Behind-the-Scenes Tours

Wild Encounters are behind-the-scenes tours at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Each encounter is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience designed to foster positive, lifelong connections to the natural world. Please note that reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance. Price is per group, up to six people.

Some tours are only available at certain times of the year because of animal behavior factors, including but not limited to mating, molting, or weather conditions. Although the following tours are not offered right now, they will be available in the coming months, so check back regularly.

Below is a listing of all tours, both current and off-season along with the guidelines for each tour.  You can also find important guidelines, such as general information and scheduling information below.

  • Red Panda Encounter
    • redpandaVisit with one of the Zoo's most charming animals, our red panda, Xia. You will meet one of the animal keepers and have the opportunity to see Xia up close. This tour is only offered during the winter months, which happens to be Xia's favorite time of the year. The tour is approximately 30 minutes in duration. Tour participants will meet the keeper who will be their guide at the top of the steps at the red panda exhibit.

      The Red Panda Encounter is open to guests ages 6 and older only. A ratio of one adult for every three children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking, as each time slot is reserved and closed once it has been filled by a group. This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group.

      Red Panda Encounter tours are available selected Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. (with an advanced reservation). The cost is $350 for non-members and $250 for members. The price is per group (up to six people).

      For reservations when this encounter is available, please call 412-365-2545 or email wildencounters@pittsburghzoo.org.
  • Reptile Encounter
    • reptileDiscover what it takes to wrangle the Zoo’s reptile collection. Learn how to use the tools-of-the-trade and handle live reptiles while working alongside our experienced reptile keepers. Bring your camera for the numerous once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities. The tour is approximately 30 minutes. Tour participants will meet the keeper who will be their guide at the entrance of Worlds of Discovery in Kids Kingdom.

      The Reptile Encounter is open to guests ages 10 and older only. A ratio of one adult for every two children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking, as each time slot is reserved and closed once it has been filled by a group. This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group.

      Reptile Encounter tours are available Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2p.m. (with an advanced reservation). The cost is $260 for non-members and $180 for members. The price is per group (up to six people).

      For reservations, please call 412-365-2545 or email wildencounters@pittsburghzoo.org.
  • Sea Lion Encounter
    • sealionDiscover the unique characteristics that make California sea lions a visitor favorite during this 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour. Begin your visit admiring the underwater acrobatics of these graceful sea dwellers. Then witness first-hand the challenges and successes of the Zoo’s world-class sea lion training program. The tour is approximately 30 minutes. Tour participants will meet the keeper who will be their guide at the sea lion pool underwater viewing window in Kids Kingdom.

      The Sea Lion Encounter is open to guests ages 8 and older only. A ratio of one adult for every two children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking, as each time slot is reserved and closed once it has been filled by a group. This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group.

      Sea Lion Encounter tours are available Sundays and Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. (with an advanced reservation). The cost is $350 for non-members and $250 for members. The price is per group (up to six people).

      For reservations, please call 412-365-2545 or email wildencounters@pittsburghzoo.org.
  • Primate Experience
    • primateDiscover the secrets of the Tropical Forest Complex during this 30-minute beside-the-action* tour led by one of the Zoo’s world-class primate keepers. The tour is approximately 30 minutes and includes access to a VIP viewing area at the gorilla exhibit. Tour participants will meet the keeper who will be their guide at the entrance of the Tropical Forest Complex.

      The Primate Experience tour is open to guests ages 6 and older only. A ratio of one adult for every two children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking, as each time slot is reserved and closed once it has been filled by a group. This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group.

      Primate Experience tours are available Wednesdays at 11 a.m. (with advanced reservation). The cost is $260 for non-members and $180 for members. The price is per group (up to six people).

      For reservations when this encounter is available, please call 412-365-2545 or email wildencounters@pittsburghzoo.org.
  • Giraffe Encounter - currently unavailable
    • giraffeExperience the world’s tallest land animals in a way you never have before. Begin your tour with an informational session with a giraffe expert to learn about the care that goes into these tall creatures. Then, walk up to the outdoor enclosure and have the unique experience of feeding a giraffe. The tour is approximately 30 minutes in duration. Tour participants will meet the keeper who will be their guide at the Savanna Stop refreshment stand in the African Savanna.

      The Giraffe Encounter is open to guests ages 8 and older only. A ratio of one adult for every two children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking, as each time slot is reserved and closed once it has been filled by a group. This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group.

      Giraffe Encounter tours are available selected Thursdays at 11 a.m. (with an advanced reservation). The cost is $350 for non-members and $250 for members. The price is per group (up to six people).

      The Giraffe Encounter is not available during the winter months.  Please check back in the spring for availablity.
  • Penguin Encounter - Not Currently Available
    • penguinDiscover the birds of the Antarctic without leaving Pittsburgh. Be sure to bring your camera for once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities when you meet with our penguins and their keepers at the PPG Aquarium. The tour is approximately 30 minutes in duration. Tour participants will meet the keeper who will be their guide at the entrance of the PPG Aquarium.

      The Penguin Encounter is open to guests ages 6 and older only. A ratio of one adult for every two children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking, as each time slot is reserved and closed once it has been filled by a group. This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group.

      Penguin Encounter tours are available Wednesdays at 2:15 p.m. (with an advanced reservation). The cost is $350 for non-members and $250 for members. The price is per group (up to six people).

      The Penguin Encounter is not currently available.
  • Sea Turtle Encounter - Not Currently Available
    • seaturtleGet an up-close look at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s Second Chance program for sea turtles. Enjoy once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities, meet the sea turtles, and hear their amazing stories of tragedy, triumph, and excitement. The tour is approximately 30 minutes in duration. Tour participants will meet the keeper who will be their guide at the sea turtle exhibit near the entrance of the PPG Aquarium.

      The Sea Turtle Encounter is open to guests ages 6 and older only. A ratio of one adult for every two children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking, as each time slot is reserved and closed once it has been filled by a group. This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group.

      Sea Turtle Encounter tours are available most Thursdays through Mondays at 2 p.m. (with an advanced reservation). The cost is $350 for non-members and $250 for members. The price is per group (up to six people).

      The Sea Turtle Encounter is not currently available.

  • General Information
    • geninfoDue to the unpredictability of working with live animals, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium reserves the right to cancel or reschedule Wild Encounters at any time. All tours are scheduled based on animal and staff availability. Cancellation for health and safety reasons are made at the sole discretion of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. In the event of a cancellation, the Zoo will contact you to reschedule as soon as possible.

      All tours are guided walking tours; guests will not board a tram or other vehicle. We are unable to accommodate strollers during Wild Encounters.

      Guidelines of established age ranges and maximum number of guests are non-negotiable and strictly enforced.

      Please plan to arrive at the designated meeting area prior to the tour start time. Tour times are fixed. Late arrival will result in a shortened tour experience.

      All guests are required to wear closed-toed shoes (no sandals or high heels) in behind-the-scenes areas. Wild Encounters participants must have a signed Waiver of Liability before beginning the tour. Participants under 18 years of age must have the waiver signed by a parent or guardian.

      Food and drink are not permitted in any behind-the-scenes areas. For safety reasons, service animals are not permitted on behind-the-scenes tours. Interaction with or touching of the animals without explicit direction from a Zoo staff member is not permitted during Wild Encounters.

      Other restrictions may apply.
  • Scheduling Information
    • schedinfoAll tours are scheduled on a first come, first served basis. If a member of your group has a special need or mobility issue, please contact us in advance so accommodations can be made, if possible. All Wild Encounters include general Zoo admission and guests are free to explore the Zoo before or after their tour. Reservations are required and must be made at least two weeks in advance. Reservations close two weeks prior to each tour date.

      Cancellations must be made seven days in advance or payment will be forfeited and donated to the Zoo’s Conservation Fund. All cancellations must be made in writing and sent to wildencounters@pittsburghzoo.org.

      *Beside-the-action experience, may not include behind-the-scenes access.