Visitor’s Guide to the Columbus Zoo
As one of the foremost attractions in Columbus, the Columbus Zoo and America offers a full day of fun for the entire family.
For those seeking an adventure into the wild, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is the ideal vacation spot. Featuring animals from all corners of the globe, the Zoo is home to over 5,000 animals representing over 700 individual species. Whether the visitor wants to see lions or tigers, elephants or rhinos, fish, or fowl, she’s sure to find something to please at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. They were even voted “Best Zoo in America” by the USA Travel Guide.
The Columbus Zoo is no ordinary zoo. In fact, USA Travel Guide named the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium the number one zoo in America.
The Columbus Zoo, in collaboration with Jack Hanna, takes guests far beyond the typical expectations of a zoo experience. Find animals in various habitats representing different regions of the world, as well as in the aquarium. Interactive animal fun shows, and live events, tours, camps, water fun, golf, and special adventures take this zoo into a category all its own!
Boasting one of only three manatee facilities outside of Florida, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium houses these mammals rescued from dangerous circumstances. Some of the manatees will be cared for and benefit from the manatee release program. Others make their permanent homes in Columbus as they will never be able to recover fully enough to make it back out in the wild. Either way, the manatee tank provides a fun opportunity for people to watch these lovable mammals live their lives up close. Each day a featured diver swims among the tropical fish and coral reefs, complete with commentary on this underwater habitat.
Exhibits at the Columbus Zoo
The first stop for any visitor should definitely be the North America exhibit, which brings visitors face to face with a number of fascinating wildlife species from all around North America. These include the wolverine, Mexican wolves, Kodiak bears, bald eagles, bison, American river otters, and bobcats.
Having complete a tour of North America, move into the zoo’s newest exhibit, Asia Quest, which features a number of rare and exotic species from Asia, all housed in exhibits meant to recreate the animals’ natural habitat. Animals on display include Amur tigers, red pandas, several species of pheasant, both African and Asian elephants, and many more. For those who might be hungry, this exhibit also features the Asian Cafe and the Asian Marketplace, both of which serve fine Asian cuisine.
Having completed a tour of the first half of the Columbus Zoo, cross under Riverside Drive to explore the wildlife associated with the ocean in the Shores Exhibit. Of particular note is the Manatee Coast exhibit, which is host to a number of West Indian manatees, one of the most endangered species in the world. Other animals on display in Shores include alligators, flamingos, penguins, and the reptiles housed in the Reptile Building (which include king cobras, .) The Shores exhibit also serves fine food at the Flamingo Grill (which serves hot dogs, brats, Italian sausages, and the like,) and the Manatee Gift Shop.
For those of a particularly adventurous bent, a voyage into the unique Voyage to Australia and the Islands, which exhibits animals from both Australia and its surrounding islands. Animals on display here include the Asian small-clawed otter, Komodo dragons, orangutans, several species of kangaroo, and koalas. While there, also be sure to step into Bob and Evelyn’s Roadhouse, which houses such rare and exotic species as kiwis, fishing cats, dog-faced fruit bats, and many more. The exhibit is also home to Matilda’s Food Stand.
Finish up the tour of the zoo by visiting the “dark continent” in the African Forest exhibit. Here one can see a truly magnificent array of animals, including African grey parrots, leopards, gorillas, bonobos, okapi (a very rare animal related to the giraffe,) and a large aviary featuring several African bird species. For those who might be hungry, the Congo River Market includes several food venues including the Congo Grill, Rotini’s Pizza, and several others.
Interactive Animal Experiences
Besides simply looking at the animals through cages, the Columbus Zoo makes it possible to experience animals up close. Zoo guests may get personal by touching starfish in the tide pool tank, petting reptiles, feeding the lorikeet birds, or walking about the habitat of kangaroos to see if one will jump on over for an introduction. In the North American region, the petting zoo animals can be found in the boundaries of the barnyard. Perfect for children, guests may brush, pet, and sometimes feed the chickens, goats, and sheep who live in My Barn.
Informal presentations are scheduled in various parts of the zoo every day. Topics include rainforest animals, Australian creatures, reptiles, nocturnal, birds, and flamingos. Trainers offer entertainment and education to those in the audience. One special presentation shows off over 100 domestic and barnyard animals, many of whom were rescued from local shelters.
Columbus Zoo Guided Walking Tours
Several times a day in the summer, the Columbus Zoo schedules walking tours complete with guides. Up to 25 people may take advantage of these first-come, first-served, free tours offered by the education department at the zoo. Guides offer detailed insight into the lives of the animals and their habitats. Themes include North American Extreme Animals, Asia Quest, Australia, and the Islands, and Birds and Reptiles.
After a hot day of walking through the zoo, cool off at Zoombezi Bay located right next door. Home to fifteen incredible water slides, wave pool, rivers, kiddie pools, and more, this massive water park encompasses over 20 acres of water fun. Throughout the summer, special events are scheduled including Christmas in July and Dive In movies in the tide pool. Open all summer long.
For the family members who enjoy putting and driving on the golf course, Safari Golf is located adjacent to Columbus Zoo. This 18-hole, 140-acre mature course offers exciting new holes, a clubhouse, and a pro shop on site. The driving range, practice putting, and chipping greens provide a complete golfing experience, in addition to options for scheduling golf lessons. Tee times may be booked online.
Summer Day Camps
Keeping kids active and interested during the summer requires variety and planning. Columbus Zoo Summer Day Camps allow school-aged children to learn about the different regions as they study the animals in depth each day over the course of a week. Overnight Camp-In student and scout participants stay at the zoo from the evening to 10 a.m. in order to experience the inner workings of the zoo after hours.
For large groups including camps, churches, or scouting programs, the Columbus Zoo will bring the animal ambassadors out on the town in the summer! Session guides educate guests on habitats and survival skills of the 6-8 animals on display, such as birds and reptiles.
Because of the extensive opportunities provided by Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, many folks plan to spend more than one day in order to take in all of the attractions this zoo has to offer. Concessions stands and restaurants are peppered throughout the entire zoo and water park, and gift shops are located in the aquarium and near the front entrance of the zoo and water park. Tickets and parking passes are reasonably affordable and may be purchased online ahead of time to make for a smoother arrival to the zoo.
Visitor Information for the Columbus Zoo
Admission to the Columbus Zoo costs $6 for adults, $3.50 for children and seniors, while children under two are free. There is an additional $5 for parking. They also offer a number of discounts for groups. Operating hours vary by day, so it is recommended that visitors check the website before scheduling a visit on a particular day. For those who wish to contact them, their contact information is as follows:
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
4850 W Powell Rd, Powell, OH 43065
Phone: (614) 645-3400