Visiting the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

African lions at the Pittsburgh Zoo
©Bonnie Cline

The 77-acre Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is one of only six large zoo and aquarium combinations in the country. Ranked among the top three children's zoos in the country, the Pittsburgh Zoo complex has 4,000 animals representing 475 species in close-to-natural habitats, the fun Kids Kingdom and Discovery Pavilion, and a stunning indoor aquarium. Actively involved in wildlife conservation and species survival, the Pittsburgh Zoo also cares for dozens of threatened or endangered species.

What to Expect

Your Pittsburgh Zoo adventure begins with a ride up a very tall escalator from the parking lot to the zoo entrance. From there, winding paths, cool shady groves, and natural exhibits make the Pittsburgh Zoo a great place to spend an afternoon. There's something for everyone at the Pittsburgh Zoo, from big cats, bears, and majestic giraffes to "cool" snakes and tarantulas, and lovable meerkats and penguins.

The zoo is divided into habitats closely resembling the natural settings the animals came from. The Zoo's Master Plan, implemented in the 1980s, completely transformed the Zoo and the result has been the creation of naturalistic habitats—healthier for the animals and more educational for zoo visitors.

African Elephants (including two babies born in 1999 and 2000), giraffes, ostrich, and zebras roam the African Savanna habitat at the zoo. Snow leopards and Siberian tigers stalk through the Asian forest. A steamy, indoor rainforest is home to more than 90 primates from all parts of the globe, including cotton-top tamarins, orangutans, and gorillas.

The Water's Edge environment brings visitors nose to nose with polar bears, sand sharks, sea otters, sea lions, and walruses as they pass through two underwater tunnels and pop into a huge convex underwater window.

The Islands habitat debuted in 2015 with an immersive island atmosphere (including a beach with an over-sized Adirondack chair) where visitors can experience waterfalls, ponds, and animals native to island habitats like Philippine crocodiles, Aldabra tortoises, and clouded leopards.

In 2017, the Zoo opened Jungle Odyssey, with five new animal areas including those for capybaras, ocelots, giant anteaters, and a pygmy hippo, all wandering among the jungle foliage.

PPG Aquarium

Pennsylvania's only public aquarium, the PPG Aquarium at the Pittsburgh Zoo is organized into several exhibits that portray different aquatic ecosystems including a tropical rainforest with piranha, a local Allegheny River exhibit with trout, and a penguin exhibit.

You'll find plenty of fun, up-close exhibits such as a crawl-through stingray tunnel, a two-story shark tank, and unique revolving tanks (the first of their kind to be exhibited publicly). Real live coral, a Pacific giant octopus, jellyfish, potbellied sea horses, and an electric eel are just some of the many aquatic species you'll discover as you wander through the attractive environments.

Kid's Kingdom

The entire zoo is fun for kids, but they especially love the Kids Kingdom and Discovery Pavilion designed just for them. Kids Kingdom features walk-through yards with kangaroos, deer, and goats—the animals get close enough for the kids to touch them. There are also crawl-through tunnels with pop-up bubbles where the kids can play hide-and-seek with meerkats.

Shopping

Five gift shops at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium include a nice selection of items with wildlife and environmental themes. Shops (three in Safari Village near the zoo entrance, one in the plaza by Water's Edge, and one in the PPG Aquarium) include great souvenirs such as t-shirts and logo gear, plush animals representing those at the zoo, educational animal games, and even home decor items.

Dining

There are several indoor and outdoor eating areas at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. The Jambo Grill Restaurant, open year-round, offers indoor seating and a wide variety of grilled items, sandwiches, salads, pizza, fries, and ice cream.

Open in the warmer months, Bean Sprouts, offering healthy food options and allergy-friendly fare, is located mid-way through the Kids Kingdom, next to the walk-through kangaroo yard. There are plenty of covered outdoor tables and benches, restrooms, and a baby-changing station.

Also open seasonally, the Village Market, at the top of the escalators near the Zoo entrance, offers a variety of food, beverages, and snacks. Located outside of the lower level of the aquarium, Arctic Express offers to-go snacks.

Amenities

The zoo is set up for those with sensory differences. Ask at the front gate for sensory bags containing special KCVIP (Kulture City accessibility program) badges, fidget tools, noise-canceling headphones, and other resources, at no additional cost.

Wheelchairs, single and double strollers, and electric scooters can be rented at Safari Wheels from April through October. From November through March, they can be rented at the Safari Outpost.

To make getting around the zoo easy, the UPMC Health Plan Tram provides a covered ride through the property with stops at eight different locations. Purchase a wristband as you board ($2 per person or $1 for those over 60 or with disabilities).

Hours and Admission

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is open every day except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Hours vary by season:

Spring: April 1–May 24, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (gates close at 5 p.m.)

Summer: May 25 – September 2, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (gates close at 6 p.m.)

Fall: September 3–December 31, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (gates close at 5 p.m.)

Winter: January 2–March 31, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (gates close at 4 p.m.)

Active duty military, reservists, and veterans of the United States military receive free general admission with proper identification. Parking is free. General admission fees are:

Adults - $17.95

Seniors (60+) - $16.95

Children (2-13) - $15.95

Children under 24 months – Free

There may be additional charges for special programs and events.

Getting There

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is located approximately 5 miles east of downtown Pittsburgh between the Lawrenceville and Highland Park neighborhoods. The main entrance is just off Butler Street (after a quick turn on Baker Street). Enter the address: 7370 Baker Street when using a GPS so you get to the main parking lot.

The zoo is easily accessible from all sides of the city and from downtown Pittsburgh via Port Authority Transit.

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