KidZooU and Faris Family Education Center opens to the public this Saturday, April 13. (Photo courtesy Philadelphia Zoo)
As the country’s first zoo, Philadelphia Zoo is no stranger to introducing groundbreaking wildlife engagement to the animal-loving public.
With the grand unveiling of the shiny new KidZooU: Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo & Faris Family Education Center this Saturday, April 13, the zoo debuts its latest, and maybe greatest, innovation to date.
The new children’s zoo is the largest construction project in the organization’s history, transforming the historic Pachyderm House into a LEED-certified wildlife academy and the surrounding site into a sustainable, special needs-accessible center for kids’ education. Some key green building features include a rain garden, green roofs and geothermal heating and cooling, but KidZooU extends its mission to support sustainability throughout its programs, particularly focusing on domestic rare breed animals and an animal exploration system.
Tons of hands-on learning opportunities are available both indoors and out, making the new facility a year-round destination.
Outside, families can explore the barnyard and stables, brush sheep, pet goats, feed ducks and see rare breeds in the nursery. A 400-foot trail and “goat bridge” built above the KidZooU entrance gives visitors a chance to catch rare goats clambering as if they were in their natural habitat. Adjacent to the goats’ tower, kids can scale a netted jungle gym and scramble around, too.
The zoo also has plans to extend its primate exhibit Treetop Trail by adding a 925-foot exploration system over KidZooU and connecting to PECO Primate Reserve, enabling primates to travel the entire distance above visitors’ and in the tree tops.
Inside, the zoo’s mission of conservation and education plays nicely with engaging interactive exhibits. Little ones can have a ball recycling bottles on a conveyor belt to save Budgie parakeets, with the birds on view in an adjacent display. The same goes for water conservation and butterfly protection, plus there are a number of cool displays of interesting insects, domestic rats, ants and other wildlife, all with a story to tell.
For families who prefer to plan ahead, the KidZooUPix interactive trip planner helps organize activities (even bathroom breaks!) to map out the entire day of adventure before arrival.
Through all its programming, this modern-day children’s zoo hopes to foster empathy for familiar and exotic animals — and with more than 1 million guests visiting the zoo every year, that’s a lot of goodwill.
Zoo tickets are available at the gates and online. Purchase and print admission and parking tickets at home for express entry at the Zoo’s main entrance.
Check out the zoo of the future!
KidZooU: Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo & Faris Family Education Center
When: Opens Saturday, April 14, 9:30 a.m.
Where: Philadelphia Zoo, 3400 W. Girard Avenue
Cost: Free with zoo admission, $18-20, free for children under 2
More info: www.philadelphiazoo.org