Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium - Great Family Fun!

On a recent trip to Western Pennsylvania, my youngest and I found ourselves with a morning to ourselves and decided to make an impromptu visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.  Unlike most places we visit, I didn't take any time to plan ahead - we simply showed up and figured it out as we went.  The morning was exactly what we were looking for: plenty of time together, lots of animals, and a safe environment during this summer of COVID.

Pittsburgh Zoo - The Basics

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium are located on the outskirts of downtown Pittsburg in the Highland Park area.  Getting here was super easy which was good news for me as I absolutely hate city driving.  It was really simple to find off the highway and features plenty of free parking for zoo patrons.  We visited in July 2020 which means that COVID procedures were in full swing - and there were a few differences from my visit to the Maryland Zoo just a few weeks earlier.  Guests were required to wear masks the entire time they are in the Pittsburgh Zoo except when eating or drinking.  In addition, there was no timed entry required as they found that they had been running well below capacity so we purchased our tickets at the main gate.  After entering there is a steep incline to get up to the main zoo property which guests can navigate either via one of the steepest escalators I've ever seen, an elevator, or a walking path.  Once up the escalator, one way traffic kicked in to minimize guests passing back and forth by each other.  I didn't really see staff out enforcing the one way traffic, but I also didn't see any guests out of compliance with following it. I was also happy that many of the food service options in the park were open and there were frequent reminders in the front half of the park that you can mobile order for the main dining option - Jambo Grill - which is located halfway through your park visit.  

Pittsburgh Zoo - The Animals

I don't know if it was the low crowds and the animals were just excited to see us or if this is the norm, but we saw lots of animals up close and having a blast playing!  It was an incredibly hot morning, so I had mentally prepared that it was going to be a tough go to spot animals, but was pleasantly surprised.  The flamingos were among some of our favorites.  They were super friendly came right up to the fence.  There was also great viewing of the tigers, elephants, and several different types of monkeys.  My son loved watching the orangutan play with his green blankie which reminded him of his green blankie!  On the walk through the zoo, you can also take a visit inside the PPG Aquarium.  I thought this was a great little addition.  While it wasn't as big as visiting a standalone aquarium, it was a nice break from the heat, showcased animals you don't always see at a zoo, and was very well done.  

Want more Mid-Atlantic zoo fun?  Check out my reviews of the Smithsonian Zoological Park (Washington, D.C.), Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, and the Philadelphia Zoo.  

Like most zoos, there is also a kid's area / petting zoo component, but you weren't able to pet the animals currently because of COVID restrictions.  In total, it took us about 3 hours to complete our visit to the zoo - including the snack breaks we took along the way!

Final Thoughts

I'd definitely recommend a visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium if you are visiting the area.  The price was right, park was clean, and animals were great!  You are able to bring in your own drinks which is another recommendation I would make - especially if visiting in the heat of summer.  You shouldn't need more than a 1/2 day to visit the zoo unless you are planning on scheduling one of their animal encounters / behind-the-scenes tours.  Just be sure to check their website for the most up-to-date schedules as many of these programs are currently canceled.  



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