Like many other Philly institutions, the Philadelphia Zoo is America’s first. It opened in 1874 and encompasses over 40 acres of gardens and exhibits, featuring more than 1,300 animals, including many rare and endangered species. Visitors may need a full day to explore the many exhibits and attractions, and should consider reserving a guided tour to get the most out of their visit. One of the most popular and unique activities is the Zoo Balloon, a tethered hot air balloon that soars 400 feet over the zoo grounds, with spectacular views of the nearby Schuylkill River, Fairmount Park and the Philly skyline. The balloon flies from May through October, weather permitting; check the home page of the zoo’s website on the morning of your visit to see the balloon’s status.
The kids can get up close and personal with a variety of creatures at KidZooU, the new children’s zoo and wildlife education center which offers both indoor and outdoor learning experiences. American history and architecture buffs should look for the Frank Furness designed Victorian gates and gatehouses, as well as a very historic home located on the zoo grounds, known as The Solitude. Built in 1784 by John Penn, grandson of William Penn, the Solitude house is a lovely neoclassical manor house and is the only original Penn home remaining in the US.