Opened in 1874, America's first zoo is home to more than 2,000 animals representing six continents. It's small and well landscaped enough to feel pleasantly intimate, and the naturalistic habitats allow you to get close enough to hear the animals breathe. At each exhibit an old-fashioned Talking Storybook provides narration when activated by an elephant-shaped key. The Amphibian and Reptile House houses 87 species, from 15-foot-long snakes to frogs the size of a dime.
The 2½-acre Primate Reserve is home to 11 species from around the world. Notable attractions include Big Cat Falls, where you'll find leopards, jaguars, mountain lions, tigers, and more than a dozen rare white lions; the McNeil Avian Center, the state-of-the-art nest for some 100 birds; and African Plains, stomping ground of giraffes and zebras. The Tastykake Children's Zoo has a bunny village; two exercise yards with macaws, porcupines, hedgehogs, and owls; and a barnyard-animal petting-and-feeding area. You can get a bird's-eye view of the zoo and Fairmount Park on the Channel 6 Zooballoon, a 30-passenger helium balloon anchored by a high tensile-steel cable. Slated to open in spring, 2013, is a children's zoo that will emphasize conservation and allow animals to roam freely while visitors view them from trails above the exhibits.