ELMWOOD PARK ZOO1661 Harding Blvd, Norristown, PA 19401 HOURS:
10AM – 5PM
(gates close at 4:30pm) visit site>
After months of it being on my radar, we finally decided to check out the Elmwood Park Zoo in Montgomery County. The zoo is small, about 1/3 the size of the Phila Zoo, which makes it a perfect morning or afternoon outing with a toddler. It felt like we were able to get a little closer to some of the animals because the animal enclosures are pretty basic fencing type caging giving it the feel of a wildlife habitat …not sure this is better for the animals but it certainly made my toddler happy because she could walk right up to most exhibits herself and see what was in there.
Most of the animals are pretty common….fox, sheep, ponies, prairie dogs, alpacas, antelope, porcupine, but there is a wolf, cougar, and jaguar that thrilled my 9 year old niece as much as my 2 year old. While there are no lions, tigers, or bears at this zoo there are bison! And you can climb aboard an old train car and watch them out the window just like you were in the Wild West. I think this was our favorite animal at the zoo because well, honestly I don’t think any of us have every really seen a bison before and they are huge pre-historic looking things!
There is a small petting barn where the animals are kept in pens and you can reach over and pet them, there is a wetlands area with alligators and river otters (always fun to watch play) and a Wild Encounter House (this is really easy to miss and just behind the cougar enclosure) which has snakes, reptiles, bats, and some small monkeys. We also stopped in the butterfly house but it was a cooler day..only 87 degrees and apparently that’s too cold for them to fly so if butterflies are your thing, go on a hot day.
The real attraction here is the fenced in playground in the middle of the zoo. The zoo opens at 10AM and if you are going in the morning I recommend you go to the playground first as the main event of the trip and then visit the animals at the end or even take a walk around the zoo and come back to play a second time. I say this because the playground got really crowded around 11:30 AM when most parents and groups decided to play and eat lunch. There is a picnic area and plenty of benches in shaded areas around the zoo to stop and have a snack or lunch and avoid the crowd at the playground. Near the prairie dogs exhibit is a large teepee that we stopped to have our snack in. There is a café located at the front of the zoo but I didn’t go in so I can’t say what it was like, although it never looked crowded.
You can walk the whole zoo in under an hour and I only recommend bringing in your stroller if you have a non-walker or a very new walker who doesn’t navigate pavement bumps and cracks very well. Otherwise this place is great for your toddlers to walk, or most likely run, independently…. it’s small enough that they can walk it without their little legs getting tired and it’s a great way to burn off some energy before nap or bedtime. I never felt nervous that she would get lost in the crowd like I often do at the Philadelphia Zoo.
The zoo also does a great job of keeping it simple, we didn’t pass a bunch of stands selling cotton candy and cheap toys which definitely made things easier for me. There is a gift shop at the front but it is totally avoidable. They do have pony rides which do not open until 11AM, this always bothers me…I think if you are open then open everything….this caused the only tantrum of the morning because I promised a pony ride (my mistake) and when we passed the ponies they were not open yet and it didn’t matter that we could come back later…..thankfully the train was in eyesight and offered the perfect distraction.
The zoo is worth checking out for the playground alone but the animal exhibits make it even better and the price is hard to beat…especially if you are a Philadelphia Zoo member.
Good To Know:
*Located about 10 minutes from the Plymouth Meeting Mall
*Parking is FREE and a very short walk to the entrance
*Cost: $12 Adults, $9 Kids 3-12 and Sr. Citizens, FREE for 2 And Under
***if you are a member of the Philadelphia Zoo, you will receive 50% off your admission by showing your membership card and ID
Thanks to HipsterHenry.com Mom Natalie for this awesome review!