The Philadelphia Zoo
The zoo still boasts Victorian architecture in many of its buildings, but now has such modern exhibits as the Animal Health Center, which opened in 1997 and treats ailing animals from hummingbirds to polar bears.
Currently on display in the Reptile House is Naga, the largest Komodo dragon in the Western Hemisphere, on loan from the Cincinnati Zoo until July 31. This creature, which has a forked tongue and serrated teeth, weighs 250 pounds and is nearly 10 feet long.
Also popular are the zoo's two female white lions, which arrived in 1993 and were the first white lions to be exhibited in a U.S. zoo.
Fun facts: The Komodo was given to then-President George Bush in 1990 by the president of Indonesia. There are only about 3,000 wild Komodo dragons left, and they live only on the Indonesian islands north of Australia.
Hours and admission: The zoo is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from February through November. In December and January, it is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The zoo is not open Jan. 1, June 13, Thanksgiving Day, Dec. 24-25 and 31. General admission is $12.95 from February through November, and $5.95 in December and January. For children 2 to 11, general admission is $9.95 from February to November, and $5.95 in December and January. Parking is $6 per vehicle.
Address and directions: The Philadelphia Zoo is at 3400 W. Girard Ave. It is on the corner of 34th Street and Girard Avenue in Philadelphia. From Interstate 76, take Exit 342, which is Girard Avenue. If you are coming from the east, turn left at Girard Avenue for parking. If you are coming from the west, turn right. For more information, call 215-243-1100 or visit the Web site at phillyzoo.org.
The Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo, the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States, opened in 1899 with 843 animals. It now has more than 6,000.
The latest addition to the ever-evolving zoo is the Congo Gorilla Forest, which was completed in 2001. "It really puts you in the thick of the rain forest," said Linda Corcoran, a zoo spokeswoman.
The 6.5-acre exhibit has more than 400 animals, including 23 lowland gorillas. Visitors can observe the family dynamics of this group through plate glass, Corcoran said.
Other animals in the exhibit include okapi, which resemble giraffes with shorter necks, and DeBrazza's monkeys, which have owllike faces.
Fun fact: The zoo's 25-foot, 4-inch-long reticulated python, known as Samantha, is the largest of her species in any zoo.
Hours and admission: The Bronx Zoo is open year-round. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Admission prices range from $6 to $11, with children under 2 admitted for free. A $3 fee for the Congo Gorilla Exhibit is donated to an African conservation project of the visitor's choice.
Address and directions: The Bronx Zoo is at Fordham Road and the Bronx River Parkway in the Bronx, N.Y. It is easy to reach from Exit 6 off the Bronx River Parkway. For more information, call 718-367-1010 or visit the Web site at bronxzoo.com.
The Virginia Zoo
The Virginia Zoo, in Norfolk, recently completed the largest expansion in its history with the creation of an Africa-themed exhibit, the Okovanggo Delta. The 8-acre site is the first of five continent-themed displays that are scheduled for development.
Animals in the Africa exhibit include African elephants, an ostrich, baboons, cranes, a rock python, rhinos and a zebra. There are also displays that teach visitors about the culture and environment of Africa.