As Summer heat simmers down to milder Autumn days, we figured the time was perfect for a return visit to Philadelphia Zoo. It was almost exactly a year since our previous visit so perhaps it will become a seasonal tradition. As before, we were able to use our membership to Elmwood Park Zoo to get into Philly Zoo half price which meant the price came in at under $10 per person. Given that zoos are among the most expensive outings a family can undertake, I thought that was a pretty good deal. I do so like thriftiness.
We knew from experience that we would not be able to cover the entire zoo in one day trip unless we really slogged around, which is no fun for anyone, so we decided to take a different route from the one we had taken a year ago and to ensure we visited animals we had missed previously. I won’t go into too much detail in this post given that I wrote at length about our previous trip but what was great this time was that the cooler temperatures meant the bigger critters were all much more active than we had seen them before. There was very little in the way of lounging around and being lazy among the larger mammals.
Highlights of this visit were many and varied. Although I still didn’t get to see either of the polar bears swimming, one of the bears was having a stroll around his enclosure and was very close to the glass which meant we could appreciate its great size and its long muscular neck. I have never seen a polar bear so close so that was very cool. The other bears were also up and snuffling about. My kids were quite taken with the fluffy Andean bear. My 12 year old loved spending time with the penguins, of course. We got to see them running, which was reliably hysterical, and we saw them scooting down their chute. The big apes were also very active, the gorillas in particular. An adult male was in a very playful male and was pounding around his enclosure, interior and exterior, and gave us a great show of his strength – and then he sat himself in a tiny pail which somewhat undermined his performance. We saw some fantastically exotic birds with wonderful plumage. My 9 year old ate a huge pretzel that he dubbed Pretzilla which was an edible highlight. My 8 year old loved the reptiles so he and I spent quite some time among the reptiles and amphibians, especially the crocodiles, alligators and snakes. My 6 year old loved seeing a sloth dangling from the ceiling of its enclosure in the endangered species area. Seeing aardvarks was a first for all six of us so that was another big highlight. As nocturnal beasties, they were in a very dark enclosure and were tucked up, side by side, as if spooning as they slumbered. Our 9 year old declared that they looked like his father and I when we are asleep. I don’t know if that is cheek or a compliment! Given the Pict family’s slight obsession with Naked Mole Rats, we again spent quite some time with our noses pressed up against the windows into their tunnels. Their wrinkly pink bodies and their Nosferatu teeth cannot help but entertain and they were wriggling all over the place for this visit, including scuttling along tunnels. I can also report that Naked Mole Rats might look like genitals but their genitals do not look like Naked Mole Rats.
As zoos go, Philadelphia’s is very good and has clearly moved with the times to keep its enclosures and its practice updated. Despite being America’s first zoo, it manages to look thoroughly modern and, unlike with some zoos, I can believe it is doing its bit for conservation and education. One of the features that is new since we visited a year ago is a collection of sculptures throughout the zoo that depict animals and are constructed from recycled materials, therefore making a point about environmental responsibility and ecology of ecosystems and animal habitats. They are also very brightly coloured and cheerful. We had a very enjoyable day there again and so I am certain that we will return – probably next September since we appear to be creatures of habit.