Have you ever visited Pittsburgh Zoo without the kids? Mr. Locke and I got all gussied up and headed to the zoo after hours for its 18th Annual Summer Safari last weekend and, man, am I glad we braved the rush hour traffic to check it out. From special animal encounters to amazing food from popular Pittsburgh restaurants and even the Zoo itself, we had a roarin’ good time! Miss the event or simply want a recap of what we loved? This one’s for you!
What’s Pittsburgh Zoo Summer Safari?
Once a year, Pittsburgh Zoo closes early for its annual Summer Safari. The park turns into a fun-for-all adult good time filled with food and drink, animal encounters, and of course, great music. With two options (VIP and regular admission) you can cater the event to your liking and budget, but wither way it’s definitely worth it. The VIP option offers an earlier entrance than general tickets (we hit the party at 5:30pm), exclusive drink lines with White Diamond & Blue Diamond Vodka, and extra special animal visits including Merlin the Owl. He loved the attention, I think.
Another perk? We got to play adult and get all cleaned up! Summer Safari offers several stations around the zoo (there were four plus the VIP tent for this year) with staggered open times so we got to mosey around and check out the animals- many of which are nocturnal so they were ready to pose. Except these guys, of course. It was cat nap time.
At 5:30pm, guests began rolling into the Summer Safari VIP Party. Tickets go quickly and there’s good reason why: the two-hour party is filled with fun and good music and even massages from Massage Envy– perfect for an end-of-work-week relax!
The VIP tent was packed with guests that wanted an extra hour of fun- and delicious food and drink! There was plenty of tables and chairs and plenty of tasting options to satisfy even the biggest of foodies (I’ll add myself to that list, thank you!).
Spicy Bloody Marys from Bakn in Carnegie. Check out the thickly-sliced bacon for a garnish!
Tuna Tartar in Wonton Cups from McCormick & Schmicks Restaurant. Mr Locke really enjoyed the light, summery flavor and raw tuna.
A little something sweet from Mercurio’s in Market Square: Chocolate Chip Gelato!
Stop 1 BNY Mellon Village
We headed to Stop 1 for more food and drink- and fun live music from The Lava Game.
Six Penn Kitchen on Sixth had the best Sweet and Spicy Cracker Jacks and Purple Lemonade. Loved the sweet/spicy combination and the Purple Lemonade cooled us off.
Taste of the Wild Catering (the Zoo’s in-house catering group. Check them out for private events, company picnics, and family reunions) had an entire table of Housemade Chips. With two styles, BBQ and Salt and Pepper, we were happy to sample.
There were tons of other food stations including Bread with Spinach Dip from Breadworks, Flank Steak from Texas de Brazil, and the local grocer, Giant Eagle, was there with its Antipasti.
Stop 2 The Plaza
DJ Mike Mason had the tunes going when we arrived and the sun was just beginning to set. We had a chance to mosey around Pittsburgh Zoo’s newest area and loved it! With a beachy vibe, we sat in beach chairs, put of feet in the sand, and, yep, tasted more delicious dishes!
A fave of mine for the night, Summer Farro Hash from Taste of the Wild Catering.
Mr. Locke couldn’t stop raving about this one: BBQ Pork Belly with Cheesy Grits from Taste of the Wild Catering. He’s a sucker for Southern cuisine and this one hit the spot.
I had to save room for dessert: Cherry and Goat Cheese Tartlets from Taste of the Wild Catering. Tangy goat cheese and sweet cherries? Enough said. They were delicious.
Stop 3 PPG Aquarium
As we were Summer Safari newbies, I couldn’t wait for Stop 3. There’s something about aquariums that’s so soothing to me, but this time my visit to PPG Aquarium was filled with excitement and I couldn’t help but be giddy! Divers filled the massive aquariums, entertainment from DJ Greg Schaefer filled the air, and we filled our stomachs- again!
This stop was all about decadence and desserts, so The Melting Pot of Pittsburgh was our first pit stop for chocolate fondue.
The divers had a fun time interacting with the guests and posed for pics. I couldn’t help myself.
Stop 4 PNC Pavilion
The final stop of the night was at PNC Pavilion and the entrance to Kids’ Kingdom. A gorgeous tent and live band (Radio Tokyo) kept the guests dancing until 11pm and the mood was so upbeat and fun.
More deliciousness from Taste of the Wild Catering: Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese Bites. They also had Pierogies with Garlic Herb Butter, Sweet Dips Cafe passed out Daily Blend Coffee, and of course, there was more liquor and beverages. Eat’n Park had a table with Mini Smiley Cookies (if you’re from Pittsburgh, you know how delicious they are!), and we ate and drank and had so much fun I can’t wait for next year!
In a Nutshell
Pittsburgh Zoo Summer Safari is definitely a party that I never want to miss again. The animal encounters (this one’s with Tasha the Elephant), the food, and the drinks tossed in with great live music and DJs and the opportunity to walk around the zoo at night is my idea of a perfect way to see the zoo in a whole new light.
A huge thanks to Pittsburgh Zoo for hosting Mr. Locke and me for its 18th Annual Summer Safari!