Tuesday, February 7, 2012
West Philly Review: Philadelphia Zoo
One of the gifts we received for Christmas was a membership to the Philadelphia Zoo - and what an awesome gift it has been! I didn't think we'd get much use out of it until the Spring, but with some unseasonably warm weather we've been there several times already over the last month.
I love that the zoo is right here in West Philly (34th and Girard Ave). Not quite close enough to walk to - but still feels like it's right in our backyard.
The Zoo in the Winter
I don't think I would have ventured out to the zoo in January/February without this burst of warm weather, but now that I've seen the zoo in the winter - I am a winter zoo visitor convert!
Even if it is quite cold - if you bundle up to walk from one building to the next it is totally doable - and there is plenty see. One of Leo's favorite places to hang out is the Primate Reserve. He loves watching the gorillas and lemurs and with a baby gibbon AND a baby orangutan - there is never a shortage of adorableness on display.
Another perk to wintertime zooing is the lack of crowds. I can let Leo toddle ahead a bit and have a clear view of him as he explores different exhibits. We never have to wait to see an animal and Leo can often go right up the to the glass and look for as long as he likes. Not to mention that the colder weather keeps those unpleasant zoo odors to a minimum ;)
Even though we've been here in Philly for over a year now, we hadn't visited the zoo because we were waiting until we could spring for the membership. Membership is currently $99 for the whole year and totally worth it, in my opinion. If you were to pay for two adults ($18/ea), two kids ($15/ea), and parking ($12) during peak season you would pay at least $78 for a single visit - so totally a good deal. If you have more than two kids - forget about it, but for us even with just Leo, it has already paid for itself.
Another benefit for this age when Leo has a nap in the middle of the day and only lasts for a couple of hours anyway - is that it's nice to know that we don't have to see it all in one day. If we go and only see two or three exhibits before he starts to show signs of sleepiness, it's no big deal; we know we can come back again soon without having to pay all over again.
Toddlers at the Zoo
I consider the zoo to be a toddler-friendly activity on its own - but it's really great that there are exhibits and activities geared directly to the younger kids that visit. The Treehouse is a great indoor play area where kids can climb and run around.
Right outside the Treehouse is the Rainforest Carousel and there is also a train called the PZ Express. ($3/each)
Perhaps the biggest hit with Leo is the Children's zoo. There are bunnies and chickens. There is also a duck pond with little vending machines with duck food. His favorite part though, is the goat pen. You can walk right up to the (very patient and very gentle) goats to pet them. There is also a bucket of brushes to brush the goats with.
There is an area for hand-washing so after all that goat snuggling you can rinse off any germs that may be on your little one's hands. Of course, I find that even after a thorough hand washing his clothes tend to smell like goat - so I try and make sure it's the last thing we do before leaving the zoo and strip him down as soon as we get home. Still, despite the souvenir stinkies, it's worth the hassle because the kid love to brush him some goats.
As for the main zoo exhibits, many have glass viewing windows that extend all the way to the ground, so Leo can look in without any assistance. Of course there are also plenty that require a parental lift so that he can get a good look, but over all it's a pretty good split.
I wouldn't recommend trying to tackle a zoo outing without a stroller or a good carrier unless you've got an older child who can walk long distances comfortably. I do wish they had those wheelchair accessible buttons that open the door (they don't even have them on the entrances marked as accessible) since the doors can be a struggle with a stroller sometimes. If you don't have a good carrier or an easy to transport stroller, they do have push carts available for rent ($8 for a single and $10 for a double) - I will definitely do this instead of wrestling a stroller on the bus.
As for food, the Tiger Terrace is open year-round and has a menu offering burgers, chicken fingers and some pre-made salads and wraps. In the warmer months there are stands through the zoo with other kinds of treats available. I usually pack a lunch for us to save money and to make sure Leo has something nutritious available to eat - although we have been known to supplement our lunch with an order of french fries.
I love our zoo outings. I know Leo really enjoys them, he learns a lot, and he gets tuckered out. What more could a mama ask for?