We are a big zoo family. I love animals, I find them extremely fascinating and love visiting the zoo’s in our area, and where ever we travel to, to learn more about them. Recently we visited the Pittsburgh Zoo for Sydney’s birthday. Even though the Pittsburgh Zoo is only about an hour away from us, I’ve maybe only been there a handful of times…
Since this is my first official “Zoo Review” lets lay some groundwork for what I consider important aspects of a zoo. I want to look at price, parking, variety of animals and their habitats, restrooms, concessions, staff, layout, and navigation.
Anytime I am looking to go somewhere I always want to know how much it is going to cost me. The cost of admission at a zoo can vary a lot. I would say the average I’ve experienced is around $15 a person. At the Pittsburgh Zoo, your admission price depends on the season. I actually kinda like this concept. Obviously Fall and Winter are slower seasons so the price difference may give people more incentive to visit at those times. Since we went in the fall, admission for an Adult is approximately $17 and for a child 2 to 13, it was $15. In the summer it is a dollar or two more and in the winter it’s a dollar or two less. At some zoo’s you have to not only pay for admission, but you also have to pay for parking. Luckily, you do not have to pay for parking at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
Speaking of parking, lets review the parking lot and entrance. I found it very easy to get to the zoo. The parking lot was slightly confusing. A lot of people were parked very far away when there were several parking spots a lot closer to the entrance. My only complaint about the parking/entrance is that you have to walk all the way around to use one of the two ramps to get up to the entrance from the parking lot if you have a stroller or wheelchair. This is a minor issue, otherwise parking and entry is simple.
Obviously the major reason for visiting the zoo is to check out the animals. I always look at a zoo’s website to see what kind of animals they have. Every zoo has a different variety of animals and if there is something different at a particular zoo, I definitely want to make sure I check it out. The Pittsburgh Zoo has the basic variety of animals you’d expect. A couple notables I was excited to see were the elephants, the polar bear, and the sea lions.
Not every zoo has elephants which is actually slightly surprising. The Pittsburgh Zoo has a nice area for their elephants and some awesome educational stuff in their elephant barn. All of the elephants were outside when we were there, so we weren’t able to get up close with them.
Another animal I always enjoy is the polar bear. The Pittsburgh Zoo has an awesome exhibit for their polar bear. When we went this year, he was taking a nap, but they have a large pool for him to play in which is pretty cool to watch if you get lucky.
I was also super excited to check out the sea lions. They are always so fun to watch and I think they are super adorable. Unfortunately, we made it to the sea lion exhibit not too long after they had finished their 4pm “show” so they were also sleeping.
The Pittsburgh Zoo has a lot of other animals to check out as well. Their Canadian Lynx just had a litter of babies so we were able to see them. My only concern was that their exhibit looked awful tiny. I know they regulate that and I’m no expert by any means, but it seemed very cramped. They also have a baby gorilla, I believe he was born last year. It was fun to watch home watch us and play around in the yard with the adults.
Overall I felt like all of the exhibits were clean and spacious. There were just a handful where I felt like the space for the animals was kinda small and could be expanded a little more.
You guys all know about me and restrooms. I always need to know where one is between me drinking a lot of water and also potty training our toddler. The one’s at the Pittsburgh Zoo were decent. They smelled clean and for the most park looked clean. I noticed that they had more than 1 larger stall option. These larger stalls come in super handy when you have a toddler coming to the bathroom with you. Oh, and the water was HOT! YES! The sinks had HOT WATER! No complaints!
Concession options were vastly limited when we visited the zoo. Number one we went during a week day and number two we went in the fall. It makes sense that they don’t have the entire zoo working at mass capacity when attendance would be less. There was one main place to eat, and that was Jambo Grill. This is located basically halfway through the zoo. Definitely bring some snacks if you’re visiting in the fall or winter because there was nothing open to get snacks or drinks until you got to that point.
This was my fist time eating at the Jambo Grill. Sydney got a hot dog and fries. I got chicken tenders and their homemade chips and my aunt got a ceasar salad. Everything was delicious. We spent a little over $30 for three meals and two drinks. I didn’t think that was horrible for a decent meal inside the zoo.
The best part about eating at the Jambo Grill is that there is patio seating that is directly across from the Giraffes and Zebras. It was extremely enjoyable to say the least. I would definitely recommend eating at the Jambo Grill.
I didn’t have a lot of dealings with the staff at the zoo. The woman who took our order at lunch wasn’t the most friendly but she was fine. While we were eating there was a keeper who was eating lunch as well. One of the other guests was talking to their child about animals in the zoo and he went up to them and gave them more information about certain animals and recommended they visit certain animals in the zoo. I thought it was super nice for him to do that.
The layout of a zoo is always a big thing for me. There is a fine balance between giving the animals the space they need and keeping the walk interesting. I always find that there is at least one section of the zoo where I am just walking and walking and walking and not looking at anything other than nature and the Pittsburgh zoo is no exception. This takes place when you are walking up a large hill on your way to the PPG Aquarium. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for taking a walk in nature, but this was something entirely different. Along this hill there are what look to be old exhibits that have been, quite literally, abandoned. There is nothing in them except overgrown foliage. I can agree that these are probably way outdated and can no longer be used to house animals but they just look sad. I was pleased to find that they had converted one at the very bottom of the hill into a small patio bar. I think it would add to the trek to the aquarium to do something with these other old exhibits as well.
Navigating around the zoo is also something that is very important to me. I love that they give you a map upon entry, but sometimes these maps are confusing and the layout is confusing. I found this to be the case upon getting to The Islands area and then again when taking the path to the Aquarium. This is maybe what they could do to the path leading up to the Aquarium! They could make it a nice build up to the aquarium itself with some art or displays getting you excited for your destination.
I will say that the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium have an overall nice zoo. While there are things that I would like to see improved, I felt like it was a pleasant way to spend a warm fall day. I would recommend this to anyone in the local area to visit any time of the year. I think it is an added bonus that they are open year round, making it a unique destination even in the winter months.