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Favorite Pennsylvania zoos

Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick is a freelance writer and editor who contributes regularly to SheKnows, MintLife, AOL, iVillage and other sites. In her articles, Elizabeth covers a variety of subjects including relationships, pregnancy, paren...

Let's get wild

While Pennsylvania is known for its forests teeming with wildlife, there are several zoos, farms and aquariums in the state that gather together a fine collection of species for learning and especially research and conservation. From interactive experiences to exhibits that mimic animals’ natural habitats, the Pennsylvania attractions highlighted below will satisfy animal-lovers and families who want to discover and understand the four-legged, slithering and winged creatures of the world.

Child at Zoo

1. Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is one of only six major zoo and aquarium combinations in the United States. Located only five miles from downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this facility is home to thousands of land and sea animals representing over 400 species from polar bears to penguins to Komodo dragons. There are a variety of exhibits including the African savanna, Asian forest, bear dens, Planet Earth's Diversity of Water, tropical forest, water's edge and a kids kingdom, where kids learn what it's like to be an animal by acting like one! The zoo is committed to education, research and wildlife conservation and exhibits over 20 threatened or endangered species.

1 Wild Pl., Pittsburgh, PA 15206. Hours: Daily, 9a.m. – 6 p.m. (opening/closing times vary depending on the season). Admission: Adult, $13; seniors (60+), $12; children (2-13), $11; children under 2 free; free parking; discounts available.

2. Land of Little Horses Farm Park

Tucked away in picturesque Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the Land of Little Horses Farm Park is a performing animal theme park and home to miniature horses, llamas and goats. Visitors can take part in the park's varying daily events, including wagon rides and live pony rides. The close encounters display tells the history of the park and its inhabitants and offers guests the opportunity to pet the little horses. Hands-on educational activities include grooming and bathing real horses, goat-milking demonstrations and more. The highlight of every visit to the Land of Little Horses Farm Park is the arena performance, which includes delightful, high-energy miniature horse races – entertainment and family fun at its best! There is a café and gift shop on site.

125 Glenwood Dr., Gettysburg, PA 17325. Hours: Open daily, May through mid-August; Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.; open weekends mid-August through October; last admission, 4 p.m. Admission: Adult (12+), $13.95; child (2-11), $11.95; special rate after 3 p.m.; season pass available; group rates.

3. Philadelphia Zoo

Mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds all have homes at the Philadelphia Zoo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1859, the Philadelphia Zoo was the first zoo in America, and it's still one of the most popular family attractions in the Philadelphia area, bringing in over a million guests annually. The zoo was founded to advance discovery and understanding of the natural world through exhibitions and interpretations of living animals and plants – that work continues today with the attraction's efforts in conservation, education and recreation. From gorillas to giant river otters, a white rhino to polar bears, lions to tigers, jaguars to leopards, eagles to flamingoes, this zoo introduces visitors to its residents through exhibits, virtual safaris, live animal presentations and more.

3400 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19104. Hours: Daily, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission: Adult, $18; child (2-11), $15; children under 2 free; additional fees for Zooballoon, carousel, train and swan boats; group discounts available.

4. National Aviary

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is home to the National Aviary, America's only independent, indoor, nonprofit zoo dedicated to birds exclusively. The aviary's collection consists of more than 600 exotic and colorful birds from all over the world, many threatened or endangered. One of the first zoos to present its collection of birds in free-flight rooms, the aviary's walk-through exhibits create an up-close-and-personal, interactive experience between visitors and birds, including opportunities to hand-feed and meet these beautiful creatures. From penguins to parrots, cranes to condors, guests can watch the birds eat, bathe, fly, play and hear them sing. The aviary is known for its research and conservation programs, avian veterinary program and avian breeding.

Allegheny Commons West, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Hours: Daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission: Adults, $12; seniors, $11; children (2-12), $9.50; children under 2 free.

5. ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park

Located right next door to Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is the ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park, an 11-acre zoo featuring wildlife native to North America. More than 200 animals of 75 species can be found at this zoo, from black bear to bison, mountain lions to elk, lynx to wolf, snakes to crocodiles. The zoo is very involved in wildlife conservation projects and education, making this a popular spot for school groups and families who want fun and learning rolled into one experience. The zoo has a unique approach of displaying native wildlife and plants in habitats that depict five natural regions of North America: Big Sky Country, Eastern Woodlands, Great Southwest, Northlands and Southern Swamps.

100 W. Hersheypark Dr., Hershey, PA 17033. Hours: Opens daily at 10 a.m.; closing times vary between 4:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. throughout the year. Admission: Regular (9-54), $9.50; junior (3-8) and senior (55+), $8; children under 2 free; same-day admission to ZooAmerica included in the Hersheypark one-price admission plan.

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