty of seating areas throughout the zoo to enjoy lunch.
Many children wore painted faces of zoo animals. Thankfully, my child declined the $6 face painting. A watercolor art kiosk sells animal prints with your child’s name for a reasonable $5. There are a couple retail shops that sell candy, bottled water and a great selection of zoo souvenirs.
The Philadelphia Zoo is open daily except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. In season, they are open March 1 to Oct. 31 from 9:30am to 5pm with shorter hours during the off season. We avoided the lines by purchasing admission, carousel and parking tickets online.
The cost to enter the zoo is free for children under 2, $15 for ages 2 to 11 and $18 for everyone else. Off season ticket prices are slightly lower. Active military receive a $2 discount per ticket, but tickets must be purchased at the box office with proper id. Parking is $12.
The zoo is like an amusement park with more to see than the zoo itself. Activities that incur extra fees are the carousel, lorikeet feeding, camel rides, draft horse and pony rides, express train, swan paddle boats, panning for gems, and the zoo balloon. The operation of activities varies so be sure to check in advance.
To sum it up, we loved our visit to Philadelphia and loved the zoo! We are already planning another trip because we didn’t get to see enough of this great city.