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13 Secrets to an Amazing Adventure at the Philadelphia Zoo

I believe our very first visit to the Philadelphia Zoo was back in 2009, when my boys were 1, 3, and 5. Ever since then we’ve been fans. Now they are 8, 10, and 11. We make a point to visit the Philadelphia Zoo at least twice a year. It’s always exciting to see what’s new and how this classic Philadelphia attraction has changed over the years. We still remember the elephants, the old children’s zoo, and Lego-inspired exhibits.  We were there when the first area of the Zoo360 Animal Exploration Trails opened. We couldn’t wait to see the new Children’s Zoo area. And on our visit this past week we were surprised and thrilled to discover the Meerkat Maze. Over this time, we’ve developed some secrets and tips that always help us make the most of our Philadelphia Zoo adventures.

Philadelphia Zoo dinosaur egg

Still one of my favorite pictures from the Philadelphia Zoo.

We gave you a sneak peak of some of our Philadelphia Zoo tips in this video, and you can see our special video my son was inspired to make even before we made our own. He kept walking around saying this, I finally said okay let’s make a video. That video is here on Instagram. Here’s the Philadelphia Zoo video my oldest help me make.

Whether you have yet to make your first visit to the Philadelphia Zoo or you’re a veteran visiting the zoo several times a year, these tips will help everyone have a great time.

Secrets to an Amazing Adventure Philadelphia Zoo

13 Secrets to an Amazing Adventure at the Philadelphia Zoo

  • Arrive early, stay late ~ The Philadelphia Zoo is a popular Philadelphia destination for school trips and visiting families. To have the best experience with the fewest crowds visit during off peak times. Visit the zoo in the early morning hours before the school trips arrive and the animals are out enjoying the cooler weather. Or come later in the day around 2 pm. By then most school and camp trips have left. Families with younger kids have usually thinned out as parents take the kids home to nap. And again as the weather is cooler, more animals come out to play.
  • Go Backwards ~ Most Philadelphia Zoo visitors follow the traditional path around the zoo. They take the path to the right and loop around the zoo. They start with the monkeys on the right and end with the wild hogs. Instead of doing that, head towards the left and with the hogs and loop around. Since you’ll be starting where most families end, you’ll experience less crowds. It’s an advantage you’ll love once you see the new Meerkat Maze. Your kids won’t have to compete with crowds to make their way through the maze. The same thinking applies when you reach the monkeys, most families will be at the end with the hogs.

Philadelphia Zoo Meerkat

  • Pack snacks ~ One of the things I love about the Philadelphia Zoo is that families can bring their own lunch, drinks and snacks. You can certainly buy food at the zoo, but coming prepared is much easier when you are visiting with kids. You’ll save money on eating and time from waiting in line. The Philadelphia Zoo has several seating areas throughout the zoo for snacktime.
Frito-Lay Snacks

Our Frito-Lay Snacks for our Philadelphia Zoo day trip.

  • Go on cloudy days ~ I still remember the day it was supposed to rain and we had plans to visit the Philadelphia Zoo with family members visiting the area. Rather than cancel we still went, prepared to make the best of it. It was an incredible day. Yes, it rained but we were able to get affordable ponchos in the zoo gift show. The rain didn’t stick around long. And once it cleared we were able to take advantage of the zoo with none of the typical crowds.
  • Watch for special events ~ The Philadelphia Zoo is always planning something. Most events are included in admission. During the summer, it’s Rock N’ Roar concerts on the green. For Halloween, there will be 4 days of Boo at the Zoo. In December, it’s Zoo Noël.
  • Look up! Turn your eyes upward and see animals exploring their habitats in quite a unique way, the Zoo360 Animal Exploration Trails. Tubes made of strong mesh and steel are suspended overhead throughout the zoo. Every time we visit, there seems to be a new addition. We’ve seen gorillas, tigers, apes and others on our visits. During our recent visit, we saw a gorilla feeding overhead and learned how one gorilla was expecting. Honi, the Zoo’s 21-year-old gorilla actually delivered a western lowland gorilla baby this past Friday.

Philadelphia Zoo Honi Gorilla

  • Go inside ~ Make sure to save time to go inside the Philadelphia Zoo buildings. In the KidZooU building kids can participate in recycling activities, pretend to be ants, or watch rat races. Toddlers can get on the floor for tummy time in the toddler barn. In the Avian Center, watch a free movie about migration that will involve all your senses. At the Big Cat Falls there’s a free movie about the cats and a camp where kids can pretend to be on a safari.

Philadelphia Zoo Camp Building

  • Ask questions of staff ~ Zoo personnel and zookeepers have the most amazing knowledge when it comes to the zoo. They can point out the newest areas you might have missed. They’ll help you distinguish between a male and female animal. They can let you know when to come back to see a feeding. And they are ready to answer any question you have.
  • Wait ~ Slow down. That tiger you are looking for might not be easily visible. The polar bear might be in a far corner. If you’re patient you may find that they’ll come closer giving you a better view. Or you’ll notice an animal that might have blended into his environment, like this sloth did.
Philadelphia Zoo sloth

Can you see the sloths in the trees?

  • Keep your eyes open for play areas ~ As we said, don’t be in a rush while exploring the Philadelphia Zoo. Slow down and explore all paths. The KidZooU has a playground outside and play areas inside. As you approach the camel area there are play areas on both the right and left under the platform. When you’re in the wild hog area, follow signs for the Meerkat Mat Maze and your kids will have another play area. If you’re a Philadelphia Zoo member, make sure to save time to explore the Treehouse. We’ve always enjoyed climbing through the tree, through the beehive, over the frog eggs, and into the dinosaur eggs.

Philadelphia Zoo play area

  • Look for chances for free souvenirs ~ When the Lego-inspired exhibits were on display kids could collect free educational animal trading cards. When crafts are available kids can stop and make something at no additional charge.
Philadelphia Zoo 1

Pointing the way to Philadelphia Zoo trading cards and Lego-inspired exhibits.

  • Scavenger Hunt ~ Create your own scavenger hunt or use one the Philadelphia Zoo has created for you. In Big Cat Falls, there are signs listing what sculptures and statues kids should look for as they make their way through looking at the lions, tigers, cheetahs, and other cats. It’s not as easy as you might think. Some of the statues are small about the size of a hand while others are the size of a small child.
  • Take advantage of special offers ~ For example did you know that teachers get in free to the Philadelphia Zoo or with a Frito-Lay purchase your kids can earn a free admission ticket? Yes, Frito-Lay 2 Go (FL2Go) is helping families have more zoo and aquarium adventures through an exciting partnership with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The Philadelphia Zoo is one of those AZA partners. Here’s how it works:
    1. Purchase a specially marked package of FL2Go, featuring a tiger, panda, monkey, elephant or penguin.
    2. Visit to upload a photo of your receipt for proof of purchase and find your local participating AZA facility.
    3. Check your email for your free kid’s pass!
    4. Visit your local AZA facility for a family wildlife adventure!

    *Note: Offer is for visits Monday thru Friday until 10/20/2016

Frito-Lay Snacks

Have you visited the Philadelphia Zoo? What animals are you looking forward to seeing?

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