I’ve always loved the zoo and Pittsburgh has a great one for kids (and adults too!) of all ages. I’m even more excited now that I have a little person to share my love for the zoo with, just like my Mom did with us growing up. My favorite time to go is right when it opens and especially when it’s cloudy or there’s a chance of rain, since it usually means there’s less crowds and more animals out for your viewing.
We were gifted a zoo membership for Christmas the past couple years and love it so much that we try to go every week during the warmer months. Although if I lived just a little closer you would probably see me there daily. Below are some of the main reasons why the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is perfect for little ones and their parents and why we keep going back.
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#1: Animals, Animals, Animals
This is the reason you go to the zoo, right? The Pittsburgh Zoo has a diverse selection of animals, including lions, elephants, giraffes, gorillas and polar bears, all separated by various climates. This makes it a great place to introduce the kiddos to many animals they haven’t seen in person before. Plus the aquarium has a huge variety of fish, sharks and other sea life and is bigger than most I’ve seen for zoos of this size. The Children’s Zoo (a.k.a. the Kid’s Kingdom) even has several animals you can pet, including deer and kangaroos.
#2: The Pittsburgh Zoo has the Perfect Setup for Kids of All Ages to View the Animals
To go along with the great selection of animals, the Pittsburgh Zoo is set up perfectly for even the littlest kiddos to see animals up close. Many areas, including the leopard exhibit, red pandas and the elephant house have glass walls that the kids can lean up against to be inches away from the animals if they want. Most of the outdoor viewing areas also have fences that are built to be see-through, so little kids can stand from a distance and easily see the animals on their own.
#3: The Pittsburgh Zoo is Stroller-Friendly and a Manageable Size
Since the Pittsburgh Zoo is tucked right in the middle of the city, it’s not a huge zoo which makes it easy to get around in a short period of time. (Translation: you can get in and out before nap time!) Plus you can get pretty much everywhere with a stroller. ProTip: A stroller with sturdy wheels is definitely recommended. I went with our super light travel stroller once and it wasn’t the smoothest ride for my son. We usually bring our Summer Infant 3-D Lite Stroller since it’s light but the wheels are still pretty sturdy, and we also see a lot of moms with their BoB Jogging Strollers. If you need to rent a stroller, check out Safari Wheels when you enter the zoo for both train tickets and stroller rentals. (Prices pictured here as of September 2018.)
#4: Going to the Zoo is a Fun Way to Get a Workout In
Despite the manageable size and ability to take a stroller everywhere, this is Pittsburgh. Meaning, there’s no shortage of steep, winding hills to navigate from animal to animal. Now that I’m home with my son, I’m finding there are only so many options to incorporate him into a workout during the week. This is one way to do it that’s fun for everyone. Plus you can totally do it at your own pace, whether you want to take your time or speed through the Zoo and just enjoy the view.
The Pittsburgh Zoo also put in a “Zoofit” footpath in 2018 to walk in and out of the zoo from the front gate. Previously, the only option to access the Zoo with a stroller was to take the elevator. And if you’re really into climbing those hills, there’s even a ZooZilla 5K Race held annually. But don’t worry, if you’re not up for tackling the hills that day or are traveling with older family members, there’s a train available with multiple stops throughout the Zoo.
#5: The Kids Areas at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium are the Best
The Pittsburgh Zoo totally gets that kids need some time to run wild (pun intended) in between animal viewing. (Especially if they’re still in strollers!) To this effect, there are multiple areas set up throughout the Zoo to let kids burn off some energy. The Kids Kingdom is one of the top children’s zoos in the country, with animals including sea lions, an alligator, kangaroos, beavers, deer, many of which are available for kids to pet. Additionally, there are other areas for kids to play, including:
- The entrance of the Kids Kingdom has a huge play area with slides and climbing areas for kids ages 2+ .
- The lower level of the Kids Kingdom has the Animal Connections Playground for kids of any age that’s set up right next to the kangaroo area.
- The Islands area has a huge sand pit with toys for kids to make sandcastles, while parents can lounge in comfy chairs and observe (win-win!)
- The Worlds of Discovery is an indoor area that includes many animals and also has tunnels for kids to crawl under the Meerkat display, as well as a huge banyon tree to climb up and slide down.
- The PPG Aquarium also has a great little area for kids. Here, they can can touch the sea life in a touch tank and crawl in an “under the sea” tunnel built just for their size.
#6: You Can Bring Food and Drinks from Home
Unlike some parks that push you purchasing their food, you can bring your own and there are many tables throughout the park for you to stop and have a snack or meal. Plus, if you do choose to eat there, the food is actually really good and there are several fresh, healthy options. We like Jambo Grill for the food selection and the views of the safari animals. There are several other options to choose from throughout the Zoo, including the kid focused Bean Sprouts Cafe in the Children’s Zoo.
#7: The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium has the Best Events
The Pittsburgh Zoo has many events throughout the year for kids of all ages, including the ZooBoo for Halloween, Breakfast with Santa and “Noon” Years Eve. The Zoo also introduced a story time in 2018. This was a great addition to other unique story times in Pittsburgh and includes live animals plus animal-themed books and songs.
We’re excited to continue exploring everything the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium has to offer as our son learns more and more about the animals each time. More to come on our zoo adventures in the future!
Know Before You Go
- Hours: Open daily all year round. Be sure to check the Pittsburgh Zoo’s website before going as hours vary by season.
- Admission: $16 for Adults/ $14 for Kids/ Children under 2 are free (winter rates are less)
- Membership: Packages vary. Family membership is $115 for a year (as of 2018) and includes access to special events and discounts.
- See Plan Your Visit on the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium website for more info.
Children’s Book Inspiration: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
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