Best of the City:  Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens


On most mornings, the exotic “whoop whoops” from the resident gibbons can be heard from the parking lot.  For children, gibbon calls are nearly as exciting as hearing the ice cream truck driving down the street.  Head to the Cincinnati Zoo for a fun-filled day of visiting polar bears, imitating monkeys, pretending to be on safari, ice cream, carousels, train rides, Mexican wolves, manatees and penguins.

First stop – Gibbon Island .  The the commotion that can be heard in the parking lot are the Siamangs and Buff-cheeked Gibbons, who are content to swing wildly and skillfully around their enormous jungle gyms, entertaining the crowd with enthusiastic playing, romping and hooting.  Both species of primate are at risk for extinction – the biggest concern of the zoo.  While creating magic for children and adults alike is all well and good, conservation, preservation and education are the real goals - and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens is world renowned for its ability to balance both entertainment and biology.

More than half of all creatures given homes at the Cincinnati Zoo are at risk for extinction.  But the highly trained and wonderfully friendly folks at the Cincinnati Zoo are working on that.  CREW (an onsite conservation center, dedicated to replenishing species world wide) is hard at work stocking a “frozen zoo” for the future, training new scientists and educating the public in conservation efforts at home and abroad.  Zoo staffers are also busy caring for new arrivals (from other zoos and from onsite births), promoting reproduction and providing a wonderful life for the thousands of animals housed here.  The conservation efforts and funding from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens are invaluable and something every Cincinnatian should be proud of.

If You Go: 

·        The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens is open every day except Christmas Day. Summer hours are from 9 am to 5pm.  Members only from 9 am to 10 am unless you purchase a special ticket package (The Total Experience Package). 

·        The zoo is located on Vine Street in Avondale, making it one of the only urban zoos anywhere.

·        Admission is $15.00 for adults, $11 for seniors, $11 for children 2-12 and children under 2 are free.  Total Experience Packages, the Zoo's All Access Pass & Best Value ticket is $25 for adults and $22 for children & seniors. Parking on the grounds is $9 per car.  Visitors may park for free on the street, but spots fill up fast, so come early.

·        Memberships can be purchased online or at the zoo itself for a very reasonable price.  Family memberships start at $79 and provide unlimited admission for an entire calendar year for two adults and children.  Membership includes special exhibits, member-only functions and admission to The Festival of Lights in the winter, as well as a book of coupons, discounts at other zoos across the continent and ride discounts.

·        Zoo Babies starts in May. Peruse the zoo to see all the adorable babies!


Quick Facts and Tips:

·        The zoo’s website is located at

·        It opened in 1875, making it the second oldest zoo in the country, after the Philadelphia Zoo.

·        It is known as “The Sexiest Zoo in America ,” thanks to the extremely successful breeding program implemented by CREW.

 ·.      It is the Greenest Zoo in America and houses the Greenest Restaurant (Basecamp Cafe) in America on its grounds. 

·        There is a high school on the premises.  The Cincinnati Zoo Academy is a fully accredited magnet school and prepares students for zoo careers, among other things.

·        For the budget minded, bring your own food.  There are picnic facilities on the property, which are free to use and are near a nice playground the kids can explore while the adults rest a bit.

·        The earlier you arrive, the better.  Most of the animals are the most active early in the day. 

·        Feed the goats.  Being eye to eye with a barnyard animal who is quite interested in nibbling on your clothes is unforgettable.  Just make sure to wash your hands after petting them and try not to step in any poo.

·        Strollers can be rented.  If you don’t have a reliable, sturdy stroller, rent one. Wheelchairs (manual & electric are also available). On busier days, it is recommended to reserve your electric wheelchair online to be certain there is one available when you arrive. 

Enjoy your visit to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens!