Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Walking on the Wild Side at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium {Ohio}



**Disclosure: No compensation was received for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Many of us have childhood memories of Jack Hanna introducing us to a variety of wildlife--both common and uncommon--on television. He always seems to have a calm yet knowledgeable demeanor about him. To many of us, Jack Hanna is familiar--almost like a friend. So, the chance to visit the zoo that he directed is a welcome experience. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio so happens to be the zoo that Jack directed and of which he remains Director Emeritus. Of course, we had it on our Columbus to-do list! With eager kids in toe, we were happy to visit.



The zoo itself is quite enormous and houses 11,000 animals. The zoo is probably the largest I have been to, so there is a lot of ground to cover on a visit. To allow yourself time to enjoy the exhibits and linger at your favorite spots, definitely give yourself a day to visit. The zoo also has a water park attached and various zoo tours that may extend your visit. Planning ahead and working out a schedule is key depending on your visit length!


The animals are grouped more or less by climate or region. The first section that we tackled had the petting zoo. The petting zoo is not too far from the entrance to the zoo so you can easily make a beeline if you are traveling with young or pretty anxious kids. Nearby we found pony rides and a train ride. Each is an additional fee or you can buy a wristband. We road on the train and enjoyed some additional views.

After, we visited the polar bears which also had an indoor exhibit about researching in polar climates. The zoo did have several other indoor exhibits like this that allowed us to look more closely at conservation and research. I loved that the zoo added this aspect with some gusto. Other zoos mention conservation but it seems like an afterthought. It really gave the kids some extra food for thought and a way to apply their visit outside of the zoo.


By far our favorite part of the zoo was the African savanna. This portion of the zoo was absolutely majestically executed giving us a panoramic view of a savanna populated with a variety of African animals. There is a restaurant overlooking the savanna where you can get a seat if you are lucky. However, there are plenty of views as you make your way around Africa. Quite an enjoyable moment to soak in!




Other highlights included the nocturnal animal area where you get to see what goes on at night, the orangutans who seemed to have quite a bit of fun, the magnificent elephants and graceful manatees and opportunities to meet the animals through a variety of wildlife talks.


Inside the zoo is Pirate Island with a pirate boat ride that appeared to be quite entertaining, complete with cannons firing. By the time we reached this part of the zoo, we were quite tired so waiting for the ride was a bit out the question. Another time! Ahoy!



Things to know:

  • Check out your ticket options before going. Consider if you would like to visit the water park as well. You can also get a zoo-it-all wristband to allow you access to all of the additional attractions in the zoo.
  • You may bring in a picnic lunch but straws and alcohol are prohibited. Picnic lunches are only permitted in the zoo, not the water park.
  • You will not find any disposable straws in the zoo as they are harmful to the animals. 
  • Be sure to bring sunscreen. You will be at the zoo awhile!
  • There are shaded areas so capitalize on those. The African area has little shade and gets hot.
  • Take a map when you enter. There are plenty of restrooms around and the map will make them easier to spot.
We had a fabulous time at the Columbus Zoo! Quite the complete day with plenty of fun and learning too!
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