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 and love it so much that we try to go every week or two, 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:
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 even has several animals you can pet, including deer and kangaroos.
Perfect viewing for little ones. To go along with the great selection of animals, the 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.
Stroller-friendly and manageable size. Since it’s 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. Tip: 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 Will. 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.)
It’s a fun way to get a workout in. Despite the manageable size and ability to take a stroller everywhere, this is Pittsburgh so there’s no shortage of steep, winding hills to navigate from animal to animal. When I was working in an office I didn’t want to take too much time away from my son on the weekends to workout. Now that I’m home with him, 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, and 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 Zoo even just put in a “Zoofit” footpath this past summer to walk in and out of the zoo from the front gate, since previously the only option to get up with a stroller was to take the elevator. And if you’re really into climbing those hills, there’s a ZooZilla 5K Race that’s being held in November. But don’t worry, if you’re not up for tackling the hills that day or are traveling with older family members, there’s always the aforementioned train with multiple stops, typically at each major exhibit.
The kids areas. The Pittsburgh Zoo totally gets that kids and their parents need breaks in between the animal viewing and sitting in strollers, so there are multiple areas set up throughout the Zoo to let kids be kids. 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 out for kids to pet. Within the Kids Kingdom, there’s also a huge play area with slides and climbing areas for kids ages 2+ as well as a separate playground for kids of any age. In addition to the Kids Kingdom children’s zoo, the aquarium has a great little area where the kids can touch the sea life and crawl in an “under the sea” tunnel built just for their size. The Islands area also has a huge sand pit with toys for kids to make sandcastles, while parents can lounge in comfy chairs and observe (win-win!)
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 pretty good and there are several fresh, healthy options. We like Jambo Grill for the food selection and the views of the safari animals, but there are several other options to choose from throughout the zoo.
The Fun Events. The zoo has many events throughout the year for kids of all ages, including the ZooBoo for Halloween, Breakfast with Santa and “Noon” Years Eve. They also just introduced a free story time in September of 2018 that includes live animals to pet and animal-themed books and songs.
We’re excited to continue exploring everything the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium has to offer as Will 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, from 9:30am- 6pm during the Summer and 9am-5pm in the Fall. Be sure to check the 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 and includes access to special events and discounts.
- See Plan Your Visit on the Zoo’s website for more info.
Children’s Book Inspiration: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
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