Druid Hill Park, 410/366-5466,
HOURS: Daily 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
COST: $11 adult, $9 child, $10 senior
Located within one of the city’s largest parks (Druid Hill Park, to the west of Hampden), the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore was created by the state legislature back in 1876, and is America’s third-oldest zoo. The facility is in the middle of a major renovation, which means that some animals (like the reptiles) had to be given to other zoos; the newly refurbished sections that have re-opened have been a hit with visitors.
Recently, most of the attention has gone to the African Journey exhibit, which welcomed a new member to its herd in 2008: Samson, an African elephant, and the zoo’s first elephant birth (weighing in at a svelte 285 pounds).
A list of the most popular attractions and habitats should start with the Polar Bear Watch, where visitors take in the watery residence of bears Magnet and Alaska from an arctic-style buggy. Guests can also take a camel ride, tote their little ones to the Maryland Wilderness and Children’s Zoo (where they can pet African pygmy and Nubian goats), or listen to a zookeeper discuss the details of one of the zoo’s more than 1,500 inhabitants. There’s even an overnight family campout in the spring, complete with campfire and nighttime exploration of the park.
Some insider tips: As the zoo covers more than 160 acres of “natural” environments, full of water and animals, it’s a good idea to wear bug repellent if you’re visiting during Baltimore’s  warmer, more humid months (May–Sept.). And the African black-footed penguin exhibit (at Rock Island) is best seen in the early morning, when the animals awake for breakfast.