Our Son’s First Pittsburgh Zoo Visit.
This past Friday we took our son for his first visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. He was so well behaved throughout the whole day. Mom carried him most of the day inside her Boba wrap (which they both enjoyed quite a bit) during our trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo.
When we first got there, it was pretty busy. We were directed to an overflow lot even though we could see empty spots where they were not allowing us to go. It was not that big of a deal and we got to test our B.O.B motion stroller on a rough gravel parking lot. We just couldn’t figure out why they were sending us that way. (P.S. the B.O.B. stroller did awesome!)
There wasn’t much of a line and after paying the admission (which can be a bit pricy for a family) we entered the zoo. I know, I know. The animals have to eat, but at $14 per adult and $12 per child ages 2 and older the price can quickly add up and cause quite a dent in the wallet for a family. Plus, you have to factor in the other things that are an additional cost – the zoo keys, the tram, the merry-go-round, souvenirs, and well, you get the point. Sometimes they also have stuff like pictures with an elephant and that, too, is more money. They do offer a reasonably priced family membership for $85 that includes 2 adults and their children for unlimited visits for one year. In addition, you can get free or discounted admission to other zoos around the country. We purchased a membership a few years ago, but sometimes it is just too hard to get out there and we hardly even used it.
When we first got there it was lunchtime. So before we even got started looking at the animals, we had to grab a bite to eat. You can bring your own food, but we didn’t have anything to bring with us, so we decided we would just get something there. My advice is to eat before or bring something. I also suggest if you would like a drink to get the souvenir cup. They have a deal where you can bring it back anytime (not just that day) and get a refill for $1.60. The food at the first food kiosk upon entering the zoo is not worth the price, in my opinion. Most of the food was pre-cooked and sitting in a giant metal heater, though it didn’t keep the food very warm. Our fries were cold and the chicken in the chicken basket were very small. The corn dog our daughter got looked pretty good, but that was actually made to order, so that might be the reason. So while we ate, our son lounged in his B.O.B stroller. He was happy just relaxing and waiting for us to finish up eating. He only started to get a little annoyed while we waited for his sister to finish up.
Once we were done eating, Mom put him in his Boba Wrap and was struggling to keep his head covered. Luckily there was a souvenir stand where they had some hats and other things. We forgot to bring a hat with us, so we got our son an official Pittsburgh Zoo hat. I think you can say he LOVED it. It was $9.99 well spent. He loved it and the hat kept the sun off his little head or, as momma says, his gigantic head 🙁 .
The first two habitats were not too exciting. The first exhibit was supposed to be the Snow Leopard (which is one of my favorite animals) but, it was not in the habitat or, if it was there, it was somewhere that we were unable to view. Just about every time I have been to the Pittsburgh Zoo, the Snow Leopard is sleeping or hiding, so it’s not like it was a surprise.
By this point someone was sleeping! He was more than a little bit comfy with his momma.
Next was the Tiger habitat. Guess what?… He was laying in a spot that wasn’t great for viewing either. I did get a picture of my daughter with the tiger in the background, but you can barely see the tiger.
These next animals are new, well sort of new, to the Pittsburgh Zoo. These two baby Komodo Dragons just came to the Pittsburgh Zoo last August from the Prague Zoo in the Czech Republic. The Pittsburgh Zoo had an adult Komodo Dragon that died in March of last year. You can read about that here.
Right beside the Komodo Dragons is an adorable Red Panda. I was unable to get a great picture of it because there was a rather large crowd gathered around the viewing window. If you’ve never seen a Red Panda, you should search for a picture of one before heading to the zoo. They are super cute, but the viewing area is small and there were a lot of people crowded around it.
(rant) It amazes me how some people act like animals to see animals in a cage doing something “cute”. I am not suggesting that I am innocent in this behavior, however, if I am standing there and I am blocking a small child from enjoying the zoo, I will move out of the way and help them get to the front of the crowd. If I do not get a great picture, well that is fine by me as long as I am not the cause of a child missing something that is going to make them smile. (/end rant)
Moving along, I thought the Rhinoceros habitat was going to be a bust as well. We could only barely see her because she was hiding down in a corner of the habitat. Just when we were getting ready to walk away, she came walking up with a surprise following right behind her. She had a not so little bundle of joy. Our daughter really enjoyed seeing that. This was the first baby we saw on our trip to the zoo this year.
After standing there for a little bit and watching the rhinos, a rather large crowd started to gather. So, we started working our way out of the crowd when our daughter saw “A LION!!!”
She ran to the lion habitat screaming the whole way there.
The Lion is Mammauls (my mom’s) favorite animal. This is pretty much the best picture I was able to get of the Lions. I think they were trying to keep cool and sitting in a bit of a shaded area. All they did was sit there and relax. We tried to view them from the different areas they have available, but it really did not make a difference. When I have been at the Pittsburgh zoo in the past the Lions have been more active – sometimes even playing.
Around the visitor’s area they have some large clumpy cement mounds. The kids are allowed to climb on them, or at least there are no warnings not to climb on them. They are meant to represent termite mounds that are found in Africa. Most kids are too busy climbing on the mounds to even know what they are, but our daughter did ask what they were, as she and about 4 other children were climbing on it.
After we were able to get our daughter off of the termite mound, we were on to the next exhibit. The Reeves Muntjac, which was recently moved. It used to be directly across the walkway. The Muntjac always seems to be elusive when we visit the Pittsburgh zoo, but not this time. It was out and grazing – a least for a moment. This made Mom really excited, the Muntjac is her favorite animal.
Where the Muntjac used to be located, is now the Cheetah habitat. I believe they used to have a Cheetah exhibit located somewhere else in the Pittsburgh zoo, but I do not remember. So, the Cheetah might be a newer animal to the zoo. The habitat looks nice and natural (aside from the giant net over the area). I think that the Cheetah was also trying to cool off in the shade, or maybe he was hiding. It really was not that hot out.
While we were viewing the Ostriches, Giraffes, and Elephants; guess who decided they were going to wake up and enjoy the Pittsburgh zoo? By this point we were about halfway through the zoo.
In the Elephant exhibit, there was an adolescent elephant, which of course drew a large crowd. Our daughter fought her way through all the adults so that she was able to see. She found the young elephant amusing – even more so once it decided to go over to the mother elephant to steal a large trunk full of hay and walked away. Everyone seemed to really enjoy that and thought it was just adorable.
Adjacent to the outside area with the Elephants and Giraffes, there is an inside area where the Elephants are able to go and, I believe, is used to house the animals. In this general area, but around the side, is where the Pittsburgh Zoo will sometimes have a chance to have your picture taken with an Elephant. A few years ago we had ours done. They use your camera to take a few pictures and at the time I think it cost us $10.
Next is the tropical forest building that houses 16 primate species and more than 150 types of tropical plants. As you would expect with a tropical forest type climate, it is hot and sticky inside the building.
There are other animals within the building. You could expect to see a Hoffman’s Two-toed Sloth and poison dart frogs in a terrarium. I thought there were other animals as well, but I did see any more.
Once out of the building, the Pittsburgh Zoo has an outdoor inclosure for the Lowland Gorillas. They can come in and out as they please. This Gorilla here was laying down inside the exhibit when we saw it earlier.
As we were making our way through the exhibit, our son started to get hungry. So, as soon as we got out of the building, we had to take a feeding break on the benches right outside the outdoor viewing area. While he was being fed, the Gorilla decided to come outside to roll around in the water. Then he got back up and went back inside the building. I guess he needed to cool off and take a quick bath, because he wasn’t out there very long.
After a short walk from the tropical forest habitat, there is a large area where they have plenty of space to eat. They have few places for different foods and drink, and even ice cream. This would be a great chance to refill the souvenir cup if you bought one earlier. There is also another souvenir stand, this one sells mostly Pittsburgh Zoo and primate souvenirs.
Directly behind the food court area, are the bear habitats. There are four separate inclosures, however, they look as if the first three haven’t been used in quite sometime. There are signs saying that they are working on the exhibits. I remember when I was little, this part was always busy and they had quite a few bears. This time, all that was out was one Black Bear in the last habitat.
From here it is just a short walk down and around small hill to the indoor PPG Aquarium section of the Pittsburgh Zoo. Outside they have a viewing window that you are able to see rescued Sea Turtles and the coral restoration project. There is also an area with a waterfall and some fish inside a pond.
If you decide to visit this next part of the zoo, let me just start off with a warning. Every other time I have been to the aquarium it has been INSANE inside. This day was not an exception. There are people and children everywhere and as I said earlier, some are acting like animals.
Inside the relatively tiny Penguins room, it was just about impossible to navigate through with a stroller – even just walking through was difficult. Our daughter loves the Penguins, so we had to make sure she got to see them. She wiggled her way all the way up against the glass and got to watch them jumping off of the rocks into the water to swim around. It was so loud in there from people talking that Mom had to take our son into the next area.
There are a bunch of different fish species within the Pittsburgh Zoo / PPG Aquarium and the centerpiece of the building is a giant tank with a few big sharks and a bunch of other fish inside swimming around. This was another area that was a hit with our daughter.
Nearby, there is a large tank that you can stick your hand in and pet a Stingray. The tank is fairly shallow, so if they swim close enough to the surface you are able to touch them. The Pittsburgh Zoo had two large and a few small Stingrays in this tank during our visit.
The fish were definitely our son’s favorite part of the whole Pittsburgh Zoo. It could be that it was when he was awake the most and not hungry, but we think he just really enjoyed watching the fish. It was probably the easiest for him to focus on since the rooms are dark and the tanks are bright. He was really interested in the Clown Fish tank and stared at those for quite some time. I ended up not getting a picture of him watching them. I’m not really sure how I missed that.
After you get though all of the aquarium building, the Pittsburgh Zoo has yet another souvenir area. This one has all the aquarium themed stuffed animals, clothing, and educational items.
Once outside, you will find the Polar Bear exhibit. This is a newer section of the Pittsburgh Zoo that has a nice swimming area for the Polar Bear, when he actually swims (which I have never seen in person). On this day, he was just sitting there relaxing.
The rest of the zoo we sort of had to breeze through. We had to leave by 4pm for our daughter because she had hockey practice that night.
So, even though we were running a little short on time, once we got to the kids kingdom we let our daughter play for a few minutes before we had to leave. She had a good bit of fun in those few minutes climbing the cargo net and sliding down slides.
We had to skip out of the interactive part of the zoo (petting zoo type area) and another play zone, but from previous visits, I can tell you that it is a pretty nice area for the children. However, you may not always get to pet some of the animals. They must be on the path or come to you to pet. The Pittsburgh Zoo does not want the children to chase and scare any of the animals.
I know the Pittsburgh Zoo has all sorts of special events for members, as well as other special events for the general public. One event that they do every year is the Halloween Zoo Boo. It is a lot of fun. They have trick or treating inside the zoo, they give the animals special treats, and they have a very kid-friendly haunted house – it’s not really scary. It is more so just a Halloween themed tent.
If you would like to see more pictures from our visit to the Zoo visit our Flickr page.