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Philadelphia Zoo

Philadelphia Zoo
Philadelphia Zoo

© Manjithkaini

The Philadelphia Zoo's 42-acre Victorian garden in Fairmount Park is home to more than 1,300 animals, many of them rare and endangered. The Zoo is a leading family attraction in Philadelphia with over 1.2 million visitors last year.

The Zoo's primary mission is one of conservation and as such, it supports and engages in conservation efforts to protect endangered species around the world. It also offers a wide range of educational programs, workshops, special events and recreational activities.

Called "America's first zoo", it is still among the largest zoos in the United States and features a number of interesting and unique attractions. In support of its mission of conservation, the Dodge Rare Animal Conservation Center hosts a wide variety of unique and endangered animals, including subterranean eusocial rodents, bats with a three-foot wingspan, and monkeys with vibrant orange fur.

Another popular exhibit is the Reptile and Amphibian House with more than 125 species of reptiles and amphibians. A new exhibit is Bear Country, which replaced the Zoo's historic bear pits originally constructed in 1874, and features gushing waterfalls, babbling brooks and cool, deep pools where an astonishing array of bears live, including sloth bears, spectacled bears, and polar bears.

From April to October (weather permitting), the interactive exhibit "My Wild Backyard" explores animal and plant treasures that thrive right here in the Delaware Valley.

Like many other Philadelphia landmarks and institutions, the Philadelphia Zoo is an American first. The charter establishing the Zoological Society of Philadelphia was approved and signed on March 21, 1859. Due to the Civil War, however, it was another 15 years before America's first zoo was ready to open.

The Zoo opened its gates on July 1, 1874. The Frank Furness Victorian gates and gatehouses, and the Zoo's location, are the same today as they were on the day it opened. One of its assets, then and now, is John Penn's home, The Solitude, which sat on the land chosen for the Zoo. John Penn was the grandson of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. The Solitude is considered to be Philadelphia's most precise and elegant expression of neoclassical style.

On opening day, flags flew, and a brass band welcomed more than 3,000 visitors. Admission was 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children, a rate that held for the next half century.

Since the early 1700's, the idea of an American zoo was inspired by English settlers with a keen interest in wildlife and by sailors and hunters who returned from faraway lands with exotic animals they'd never seen before. People would gather and pay shillings to see animals such as lions and elephants displayed at places like general stores and museums. As a hub of scientific inquiry and discovery over many years, Philadelphia's well-known leaders of the time began to formulate the idea of a zoo. In the mid-1850's, a prominent Philadelphia physician, Dr. William Camac-the Zoo's founding father-became involved and led the way to making America's first zoo a reality.

In its first year of operation, the Philadelphia Zoo had 813 animals and received well over 228,000 visitors. Today, the Zoo has more than 1,300 rare and endangered animals, and its attendance is approximately 1.1 million visitors a year.

Attraction Information

  • Hours:
  • March through November: 9:30am to 5:30pm daily
  • December through February: 9:30am to 4pm daily
  • Admission:
  • March through November: Adults: $18, Children (age 2-11): $15, Children (under 2): Free
  • December through February: Adults: $14, Children (age 2-11): $14, Children (under 2): Free
  • Contact:
  • Location: 3400 W Girard Ave Philadelphia, PA
  • Phone: 215-243-1100
  • Website:
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