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Unveiling 5 Fascinating Facts About the Philadelphia Zoo

In 2022, Philadelphia welcomed 444,200 international tourists and 39.8 million domestic tourists. There is a reason why this city draws people from all over. Each year, residents and tourists enjoy taking selfies with the Liberty Bell and exploring the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Zoo in Philly.

Zoos in Philly have it all; whether you are looking to get up close to an exotic bird species and animals, learn more about wildlife education, or pet a friendly farm animal, you can do it here at Philly Zoo.

1. America’s First Zoo in Philly: The Philadelphia Zoo

The Philadelphia Zoo is located in the neighborhood of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. It is the first U.S. zoo. It is world-famous for breeding challenging animals in captivity. The zoo also collaborates with various global organizations to safeguard the animals’ natural habitats under their care.

With a massive 42 acres, the zoo has nearly 1,300 animals, including numerous rare and threatened species.

Notable attractions encompass a petting zoo for children, a lake for paddle boating, a carousel with a rainforest theme, a ropes course, and various interactive and educational exhibits. This zoo is an absolute must-visit for those seeking to reconnect with nature and gain knowledge about wildlife.

2. History

The Zoological Society of Philadelphia was established in March 1859, but due to the Civil War, it got delayed and took 15 years for America’s first zoo to open. Finally, The morning of July 1, 1874, saw the first establishment of the Philadelphia Zoo in the United States.

The gates were open daily to more than 3,000 people who came on foot, streetcars, horse and carriage, and even steamboat. The zoo’s location and Frank Furness Victorian gates remain the same today as they were on opening day.

John Penn’s home, “The Solitude,” considered Philadelphia’s most precise and elegant expression of neoclassical style, is also one of the zoo’s assets. Dr. William Camac, a prominent Philadelphia physician, led the way to making the zoo a reality.

The zoo had 813 animals and received over 228,000 visitors in its first year alone. Back then, admission was 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children, a rate that remained unchanged for the next 50 years

3. Philadelphia Zoo Indoor And Outdoor Exhibits Of Zoo Animals

The Philadelphia Zoo holds numerous other achievements, such as being the first U.S. zoo to have humans witness the birth of orangutans and chimps in 1928, establishing the world’s inaugural children’s zoo in 1957, and the first-ever exhibit to introduce white lions in the United States in 1993.

This zoo in Phily encompasses 42 acres of land, which are filled with various indoor and outdoor animal exhibits, each designed to provide visitors with an up-close and personal experience. It offers many unique and interactive exhibits like Bear Country, Penguin Point, Outback Outpost, Small Mammal House, Reptile and Amphibian House, and more.

3.1. African Plains

Enter the vast expanse of the African plains and greet some of the Zoo’s most colossal species in terms of height and weight.

African Plains is the dwelling place of a white rhino that thoroughly enjoys being brushed, a group of giraffes that tower above the rest, and a pair of bathing beauties, all guaranteed to bring smiles to your safari.

The zoo has a group of giraffes – Gus, Stella, and Abigail – who are always favourites among guests. Southern white rhinoceros and plain zebras are included and are part of the main attractions in this zoo exhibition.

3.2. Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo And Faris Family Education Center

The Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo & Faris Family Education Center, also known as KidZooU, is an award-winning wildlife academy that combines a global education centre with a children’s zoo that provides an intimate experience with animals.

KidZooU has indoor and outdoor activities, including interactive exhibits, chances for practical learning, and a variety of unique animals, such as goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, and the Huacaya Alpaca, sure to captivate children of all ages.

3.3. McNeil Avian Center

The center presents guests with an immersive experience that combines live animal exhibits, replicated natural habitats, interpretation, and audiovisual media. This captivating setting not only preserves the iconic Bird House of the Zoo but also introduces new interiors and exhibits, including a breathtaking free-flight tropical forest environment.

The main focus of interpretation revolves around the astonishing diversity of bird behaviours and capabilities, as well as the conservation of avian species and their homes.

The exhibits within the aviary showcase a range of settings, from the African savanna to the Pacific islands, a tropical rainforest, and even a Central American shade-grown coffee plantation.

visitors can also embark on an extraordinary journey through a multimedia object theatre, which takes them along the migration route between South America and the Delaware Valley.

Main Street played a crucial role in the interpretive master planning of the Avian Center, as well as the development and design of the interpretive exhibits and experiences.

3.4. PECO Primate Reserve

This state-of-the-art, all-weather primate facility is geared toward conservation education, animal safety, animal accommodation, and husbandry management flexibility.

This primate facility is designed to focus on conservation education, animal safety, accommodation, and husbandry management flexibility. After a tragic fire in December 1995, the Philadelphia Zoo received overwhelming support to rebuild and protect its primate group.

CLR was chosen as the design firm after a nationwide search, and the new 2.5-acre facility, twice the size of the previous one, showcases eleven primate species, including gorillas, orangutans, gibbons, lemurs, elephants, and golden lion tamarins.

The PECO Primate Reserve is based on activity-based design and management, which combines behavioural enrichment, animal training, husbandry, and habitat to create an unforgettable experience for people to observe monkeys and apes up close and personal.

Visitors can enjoy the primates in bright, spacious community “day rooms” or expansive “immersion” forest environments.

The facility also features an arboreal habitat for orangutans and gibbons, which includes three preserved sycamore trees. The reserve is themed as an abandoned tropical sawmill converted into a primate rescue center and sanctuary, with scaffolds and cranes that provide varied climbing opportunities for the primates.

The theme is connected to international conservation projects through video with field researchers and other interpretive elements.

3.5. Zoo 360

Zoo 360 is an innovative accomplishment by the Philadelphia Zoo which was established in 2002 to revolutionize the way both people and animals experience zoos.

At first, it was introduced as treetops trails in 2011, this groundbreaking system offers a diverse range of options for animals to venture out and explore their surroundings. Over time, it has expanded to include remarkable features such as the Great Ape Trail, gorilla tree wave, big cat crossing, and meerkat maze.

Observing the animals through the Zoo 360 is truly captivating. Upon arrival, You have to train yourself to look upwards, as they have numerous species that actively engage with the system.

Honey and Kyra, accompanied by their young gorilla offspring, the orangutan family, lemurs, lions, and leopards, all utilize the trail system.

Remarkably, there is no need to instruct them, they instinctively comprehend its purpose and immediately become engrossed. They encounter various scents left by previous animals and leave their marks for those that will follow.

Each species becomes more at ease within the system, selecting their adventures and exploring diverse environments, which provides them with unique opportunities for sensory and behavioural experiences. This not only enriches their lives but also contributes to their physical well-being due to the increased activity it entails.

3.6. Big Cat Falls

The Philadelphia Zoo’s Carnivore area, Big Cat Falls, which has been recognized as the 2007 Exhibit of the Year by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, has undergone a remarkable transformation.

The previous static and outdated “cat-in-a-box” display has been completely revamped to offer people an engaging and educational encounter that closely emulates observing majestic big cats in their natural environment.

By introducing new pathways, Viewers are now guided through beautifully landscaped outdoor enclosures that house big cats like Amur leopards, pumas, Amur tigers, African lions, jaguars, and other magnificent big cats.

The existing structure of the Big Cat Falls has been skillfully modified to accommodate multimedia presentations and exclusive behind-the-scenes tours.

4. Philadelphia Zoo Conservation

Philadelphia Zoo has been Committed to Conservation and saving Endangered Species. The zoo aims to lead and support critical conservation projects in the field, encouraging and leveraging the power of thousands of visitors, and serving as an “ark” for threatened species, Philadelphia Zoo has played a pivotal role in a variety of conservation efforts across numerous species of animals.

Their Current Field Work includes the conservation of the golden lion tamarin, The zoo has established the New Nature Foundation, intending to inspire and educate young conservationists.

The Philadelphia Zoo’s renowned Albert M. Greenfield UNLESS Contest has empowered countless K-12 students to actively contribute to animal conservation. This year-long contest encourages students to develop practical solutions to environmental challenges they encounter in their daily lives.

In addition to its role in housing endangered plants and animals, including those that are extinct in the wild, and supporting global conservation efforts, Philadelphia Zoo also endeavours to foster empathy and understanding towards wildlife.

Programs such as the UNLESS Contest have motivated tens of thousands of students over the past decade to learn about threatened species and create impactful advocacy campaigns.

The UNLESS Contest has already yielded significant results, including the planting of hundreds of trees in Brazil, the collection of thousands of signatures in support of a wildlife bridge, and the generation of funds to assist dozens of our conservation partners in the field.

5. Philadelphia Zoo Event: LumiNature

Philadelphia Zoo event LumiNature is a truly magical experience that will delight and inspire guests of all ages, with custom-designed displays with added sparkle. With more than a million twinkling lights across 16 zones in the zoo, the holiday spirit will be running high.

Highlights include two new illuminated zones, Shimmer River and LumiNature Lane, along with the return of fan favourites like Penguin Prismatic featuring a 40-foot tall penguin glimmering with 40,000 lights and the 25-foot tall tree made entirely of 1,500-lit flamingos lawn ornament.

Shimmer River is a path through the jungle where guests enter a 100-foot tunnel filled with 4,000 lights, creating dynamic scenes from growing vines to blooming flowers, multicoloured kaleidoscopes and more surprises. The LumiNature Lane highlights and promotes local artist creativity through its event.

6. Hours And Directions

The Philadelphia Zoo’s functioning hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursdays through Sundays, with entrance accessible until 2:00 p.m. The general admission reservations are available until 1:00 p.m., and if you are a member, you do not require reservations.

For directions, it is situated at the intersection of 34th Street and Girard Avenue in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Visitors can utilize SEPTA’s bus and trolley routes to reach the Zoo, with public transportation available via the Route 15 trolley, Route 38 bus, and the seasonal Philadelphia PHLASH transit service.

There is no need to worry about a Parking slot, as it is readily available at the Zoo Garage at 35th and Girard Ave, Tiger Parking Lot, and Zoological Drive, with a cost of $17 per car for non-members. Handicapped accessible spots and van spaces are available in Tiger Lot and the Parking Garage.


The Philadelphia Zoo presents unique encounters and experiences with its diverse range of animal species, captivating attractions, and engaging activities.

This esteemed zoo holds a renowned status at the forefront of animal care facilities within Pennsylvania. So when you are visiting the city, I hope this article will convince you to visit the zoo and experience the zoo animals in their natural environment.

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