400 W. Girard Ave., 215/243-1100
HOURS: Daily 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Mar.–Nov.,
9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Dec.–Feb.
COST: $17 adult, $14 child Mar.–Nov.;
$13 adult and child, free under 2, Dec.–Feb.
Founded in 1874, the Philadelphia Zoo, the oldest zoo in the country, has only recently joined the ranks of the very best. In the past decade, each year has brought new and increasingly exotic animals along with updated exhibits and attractions.
The latest and greatest is the Channel 6 Zooballoon (Apr.–Oct. weather permitting, $10 weekends and holidays, $8 weekdays). It takes visitors on an exhilarating 15-minute trip 400 feet above the ground for a 360-degree view of the city skyline and Fairmount Park. In addition to being a fun ride, the balloon offers a historical tribute to the first North American passenger balloon flight taken by Philadelphia pilot Jean-Pierre Blanchard in 1785; President George Washington was among the onlookers.
You could easily spend a whole day at the Philadelphia Zoo, with highlights that include watching the carnivores feed (11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) in Carnivore Kingdom, walking among flying birds in the Jungle Bird Walk, and hanging out with the primates in the interactive PECO Primate Center. Kids love to feed the animals in the Children’s Zoo and climb and play in the giant Treehouse ($1 admission).
The Philadelphia Zoo encompasses 42 acres in West Fairmount Park, complete with winding landscaped paths and historic architecture, including the country home of William Penn’s grandson. The botanical collections include more than 500 plant species and animal sculptures include Heinz Warneke’s giant Cow Elephant and Calf and Henry Mitchell’s popular Impala Fountain and Hippo Mother and Baby.
The long history of the Philadelphia Zoo includes 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).
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition