Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium: Ideal Time to Go + 50+ Amazing Animals to See

Written by Sam Hindman
Published: November 2, 2023
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Located in the Steel City’s Highland Park, it is a local favorite and tourist must-see all in one. The Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium is full of exciting adventures, opportunities for learning, and of course, adorable animals. If you’ve never been to the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, you’re certainly missing out! With eight unique exhibits to explore, it’ll be hard to visit all 8,000 resident animals in one trip. But, with the help of this guide, you can curate your experience and ensure that your time there is well-spent. So, without further a-zoo, let’s take a look at all that this place has to offer!

Ideal Time To Visit The Pittsburgh Zoo And Aquarium

Welcome sign, Pittsburgh Zoo

While there’s no wrong time to come to the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, the in-season is your best bet.

©Christopher “Rice” from Pittsburgh, PA, United States of America / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License

If you’re wondering what the perfect time to visit the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium is, you’ll be relieved to know that it is open year-round. So, even if your visit takes place in the traditional off-season, you’ll still have the opportunity to visit all of their beautiful animals. But that doesn’t mean that any time is the “best time,” so let’s break down a solid strategy.

Typically, Pittsburgh gets quite chilly during the winter months. Anything from November to early April, which is also listed as the zoo’s off-season, might cause you to run the risk of getting snowed and/or frozen out. Your best bet, to simultaneously avoid the hottest part of summer and the coldest part of winter would be to visit in the late spring or early fall. That way, you can explore to your heart’s content without worrying about sweating or freezing!

In terms of the time of day, it’s really up to you! The hours of the zoo are as follows:

  • 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (During the off-season)
  • 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (During the in-season)

However, if you’re a local, you can get the opportunity to enter the park a half-hour early with a Zoo Membership. Not only that, but you can visit the zoo as often as you’d like during the in-season! With free parking and other exciting perks, it’s certainly something worth considering.

Exhibits at The Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium

Now that we’ve handled the logistics of your visit, let’s break down what opportunities for animal sightings you have in store. For convenience’s sake, we’re breaking down their list of animals based on their respective exhibits. In between these exhibits, though, are a range of exciting restaurants, gift shops, and even places to grab a drink! Be sure to check out the zoo’s online map for more details on these areas. For now, though, let’s get into the animals!

Forest Passage

The first section of the zoo to venture through is the Forest Passage. In this area of the zoo, you’ll see creatures from North America, Asia, and even the islands of Indonesia. Though this area only has four animal species inhabiting it, it’s still a fan favorite due to what exactly those species are.

The first is the Canadian lynx, a wild cat that certainly makes an impression! Then, come face to face with the Amur tigers in all of their majestic glory before spotting the adorable red pandas jump their way through the treetops in their exhibit. The last species you’ll see in this area is the Komodo dragon, a formidable reptile that you shouldn’t miss out on!

African Savanna

At the Pittsburgh Zoo, you can see powerful lions and other big cats!

©Derek Ramsey / Creative Commons

The next exhibit is the African Savanna, and it has quite a dynamic range of critters to watch. In fact, this exhibit is the most populated in the zoo (not by quantity of animals, but by quantity of species). Although the walk around might be a bit lengthy, it’s worth it to spot all of these mesmerizing creatures. It would be difficult to discuss each of the animal species on their own, so here’s a list for your convenience:

While this might seem like a lot to venture through, the truth is that the amount of fun you’ll have will ultimately negate the strain of walking. Besides, some of these animals share enclosures, so you can even see a few of them interact with one another!

Tropical Forest

The next exhibit is the Tropical Forest! This one is particularly interesting because, other than the Aquarium, this is the only fully indoor exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo. That’s because the animals that occupy the space are naturally accustomed to certain temperatures, and frankly, Pittsburgh weather is nothing if not unpredictable. This indoor enclosure ensures that the species are all receiving the correct amount of humidity and warmth.

In the Tropical Forest, the majority of creatures that you’ll witness are primates! And don’t you worry, these aren’t just your typical gorillas and orangutans (though they have those, too). You’ll see many exotic primate species, like lemurs, sakis, colobus’, black howlers, capuchins, and more! Besides the impressive primate display, you’ll also get a glimpse of a few lovely two-toed sloths!

The Islands

There are both Tomistoma and Philippine crocodiles inhabiting the Pittsburgh Zoo.

©Ryan E. Poplin / Creative Commons

Next up is The Islands, an exhibit that is populated with an abundance of exciting biodiversity. Both Tomistoma and Philippine crocodiles are there to give you the exciting rush that comes with seeing a predator in action! Up in the treetops, you’ll find another lively primate, the Siamang.

As you move along, there are even more lovely creatures in store. They say that slow and steady wins the race, and that statement rings quite true for the Aldabra tortoise and its impressively long lifespan. Then, take a look at the Visayan warty pigs before seeing an apex predator in its prime: the absolutely majestic clouded leopard.

Jungle Oddesey

The next exhibit is the Jungle Odyssey exhibit, one that is short but sweet. There might only be three species that inhabit this area of the Pittsburgh Zoo, but they aren’t ones that you’ll want to pass by! Ever seen an anteater in real life? What about a giant one? Here, you can! In addition, you can stand by as two impressive wildcats, ocelots and fossas, play with their prey and bask out in the sun.


There are hundreds of fish species inhabiting the Pittsburgh Aquarium!

©MikeMurphy (User) / public domain – License

The next stop on your journey is the impressive Pittsburgh Aquarium, with a long and impressive list of fish on display. Such a long list, in fact, that it would be nearly impossible to name them all. From jellyfish to sharks, your experience can be totally customized based on your interests.

Also inhabiting the aquarium are a few aquatic creatures of the non-fish variety. The one that arguably draws in the most crowds, however, are the penguins. These flightless birds are a fan-favorite, and for good reason! But watch out; In between petting the sting rays and watching the sea turtles, there might be an escaped poison dart frog! Just kidding, the zoo is excellent at keeping animals secure. That doesn’t mean you should miss out on checking those frogs out, though!

Water’s Edge

chilly dip in the pool for the polar bear at the Pittsburgh Zoo


polar bears

at Pittsburgh Zoo aren’t always active, so be on the lookout while you visit!

©Ann Patrick/Shutterstock.com

Right next door to the aquarium is the aptly named Water’s Edge, animals that aren’t quite aquatic but can certainly benefit from access to bodies of water. The first animals of note are the polar bears, which are actually a lot more easily spotted in the winter off-season (who would’ve thought?) You can also check out some of the adorable sea otters before making your way over to the seals and sea lions! They might look cute, but you’d be surprised at how fast they can down a fish! After all, there’s a reason they’re known as the lions of the sea.

Kid’s Kingdom

The name “Kid’s Kingdom” might make this next exhibit sound easily skippable, but I assure you- it’s not! With eleven exciting animal species to see, it’s the second-largest exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo. There is a designated spot in the Kid’s Kingdom for your little ones to play around and learn a few things, but that isn’t the main function of this area.

Here’s a list of all the lovely creatures you can spot in this section:

World’s of Discovery

Finally, there is the “World’s of Discovery” exhibit. In addition to its array of animals, this section of the zoo is also where you can find the Bayer Science Education Amphitheater and see if there are any interesting educational displays happening on the day of your visit! Alongside their display of venomous reptiles, you can also catch a glimpse of bats, meerkats, and naked molerats!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Christopher "Rice" from Pittsburgh, PA, United States of America / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License / Original

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About the Author

Sam Hindman is a writer at A-Z animals covering a range of topics, including pet care, plant care, pest control and travel destinations. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Multimedia Studies at Point Park University, set to graduate in the spring of 2024. A resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when she isn't writing, she's spending time with her beloved cat Archie.

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