The Baltimore Zoo
If you are planning a trip to Maryland, come to The Baltimore Zoo. They have a variety of ongoing activities year round.
Founded on April 7, 1876, on the site of the Rogers’ family estate, the Baltimore Zoo is the third oldest zoo in the United States. The 161-acre zoo is part of a 675-acre park known as Druid Hill Park, which includes an arboretum, a Frisbee golf course, a couple of softball diamonds, a war memorial cemetery, and a man-made lake. The rolling hills and vistas of the area complement the wooded site of the zoo.
At its inception and prior to the appointment of its first director, the zoo contained a herd of 52 deer, a flock of pure Southdown sheep, two sea lions, and four camels. Arthur Watson quintupled the size of the zoo by opening up a Reptile House, a Waterfowl Lake, a Rock Island (which now houses the Penguin exhibit), a Giraffe House, and the original Children’s Zoo. Watson began the construction of the cages that held the more dangerous wildlife. Up until the mid 1960s, the zoo was freely open to the public, and it was possible to walk or drive by the exhibits. Due to increasing costs, vandalism, and some mysterious animal deaths, a fence was erected around the zoo, and admission was charged to the public. The only exhibit still outside the general zoo compound is the Reptile house, which continues to remain open to the public.
Today, the Baltimore Zoo continues to evolve: the old iron bar cage exhibits have been replaced with animal habitats, including an African Safari area, a Chimpanzee Forest, a Bog, and a Cheetah Savannah. The seals and other marine life, which were formerly housed at the zoo, are now located at the National Aquarium in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
The Children’s Zoo has also undergone a makeover and now includes a working farmyard; an aviary exhibit where birds and people can intermingle inside a netted enclosure; a river exhibit where you can walk under the water and see how otters live; an underground exhibit for experiencing the life of a burrowing animal; and the living tree exhibit where you can climb up inside the lifelike man-made tree. The Children’s Zoo is part of the main zoo complex and is included in the admission price.
Scattered throughout the grounds are gift shops, snack stands, picnic tables, and the Zoo Train (rides on the train are not included with admission).
The facility has been constructed with the handicapped in mind; however, there are a few exhibits (such as the living tree) that are not accessible. Since the zoo is located in a hilly area (there is a long steep descent that separates the older section of the zoo from some of the more recent exhibits, including the Children’s Zoo), be sure to bring a stroller for the younger children (or you can rent one at the gift shop) and wear comfortable shoes. A ride on the tram shuttle is available for a nominal fee and will save you from the long walk back up the hill.
The zoo is open year round and only closes on Christmas Day and on June 2 for Zoomerang! (the zoo’s annual black-tie fund raiser). During the winter holiday season, the zoo opens at night for a holiday light show aptly called Zoo Lights. Parking is plentiful and free.