Travel Responsibly: As the region recovers from COVID-19, safety guidelines have evolved at attractions, restaurants, shops and hotels. Advance tickets or reservations remain recommended or necessary at many spots. Your best bet: Check online or call ahead.
One of the best laid-out zoos in the country, the Philadelphia Zoo is set among a charming 42-acre Victorian garden with tree-lined walks, formal shrubbery and animal sculptures.
America’s first zoo and a foremost conservation organization, the attraction is home to nearly 1,300 animals, many rare and endangered.
The zoo has a first-in-the-world animal travel and exploration train system, Zoo360, enabling primates and big cats to move above and across the main visitor pathway.
Additional exhibits include Big Cat Falls, the McNeil Avian Center, the PECO Primate Reserve and KidZooU, an interactive wildlife academy of dynamic displays, rare breeds and indoor-outdoor learning.
In addition to its animals, the zoo is known for its historic architecture, which includes the country home of William Penn’s grandson, its botanical collections of over 500 plant species, its groundbreaking research and its fine veterinary facilities.
The nation’s first zoo was chartered in 1859, but the impending Civil War delayed its opening until 1874.
The zoo has garnered many additional “firsts,” including the first orangutan and chimp births in a U.S. zoo (1928), the world’s first children’s zoo (1957) and the first U.S. exhibit of white lions (1993), among others.
With its fascinating Zoo360 initiative, which offers a pioneering animal travel exploration trail system, and other innovations, Philadelphia Zoo is positioned to keep making history as it presses its forward-thinking philosophy of habitat and exhibition.
Want to see animals on the move?
Thanks to Zoo360 — dubbed an “animal exploration trail experience” — guests can observe tigers, orangutans, lemurs and other animals explore above their heads and around the zoo via see-through mesh trails.
Visitors can observe animals on the move thanks to the Philadelphia Zoo's Zoo360 trail exploration network.
— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia
This is another first — both at America’s first zoo and in the world — and continues the zoo’s commitment to excellence in animal care and to inspiring guests to conservation action.
Big Cat Falls
The pride of the Philadelphia Zoo, KeyBank Big Cat Falls, home to felines from around the world, opened in 2006. The lush exhibition features waterfalls, pools, authentic plantings and a simulated research station for aspiring zoologists.
Lions, leopards, jaguars, pumas and tigers are the star attractions.
KidZooU: Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo & Faris Family Education Center is an L.E.E.D.-certified indoor/outdoor children’s zoo boasting a barnyard where kids can pet and brush sheep, mini-horses, goats, chickens and ducks and an indoor education center and wildlife academy teeming with coral reef fish, colorful parakeets, desert ants and many other species.
The Philadelphia Zoo is also the world's first children's zoo.
— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia
Kids learn how saving energy saves wildlife at the action stations, and they burn off some of their own energy on play equipment, climbing ramps and spheres.
PECO Primate Reserve
As you approach PECO Primate Reserve, imagine for a minute that a group of primate conservationists have taken up residence in an abandoned timber mill to help save primates from around the world.
All over the two-and-a-half acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits, you’ll hear the stories of real people who dedicate their lives to saving some of the world’s most endangered primates and see orangutans, gorillas, gibbons and more.
McNeil Aviation Center
The McNeil Avian Center incorporates walk-through habitats where visitors can discover dozens of spectacular birds from around the world, many of them rare and endangered.
WildWorks Ropes Course
People of all ages can see the zoo from new heights from the WildWorks Rope Course that debuted in 2019. Visitors can go on an aerial adventure 34 feet above the zoo, climbing ropes, crossing bridges and tackling obstacles along the way — all while safely harnessed.
Opened in 2019, the WildWorks Ropes Course allows guests to take part in a high-flying adventure at the Philadelphia Zoo.
— Photo courtesy Philadelphia Zoo
The Philadelphia Zoo is open daily, year-round.
The zoo has several parking lots, as well as a four-story parking garage. Public transit is also a great option; SEPTA buses stop within blocks of the zoo. For stops and schedules, visit Septa’s official website.
You can also reach the zoo via the Phlash shuttle when it is in season.
Tickets are available at the gate or in advance online. Group tickets and membership options give animal-lovers an opportunity to visit again and again.
For more information on the Philadelphia Zoo, click the button below.
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for a rewarding getaway in one of 2021’s top destinations, per Condé Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Esquire and more.
The exclusive deal — booked more than 175,000 times since 2001 — includes buy-one-get-one-free attraction tickets purchased at the Independence Visitor Center to 33 of Philly’s iconic museums and attractions and free hotel parking (worth up to $100 in Center City Philadelphia).
The ocean’s secrets revealed at Camden’s riverfront aquarium...