When we were planning our recent trip to CoCo Key for belated birthday celebrations for Nick, I found out that the Philadelphia Zoo was less than fifteen minutes away. So with two kids that are crazy about animals, all of them, it was a given that we had to squeeze a visit in.
I mean, really.
The zoo was pretty simple to find. Much easier than finding that Liberty Bell. But the parking situation? Like whoa. The lots are quite a ways down the street from the zoo, and the later you arrive, the further away you park. We probably walked a good three-quarters of a mile from our car to the entrance. And it’s a fairly busy street that you’re walking along, and have to cross.
So my tip for you? Get there early. ‘Nuff said. But the happy footnote on the parking situation is that they’re in the process of building a parking garage right next to the zoo, which is due to be completed in the Spring of 2013. Which is all sorts of awesome.
Whether you visit the zoo then, or before, don’t let the parking deter you from going.
Because the zoo is seriously one of the most beautiful zoos we’ve been to. Such gorgeous habitats for the animals around every corner.
The first big exhibit we visited was the reptile area (enclosed). The kids were enthralled, going from one glass case to another. I swear those diamondbacks just make me itchy. Well, they all do. Reptiles? Just not my thing. But the kids were transfixed, and that’s all I need. Their highlight of that section was undoubtedly watching the diamondback relieve himself. Um, ew. But, hey, memories.
We could have watched the tigers and the polar bears for hours. The zoo staff are all really well informed about the animals they’re showcasing, and we got quite an education. The tigers are a mother and daughter team, and two of only 30 of their kind. The daughter outweighs the mom by a lot. The way the exhibit was set up, the tigers get closerthanthis to you, with, thankfully, just a thick piece of glass separating us from them. We watched them circle and circle and circle their area. Such predators through and through. And then we watched the mom wade into the little lake area they have, poop, move a few feet forward and start to take a drink. Double ew.
Am I grossing you out yet? The staff member that was next to us while this was happening said he had hoped the zoo guests hadn’t seen that.
Yeah, me too.
We watched the polar bears sun themselves (it was a gorgeous day weather-wise), swim in the water, and just generally be lazy. It was hard to tear ourselves away. Seriously.
The landscaping is beautiful throughout the zoo grounds, with little bits of art here and there. While beautifully landscaped and maintained, we did get a bit lost while trying to hunt down some specific animals. That might be just me and my difficulty in reading maps while keeping track of four kids. I don’t think so, but you might need a popcorn trail just in case.
And speaking of food. Avoid the food at the zoo at all costs. Crazy ridiculously expensive. Either pack something and toss it into a backpack to bring with you, or go hunt down a traditional Philly cheese steak when you leave the zoo. Although one of the cafes we stopped at had beautiful floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking the habitat, it didn’t soften the blow of overpriced, overcooked chicken fingers.
Blech. I’ll take a polar bear any day.
And, of course, we couldn’t leave without getting another pressed penny to add to our collection.
3400 West Girard Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19104
We have a few more zoos and aquarium visits we’re hoping to cross off our list next year, including the Bronx Zoo, the Central Park Zoo, the Prospect Park Zoo (which we noticed on the way to the Color Run a few months ago), the Adventure Aquarium, and the Baltimore Zoo (where I heard you can hand-feed the giraffes! yes please!) to name a few – do you have a favorite zoo or aquarium to share?
So many of you emailed to ask how you could help after the devastation that Hurricane Sandy left … since we’re on the subject of animals, the New York Aquarium is one such place that could use help (though there are hundreds of other places). Their facility was completely flooded (read more about it here) and it will be months before they can open up their doors again (and you can bet we’ll be there to visit as soon as they do!). In the meantime, they are accepting donations to help them rebuild here.
Looking for more animal-related places to visit?
- Our visit to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk made for a fun day trip.
- The Cape May County Park and Zoo is another one of our favorites.
- Jenkinson’s Aquarium was a highlight of our Spring Break this year. Unfortunately that area was very hard hit by Hurricane Sandy (heartbreaking pictures here), but we were thrilled to find out that the Aquarium and the animals inside are ok, through the valiant round-the-clock efforts of their staff.
- The Turtleback Zoo is a local favorite, and they do a fun light show (and free admission) for select dates during the Christmas season.
Tomorrow? Details about the newest Arthur movie, which was just released last week.
Wednesday? A delicious recipe that is the perfect veggie nosh for your Thanksgiving day table (next week! ack!)