Hi! I’m Gina from famiglia&seoul! If you live in Southwestern Pennsylvania or are just passing through, I highly recommend that you visit the area’s zoo. The Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium is located right in the heart of Pittsburgh. If your children enjoy making a connection to animals, they will love the many experiences this zoo has to offer. Upon entering the facility, there is a huge lot to park in and the best part is, it’s free! Hours for the zoo vary based on season and can be found on the zoo’s website, but we decided to go early in the morning to get the most out of the day. (Please note: They are closed on June 1st and July 27th for special events.) Rates also vary by season. For the summer months the current ticket pricing is $14 for adults, $13 for seniors, $12 for kids aged 2-13, and FREE for under 24 months.
My family and I originally decided to head to the zoo with our toddler for some quality family time. It was perfect for this little explorer. The main attractions are split into seven “worlds” of adventure – The African Savannah, Bears, Water’s Edge, Asian Forest, Kid’s Kingdom, PPG Aquarium, and Tropical Forest.
What’s great about these separate exhibits are that some animals are outdoors and some have indoor areas. That is perfect for those hot summer months when you need to get out of the sun for a bit. For preschooler aged children and older, you can buy a $2 zoo key when you enter the park and unlock fun narrations in a box located at most exhibits. It’s a great way to incorporate learning during your stay. As a toddler, my son could only share is excitement through his expressions, but we could tell that the Kid’s Kingdom was his favorite. They have several different animals located in a “walk though” exhibit and a petting section. The kids actually can get up close and personal with a few animals that they don’t see every day.
For those of you with kiddos that are past that toddler stage (2-8 to be exact), they have an amazing play area with otter and penguin slides, as well as a spider climb that consists of rope ladders for the littles to enjoy! With adult supervision, of course.
After having some fun in the Discovery Zone for kids, we marched on to see the animals from other countries. Most exhibits were situated in ways that the critters were easy to spot. Several had glass walls or openings on different sides so that you could get varied views based on where the animals may be resting. All through the park were nice, wide paths that you could follow easily with signs directing you towards each new adventure. If your little ones get tired of walking, the park does allow families to rent wagons and jeeps at a price of $6-8 respectively. Once you pack up those wagons, you could begin the second leg of your tour in the Asian forest and observe the majestic tigers right away.
The family could even stroll along the Water’s Edge to see otters and polar bears through underwater viewing tunnels both in and outside. Close by is the Tropical Forest with indoor enclosed shelters that kept the animals is separate glass homes. As you walk through, you can read about what life is like in their natural habitats and see them interacting with each other in their groups. Once you leave this area, there is an outdoor exhibit that allows the gorillas to come and go as they please.
During our visit to the zoo we saw signs explaining that they were revamping the Bears section, so almost every bear was relocated into the buildings that were not available to the public. Bears are one of our favorites, so we will definitely be going back once they have remodeled their grotto. However, there was still a lot to see like the wildlife in the PPG Aquarium. Several colorful fish littered the tanks for you to view and penguins frolicked in the ice enclosure. My son’s favorite was the stingrays because as they swam, their bodies fanned out and glided gracefully through the water. At the end of the aquarium tour is a gift shop with trinkets at fairly reasonable prices.
Before we left, we stopped at one of the three eating venues in the park. The Safari Plaza Restaurant had a lot of choices and good portion sizes for the whole family – even those of us that are vegetarians. Most sandwiches (including veggie burgers) and sides ran anywhere from $2.50-$3.50 unless you got a chicken basket for $5.95. There were several snacks such as popcorn, cookies, cotton candy, and whole fruit that was all under $2.00, with the exception of the cotton candy. Two other cafes are open in the zoo from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but the Safari Plaza certainly isn’t lacking. The lines were a bit long being the only eatery open, but they moved quickly!
Overall, we had a wonderful time. One of the workers did say that the zoo tends to be busy from the first warm day of spring, until the last cool day of summer, so arriving early really does help. We were also able to purchase tickets online, so we didn’t have to wait in line to enter the zoo at all. I would highly recommend stopping by the zoo’s website at http://www.pittsburghzoo.org/ to buy online tickets or to help plan your visit accordingly.