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The Philadelphia Zoo

Animals and plants thrive at America’s first zoo

Big Cat Crossing

Philadelphia’s big cats now have access to a new overhead outdoor trail system called Big Cat Crossing. Credit: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Zoo


Big Cat Crossing

In 2011, the Philadelphia Zoo launched the development of an unprecedented three-tiered overhead animal trail and exploration system called Zoo360 — the first campus-wide animal travel system of its kind in the entire world.

The first elevated mesh passageway — Treetop Trail — opened for small arboreal species like lemurs and monkeys. In 2012, the Great Ape Trail debuted the second phase of the still-evolving system to give larger primates like orangutans and gibbons room to explore.

Now, Philadelphia’s big cats are getting a new overhead outdoor trail system at the Philadelphia Zoo, too.

Big Cat Crossing extends for 330 feet from the popular Big Cat Falls area 11- to 17-feet above ground and right over the main visitor pathway.

The galvanized steel mesh and woven wire elevated trail enables visitors to view lions, tigers, jaguars and other animals as they roam overhead throughout sections of the nation’s first zoo.

For more information on Big Cat Crossing, click the button below.

Big Cat Crossing

The Experience at the Zoo

One of the best laid-out and most animal-packed zoos in the country is set among a charming 42-acre Victorian garden with tree-lined walks, formal shrubbery, ornate iron cages and animal sculptures. The zoo has garnered many “firsts” in addition to being the first zoo charted in the United States (1859).

The first orangutan and chimp births in a U.S. zoo (1928), world’s first Children’s Zoo (1957), and the first U.S. exhibit of white lions (1993), among others.

In addition to its animals, the zoo is known for its historic architecture, which includes the country home of William Penn’s grandson, its botanical collections of over 500 plant species, its groundbreaking research and its fine veterinary facilities.


KidZooU: Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo & Faris Family Education Center is an L.E.E.D.-certified indoor/outdoor children’s zoo boasting features, such as a barnyard where kids can pet and brush sheep, mini-horses, goats, chickens and ducks and an indoor education center and wildlife academy teeming with coral reef fish, colorful parakeets, desert ants and more.

Kids learn how saving energy saves wildlife at the action stations, and they burn off some of their own energy on play equipment, climbing ramps and spheres. What’s more, throughout the zoo, visitors can look up to see an extension of the existing Treetop Trail that allows primates to travel overhead through the trees; it’s part of the zoo’s ongoing campus-wide travel system for animals.

Click here to learn more.

McNeil Avian Center

The 17.5-million McNeil Avian Center incorporates lush, walk-through habitats where visitors can discover more than 100 spectacular birds from around the world, many of them rare and endangered. And in the multi-sensory 4-D Migration Theater, viewers can follow Otis the Oriole on his first migration south from where he hatched in Fairmount Park.

Click here for more information!

Big Cat Falls

The pride of the Philadelphia Zoo, First Niagra Big Cat Falls, home to felines from around the world, opened in 2006. The lush exhibition features waterfalls, pools, authentic plantings and a simulated research station for aspiring zoologists.

Lions, leopards, jaguars, pumas, tigers and seven new cubs are the star attractions.

Visitor Details

The Philadelphia Zoo is open daily, year-round. Parking can be tight so public transit is a great option. SEPTA Routes 15 and 32 Buses stop within blocks of the zoo. For stops and schedules, visit


The nation’s oldest zoo was chartered in 1859, but the impending Civil War delayed its opening until 1874. In addition to its animals, the zoo is known for its historic architecture, which includes the country home of William Penn’s grandson; its botanical collections of over 500 plant species; its groundbreaking research and its fine veterinary facilities.

The Primate Reserve, Carnivore Kingdom, and Rare Animal Conservation Center, with its tree kangaroos and blue-eyed lemurs, are brand new, but there’s still fun to be had in the historic, old-style bird, pachyderm and carnivore houses. In the Treehouse, kids can investigate the world from an animal’s perspective; outdoors, the Zoo Balloon lifts passengers 400 feet into the air for a bird’s-eye view of the zoo.


3400 West Girard Avenue
(34th St. and Girard Ave.)
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 243-1100


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