A Practical Approach to Family Summer Fun in Philly: Philadelphia Zoo and The Adventure Aquarium | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

June 25, 2011

A Practical Approach to Family Summer Fun in Philly: Philadelphia Zoo and The Adventure Aquarium

As many of you know, I live outside the great City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia.  Now that Little Chica is old enough to enjoy some of the cool things Philly has to offer (she'll be 3 going on 25 in August), we've been embarking on some fun adventures.

In the past few weeks, our family has ventured to both the Philadelphia Zoo and the Adventure Aquarium.  We had an amazing time at both.  Isn't it so fun to re-experience life through the eyes of a child?  So full of excitement and wonder!

It's summertime, and I know we are ALL looking for things to do.  I wanted to share some thoughts/tips on how to enjoy visits to the Zoo and the Aquarium - because both are great trips to plan for kids (and kids at heart).

First, I wanted to share the 
pros/cons of each place:

Aquarium Pros: Climate Controlled/Indoors; Accessible parking; Great exhibits for children; Private Nursing Room for nursing mothers

Aquarium Cons: Enclosed so at times it felt a little cramped/claustrophobic; Exhibits are often small window aquariums - so you sometimes have to wait for people to finish viewing or skip it all together; Slightly pricier tickets

Zoo Pros: Outdoors/open air so there is plenty of room to maneuver and not feel cramped; Exhibits are large so you usually do not have to wait to view; Less expensive

Zoo Cons: Parking is accessible but still a walk; While there are exhibits that are indoors, many are outside and susceptible to the elements (heat and rain)


These are important to keep in mind as you plan your day.  It seems where one lacks, the other makes up for.  Neither are bad options. If it's going to be hot or rainy, skip the Zoo and head to the Aquarium.  If your kids need to expend energy, skip the Aquarium and let them run around the Zoo instead.  And both the Zoo and the Aquarium are great for kids of all ages.  My kids (3 years old and 6 months old) both enjoyed seeing the sights and engaging in the offered activities.  Older kids would enjoy it even better - so if you have kids, these attractions are winners!

Some Tips to Keep it 
Cheap and Manageable:

1) Pack a lunch. Both the Zoo and the Aquarium have dining halls/picnic areas with seating.  We saved a good bit of money by packing instead of grabbing food there (although the Ice Cream and Philly Soft Pretzels were mighty tempting snacks!)  We packed some snacks (granola bars, string cheese) as well as drinks (Nalgene's of water)

2) Plan ahead.  There is a chance of your kids getting wet and/or dirty (fountains, Touch a Shark/Sting Ray exhibits) - so bring an extra set of clothes (especially if your kids are anything like mine and cannot keep themselves clean or dry no matter how hard you try).  Pack CASH for tolls if you are going to New Jersey.

3)  See if your township/borough or library offers discount tickets.  Why pay full price if you don't have to?!?  We are from West Chester (although we are currently displaced in Kennett Square) - so I called the West Chester Parks and Rec office to confirm they had the tickets on hand, and went and purchased them from the office (in the borough building) the day before our trip. Pennsylvania offers discounted tickets not only to the Adventure Aquarium and Philly Zoo, but to many other places as well. Here is the PA Discount list as shown from Lower Gwynedd Township's website.  Check your borough or township. If yours does not offer, I'm sure a neighboring one does!

4) Consider a membership.  If you really enjoy having places to go, it is economical to purchase a membership.  I have friends who have a Zoo membership, and it more than pays for itself!  One of the bonuses of the Aquarium membership is that it is usable ALL YEAR round - so it gives you a fun place to go on those cold and dreary winter days!

5) Consider Citypass and Philadelphia Pass. Many cities offer these 1, 3 and 5 day passes. If you plan on doing several exhibits and can do them over the course of 3 or 5 days consecutively OR you are coming to Philly to visit, these passes are a great way to save money on admission.  Click the links for more info. Since my kids are young (3 years old and 6 months old), those were not the best option for us.  But, I think I will use them when they are older, and we have the perseverance to do several attractions over the course of several days!

6) Go on a weekday.  We went to both places on a weekday, and the crowds were much more manageable.

7) Get your Group on!  Group rates for Mommy Groups or large families are cheaper! Zoo group rates. Aquarium group rates.


Now all you have to do is plan your trip!  If you are not from the area, but you have some Trip Tips or Frugal Tips for Summertime activities for YOUR locality, email me or leave them in the comments below!  moderndaydonnareed@gmail.com

I'll leave you with some enticing photos of our fun Philly adventures...

Hubby and Little Chica mulling over one of the exhibits 

 Beautiful Fish...bad camera...

 Awesome Shark Tunnel!

 One of my favorite things: A Private Nursing Room 
for nursing mothers sponsored by Fisher-Price!

 Touch a Sting Ray exhibit (there is a Touch a Shark exhibit as well)

Hanging 10 
(we still are not competent at looking AND 
smiling for photos at the same time)

Philadelphia Zoo

 Pretty Peacocks

 Camel Rides


 Me and Little Chica


 Polar Bear!

Can't wait to hear about YOUR trip - so be sure to share your experience with the rest of the community!

Disclosure: The Philly Zoo and Adventure Aquarium do not know me, did not ask me to write this post and did not sponsor/pay for my excursions.  All thoughts and opinions expressed are honest and, as always, my own.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. it gives you a fun place to go on those cold and dreary winter days!
    Suspended license


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