3400 Vine St.
Cincinnati Ohio 45220United States
Midwest Living Recommends
Visitors will enjoy their experience in this urban, well-kept zoo known for its spring gardens and holiday lights.
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a place you need to go -- there's no doubt about that. You'll love the gardens, and your kids will fall in love with the polar bears doing water tricks. But get your wallet out, because it won't be a cheap day. There are three entrances, and all paths wind around to exhibits like Rhino Reserve and Elephant Reserve, Tiger Canyon, Giraffe Ridge, Manatee Springs, Lords of the Arctic, Jungle Trails. Some of the buildings are historic and charming (like the Reptile House); others are more modern, such as Night Hunters. Most of the buildings are stroller-friendly, though the exhibits are usually not at eye-level (so be prepared to hoist little ones up to see fascinating creatures like the komodo dragons). If you have kids with you, definitely hit the Children's Zoo, where they can pet, brush, and feed goats and sheep. There's also a small playground and a nursery (where you can see the newest zoo babies). The patches of garden are lovely and clustered throughout the zoo. It's green and blooming around every corner. We love the Duke Energy Go Green Garden best because it has lots of great lessons about green energy (and a cool mosaic made from trash). Definitely stroll around picturesque Swan Lake, and hop on the train ($3/person) to get a good overall picture of the landscape. Speaking of interesting vantage points, the Cincinnati Zoo is the first in the country to have a 4-D special effects theater ($5). Overall, the zoo is delightful, and there is a great variety of animals to see. But, if you can, pack your lunch and just splurge on ice cream for dessert. The food is pricey ($24 netted us a mediocre hamburger and two baskets of chicken nuggets and fries), and admission is $15 per adult and $10 for kids 2 to 12 and anyone over 62. Parking is another $8.