Pros: Very educational, inexpensive, and fun.
Cons: A lot of walking, sleeping or hiding animals.
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My granddaughter recently spent a couple of weeks with her dear old Nana (me) here in Columbus. I had several things planned for us to do while she was here. It was during that period of the endless rains. One morning when we got up we spotted a little sun it was this day we took to head off to the Columbus Zoo.
Upon arrival it seemed everyone had the same idea. The parking lot was very crowded, though ample parking was still available, at the cost of $3.00. What I did notice was an area of the lot with at least twenty school buses. The reason for this was end of school trips, I had forgotten these kids were still in school, because my granddaughter had gotten out two weeks earlier.
As we walked our way to the entrance I just knew we would be battling crowds all day, I was mistaken. Admission fee was reasonable: Adults -$9.00, children aged 2-11 was $5.00, children under 2 was free, and senior price was $7.00 She and I got in for a total of $12.00 you do the math :) The lines moved quickly a nice surprise.
First thing I noticed once in the park was that it was impeccably clean. Ash wanted to go towards the right. So right it was. The first thing we came to was the area listed as 'North America' there was a semi-list of what we would see in here. Some examples are cougars, bears, otters, a nice aviary, wolves, prairie dogs. In this section was also a train ride that went around the area twice for a $1.00 We took the ride in a train that has to be the original one for this zoo. You could hear a pre recorded message of what we were supposed to be able to view as we passed. The recording was not very good quality, and perhaps was as old as the train, because neither of us could understand what was being said. There was a conductor, but he never spoke and only tooted the whistle at road crossings.
The only animal we actually caught a glimpse of from this ride was a Moose, sleeping under a tree. Which was OK as we would be able to walk on the other side of these areas for viewing. The Moose we never saw again, so guess it's good we snapped that photo from the train ride.
We did manage a peek at a bear or two, but they were inside a fence within another fence. The park does go to some great lengths to present each animal in its natural habitant, and of course safety is of big concern. So basically the bear we could see best just paced up and down a fence line (away from us) much like an expectant father waiting for a birth.
We got great shots of the Prairie dogs, they seemed oblivious to the people standing around. They almost seemed to be putting on a show. One in particular came as close as he could and stood up on his hind legs, and used is front paws in a game of hide and seek, very cute. They certainly are little buggers.
The Aviary was nice. Two sets of screened doors to enter, they ask that you make sure the first door is completely closed before opening the second. This was understandable considering these guys could have just flown the coop if the outer door and inner door were open at the same time. I noticed most people followed these instructions, but there seems to always be that one that stands with both doors ajar.
At the Bobcat exhibit we read the information board with information about the Bobcat, as he/she was no where to be seen. Unfortunately this happened on several occasions. I explained that maybe they just weren't up for company and had found a place to sun themselves from view, as they too had to endure those endless rainy days. Ash was OK with it, but we did hear a lot of children and adults complaining they weren't seeing much. It's really a hit or miss type situation, they are in view or they aren't I hardly would hold the zoo responsible for that. I told her we needed to remember these were wild animals in captivity, in their natural environments and their behavior could not be regulated, fortunately she understood.
In this area we did see some beautiful Eagles, whew those guys are big.
It was also here in the North American section we found the petting zoo. It consisted mostly of goats and sheep. It was of good size and the children were supplied with combs and brushes to do some grooming of the animals. These critters loved the attention, they would quickly recline for a brush or belly rub. After you exit the petting zoo there were sinks, soap, and towels for washing those nasty little paws (the ones of the kids that is) Waterless disinfectants were also available. Not that much could be done about the clothing of the children that hugged these guys till their eyes almost popped. There was staff throughout the petting area to answer questions and protect the safety of both animals and their human visitors.
Moving on we came to the Pachyderms, not my word that's how it was listed. So yes here we had the elephants and black rhinos. The elephants we saw numbered about five and they were all outside at the watering hole, with their backs to the visitors, so you can imagine what view of these massive creatures we got to see? The rhinos were all inside and though visible not overly eager to interact with the crowd.
Off we head to 'Discovery Reef, Johnson Aquatic Complex and Manatee Coast'. Upon entering the enclosed portion of this exhibit there is an area where the kids can pet various forms on marine life. They must first wash their hands at a provided sink. The display consisted of several shell animals, starfish, some turtles and such. There were three staff member present to answer their questions. From here we moved on to a good size aquarium, full of beautiful colored fish, sharks, eels (yuck) and stingrays. The stingrays were sort of funny as they seemed to enjoy pressing their undersides flat against the glass. I mentioned to Ash how they reminded me of "Casper the Friendly Ghost" they were white and their movements reminded me of old Casper.
We had a great view of the massive Manatees, one in particular would swim to the viewing window, swim away and come back. Over and over, giving all that were there a fantastic view. Ash forced me to go then look at snakes and lizards, I can say they were big and ugly. We saw many Flamingos just standing by a pond. We were told they are born white and get their various shades of color because of the diet they keep.
We wandered up to the Penguin area where a staff member was doing a lesson and feeding of the Penguins. Most of the Penguins were banded with a colored ring on either left or right side. Most of the Penguins had a matching color to another. It was pointed out these were mates, so their band colors were the same, the only difference is the males were banded on one side while the females another. We were told these were Desert Penguins and did not like cold water. At feeding they seemed to eat massive amounts of fish, clearly explained that they were "bulking up" because when they lose their feathers they do not go into the water, and considering their food is derived form the water, they add a lot of weight to themselves so they can survive the month or so before they regain their feathers.
Another interesting fact was that they need to teach their young to eat fish head first or the gills from the fish can and does choke the Penguin. A great informative exhibit.
It was time for us to find our own feeding ground, which was not a problem. The Zoo has many locations to find food and beverages. We ate at a place called Flamingo Bay. The choice of the usual hot-dogs, hamburgers, nachos, soft drinks, and snacks. At this particular location covered picnic tables, a restroom, and condiment table were supplied. The prices were well within a normal park pricing. I noticed many of the school groups had supplied their own lunches, so bringing in food and drink is allowed.
Walking down a nice cool lazy path we came upon the alligators, busily sunning themselves. They did not do much moving at all, but I did find out one fact that thoroughly amazed me. The sex of an alligator is determined by the temperature of the nest in the first three weeks. Temperatures of 91(F) degrees or greater will produce all males. Temperatures of 85(F) degrees or less will produce all females. Those nests between 91 - 85 degrees can produce either male or female. Pretty interesting fact I thought.
Continuing on our journey we went next to 'Voyage to Australia & the Islands'. This is in two sections Phase 1 which just opened in May of this year, with Phase 2 opening in the fall. It was here we laughed at the antics of the monkeys, and Orangutans. The Gibbons (monkey to me) were quite the performers. Though it did sort of gross my granddaughter out when one laid down and the other was picking at his ears, head, and body removing insects and eating them. We never did see the Komodo dragons that were supposed to be in this section.
There is also a new boat ride through this area, but we did not take it, so I'm not sure of the name as we never ventured towards the long waiting line to see it.
'Herbivore/Carnivore' was next on our list. The Giraffes and Zebras were very viewable, and though not exactly very active, they were at least standing, which made it fun to really get the feel of how tall these guys are. Ash said must be really bad for them to get a sore throat. Gee whiz we never saw the bats (darn) I hid my pleasure well.
The Lions were all sleeping, male separated from the three females, but massive impressive creatures they were even sleeping. The Tiger was visible to a young good set of eyes, which I am neither young or poses good vision, but Ash did get to see it and that was the point of the visit.
'African Forest' was the last section we visited. This was home to Gorillas, Leopards, and many other animals. The Gorillas numbered about eight or so. There was a Mother carrying her baby on her back. Another Gorilla kept trying to knock the baby off, and they had quite a comical interaction, run and hide. It reminded me of a game of hot potato, one grabbed and ran, with the other in pursuit, then they reversed. All this while one huge male sat on a rope seeming amused by it all. He looked like he was grinning the entire time.
Two of the most beautiful Leopards I have ever seen were sunning themselves on huge tree limbs. Their colors were bright, the animal sleek and lean. Even while they slept you could not help but admire their beauty.
As we had now made almost a complete circle of this huge zoo the only thing left to do was take a ride on the Carousel. The cost was $1.00 a ride, you could also purchase a book of tickets for unlimited rides on this, the train, or the boat. The Carousel was old, had been wonderfully kept up, with beautiful craftsmanship in the horses and Carousel itself. Ash rode, I watched (sometimes, smile) as circular motions tend to make me sick.
All in all we had a great day. There are many more animals to be seen, but to name them all would be the endless review. I do recommend if you are ever in Columbus Ohio you add a visit to the zoo on your things to do list.
In addition the park had two gift shops, nice and airy buildings, with many selections, from animal jewelry, clothing, and toys. I did find them to be a bit pricey. There were at least five eating facilities, with one of them having several different choices within the one building.
The zoo is open everyday of the year. With various hours of operation depending on the time of the year. You are allowed to stay within the park one hour after closing. There is a first aid building, at the entrance to the zoo.
There are several educational events that take place in either the 'Zoo Tent, The Pavilion, or Amphitheater', we decided not to do any of these as time was getting short.
Other features and services available are:
Rentals of strollers and wheelchairs. Prices vary depending on pushed chair or motorized. Single or double strollers. I found the prices to be rather reasonable ranging from $7.00 - $20.00
Lockers of different sizes are also available at the minimum cost of 50 cents or one dollar. Handicap routes are also provided throughout the park.
Also there were two playgrounds to let your children burn off any little extra energy they may have. I suggest you bring them here before you head home, you just may have a quiet night ahead of you (smile)