Amidst Fairmount Park, the largest city park in the country sits the oldest zoo in America, Philadelphia Zoo. Walking up to the entrance from the bus stop across the street you pass by some of Philadelphia’s famed murals, these litter the walls and columns of the rail bridge, depicting many of the animals you’ll see at the zoo. Passing a lion family statue guarding the gates you enter America’s first zoo, first opened in 1874. Near the front entrance can be found a massive tiger striped hot-air balloon, sponsored by WPVI-TV Channel 6. Visitors can take advantage of the city’s skyline as well as a literal bird’s eye view of the zoo. The balloon wasn’t running the day of our visit due to high winds but I would highly recommend the chance to take in the view.
Once into the zoo the first animal you see is the always entertaining spider monkey. Looking up into the exhibit’s trees you spot several sweet faced, curious monkeys with long legs and arms and a long prehensile tail. Next is the Rare Animal Conservation Center which houses many of the zoo’s unique and critically endangered species including the beautiful Douc langur with its pale orange and powdered white face, the kea, the pied tamarin and many other primates and small mammals. One small mammal housed here is the naked mole rat, whose enclosure, made up of a mass of tunnels and chambers, is built directly in the wall with a faux rock facade to give an authentic underground look as you become the voyeur and watch on as these strange, half-blind, naked rodents run backwards and forwards and over top of each other.