Pittsburgh Zoo penguins parade through winter weather

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Zoo | Aside from hockey, Pittsburgh's penguins enjoy parading through the outdoors to entertain the zoo's guests.

by Caroline Kucko | staff writer

Feb. 10, 2022

The penguins at the Pittsburgh Zoo are embracing the winter weather and going on parade on Saturdays and Sundays this month.

Every weekend throughout the month of February, the penguins will take a walk outside of the upper entrance to the PPG Aquarium and spend a half hour playing and enjoying the outdoors. The parade begins promptly at 11:30 a.m. and is included with zoo admission.

As guests rotate through the parade viewing area, they will get the unique opportunity to interact with the penguins and learn more about the friendly animals from a closer perspective.

“‘Penguins on Parade’ is a really great chance for visitors to engage with our penguins in a way that they don’t get to inside the aquarium,” said Aquarist Jessica Ries.

The parade has quickly become an annual hit among the Pittsburgh community. Public Relations and Media Manager Ian Hunter referred to the public’s response as “overwhelmingly positive,” with lines occasionally extending all the way back to the zoo’s main entrance despite cold temperatures.

While the parade is certainly an entertaining experience for guests, it is also incredibly beneficial to the penguins’ development.

“‘Penguins on Parade’ is a great enrichment opportunity for our penguins,” Ries said, who works directly with the animals as a primary caretaker. “They get to go outside, get some fresh air and experience the winter season here in Pittsburgh.”

Ries further described the parade as a helpful change of pace for the penguins both environmentally and socially. Not only do they get the chance to experience the winter elements outside of their habitat, but they also get to socialize with dozens of guests.

Participation in the parade is completely voluntary for the penguins, according to Ries.

“The birds do all of the work,”  Ries said. “We open the exhibit door, say ‘come on, lets go!’ and whichever birds want to join us come outside.”

On warmer days, the penguins can be seen waddling around the parade area and playing with bubbles, but they are truly in their glory in the wintry weather.

“The best time to see a penguin parade is when it’s snowing,” says Ries. “They chase the snowflakes and toboggan on their bellies and it’s a really great experience to see and participate in.”

Although “Penguins on Parade” is scheduled to take place through Feb. 27, the Pittsburgh Zoo plans to extend the event for as long as the weather cooperates. 

According to the zoo’s website, temperatures must be below 45 degrees and above 25 degrees in order for the event to be deemed safe for the penguins. If the parade is canceled due to weather, the penguins can still be seen from their habitat inside the PPG Aquarium.

The Pittsburgh Zoo also offers a variety of other attractions for guests to enjoy throughout the winter offseason.

Specifically, guests can check out the Tropical Forest exhibit which contains 16 primates including the orangutan and two-toed sloth among others. The Worlds of Discovery exhibit is also open featuring various reptiles, meerkats and more.

While warm-climate animals are off exhibit throughout the colder months, the tigers and Canadian lynx are on exhibit outdoors and are enjoying the winter weather. The two-story PPG Aquarium housing a wide variety of fish, sharks and other ocean animals is also open for guests to explore.

Whether stopping by to watch the penguin parade or exploring the numerous other exhibits, there is something for everyone to enjoy at the Pittsburgh Zoo.