Our Visit to the Cincinnati Zoo

Our Visit to the Cincinnati Zoo

Our visit to the Cincinnati Zoo was a great experience. I understand now first hand why the Cincinnati Zoo is often ranked as one as the best in the United States (US News). It is actually considered amongst the best zoo’s in the world! That would explain why more than 1.5 million people visit the zoo each year.

Located in the city of Cincinnati and founded in 1873, Cincinnati Zoo is the 2nd oldest in the United States. Home to more than 500 animal and 3,000 plant species many cool and unique things to see. We will definitely return on another trip.

Getting to the Cincinnati Zoo

We planned a road trip to visit a friend in Indianapolis and decided that we would add a stop at the Cincinnati Zoo on the way home. When we left Indianapolis, the drive to Cincinnati only took about 1.5 hours. The drive home to Rochester, NY from Cincinnati took us about 7 hours. If you choose to fly into Cincinnati, the airport is only about 20 minutes from the Zoo.

Parking when you arrive at the zoo is easy. The parking lot on Vine Street is mostly covered parking which is a nice convenience. Cool fact, the solar panels on the covered parking lot power aspects of the Zoo including the electric train!

There is overflow parking for those peak visit times in an additional non-covered lot. You pay for parking by scanning a QR code before you leave. The QR code posters are located around the park and on the walkway to the parking lot. You can also pay at the parking kiosk prior to your exit. Parking is $10 per car.

African Penguins

Tickets and Pricing

We purchased our tickets online. I used ticketsatwork.com to purchase my tickets at a discounted rate but you can also buy them from the Zoo website. Our tickets were $16.00 each for adults and $10 each for the kids. Adult prices start at age 13 and child/senior pricing is in effect for ages 2-12/62+. Our visit took place in last August. My family likes to take advantage of the fact that most kids are back in school during late August, so prices can be cheaper and venues are far less crowded.

If you purchase tickets online at the Zoo website, you will need to select the day of your visit and then you will see the price for that day. Ticket prices can change daily based on attendance. According to their website, the price you pick when you plan ahead will definitely be cheaper than if you wait until the day of your visit. If you do wait, you can purchase tickets at the front entrance. There are also different tickets prices for zoo members, Good for any Day tickets and Twilight Admissions tickets.

Sights to See at the Cincinnati Zoo

Cincy Zoo Lions

At the time of our visit, the newest addition to the zoo was a part of the hippo family. Baby Fritz was just a few weeks old! We did manage to catch a glimpse, but the baby was sticking pretty close to mom in the 70,000 gallon home of Hippo Cove. A few years ago, Fritz’s big sister Fiona made quite a splash when she was born.

There are so many things to see and experience in this zoo. A few things that we noticed that we really loved were the bamboo lined pathways, cleanliness of the areas and clear signage. Another observation was how healthy the animals looked. Their eyes often looked bright, their coats shiny and the habitats well kept.

In total, there are 21 different animal habitats and we hit many of them. The favorites of the Kent Crew included spotting the Asian elephants in the Elephant Reserve, the playful gibbons on Gibbons Island, funny penguin’s at African Penguin Point and animals of Africa. As big Lion King fans, finding real live Meerkats is always a treat along with the lions, cheetah’s. We watched as other fed the Masai Giraffe’s but we didn’t join in.

The absolute favorite for them was however the Spaulding Children’s Zoo. This habitat in the zoo is dedicated to many friendly farm animals like, llama’s, goats and alpaca’s. You enter into a gated area and can walk around with the various animals in the petting zoo. Their favorite goat was a black Nigerian Dwarf goat named Neil.

This section of the zoo also features a small playground where parents can grab a seat while they little one’s let off some energy. Between the slide, monkey bars, crawl tunnel and balance bean the smallest zoo goers can enjoy some run and play time.

All Aboard the Zoo Train

The Zoo has a train and a carousel. Although we didn’t die the train, we did club aboard the train before we left for the dat. Train tickets are $5 per person. My son didn’t want to ride, so Camryn and I hopped aboard for the brief train ride through the park. In 2022 the Zoo switched out the beloved classic diesel train for an electric train. Other attractions include Kanga Klimb and Scooter Pals (Zoo attractions).

Autism Friendly Features

Since we made our visit at a slow time of year, we didn’t run into issues with crowds and lines. The Cincinnati Zoo has done a great job of making the zoo and the attractions accessible to individuals with developmental disabilities. They offer things like Sensory Maps, Zoo Social and Video Narratives and calming rooms. I also thought it was neat that they offer sensory bags with oral motor chewy tubes, fidget, noice-canceling headphones and sunglasses for checkout at the Welcome Center.

Where to stay near the Cincinnati Zoo

With the zoo being located in the city of Cincinnati there are a variety of hotels to pick from within a short distance. The official hotel of the zoo is Graduate Cincinnati on the University of Cincinnati campus.

Since I’ve been partial to Marriott for years, I picked a Springhill Suites hotel in midtown approximately 10 minutes from the zoo. For our family of 4, the suite accommodations that come with a sitting area are always preferred over regular rooms where the bed takes up all the space. Hotel parking was free. We paid about $200 for a double-queen suite studio suite.

We loved our time at the Cincinnati Zoo. My kids have asked to go back and see Neil the goat.

Visiting Boston and the Franklin Park Zoo

Visiting Boston and the Franklin Park Zoo

There was a time when I was sure I was going to move to Boston. I’d never been to Boston, but somehow it landed on my list of post college destinations. Boston was only 6-ish hour drive from home (Rochester, NY), 1 hour flight, a big city on the east coast and offered career options in higher education or publishing. 

Fast-forward a few years and I ended up picking Baltimore over Boston. I have, however visited Boston several times now. My latest visit in July 2018 was the first time for my family. For me it was a work trip, but the family was able to tag too. A very quick mid-July trip to check out a few new things. We only had one day to explore, which was mostly spent at the Franklin Park Zoo.

Hit the Road

Although I’d been to Boston a few times before, it was always by flight. This was my first time driving from western NY to Boston. We packed up the rented Nissan Altima and took off for Boston. For longer road trips, we like to hit the road at night so the kids will sleep more, but in this case we left early in the morning. The drive through New York State is scenic.

Our normal road trip routine includes the DVD players linked up for entertainment. I try to not let the kids watch the screens too much, they are a necessary evil on our rides. The littles managed to stay awake for the entire seven hour ride…. yup, not a single nap! We hit Boston at peak rush hour at which point Camryn finally took a nap. If you are driving, try to avoid arriving at rush hour. The last hour of our trip was just trying to get a few miles to our hotel.

A River Runs Through It

Charles River
Hyatt Balcony

While I am pretty much a Marriott girl, this time was stayed at a Hyatt. The hotel was probably a little fancier than we usually do with the kids. The pricer hotels just usually don’t offer free breakfast which is a great money saver. At this time, the kids didn’t know how to swim yet either which also now drives our hotel choices.

My work events were at Harvard and this was one of the host hotels so we stayed at the Cambridge at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge. Of the choices, I picked it primarily because it was within walking distance to a park and directly across from the walking path along the Charles river. I figured my husband would want to escape the hotel for a while and those would be two great options. Rather than go outside, turns out he just let them run around the hotel halls and ride the elevator.

Our waterfront view room overlooked the Charles River. Since it was peak summer in July, we had many occasions to watch the boats, kayaks and row teams on the river.  Our room was equipped with a queen bed and a pull out couch. We prefer this over two beds because it gives the kids a place to sit, play and eat. The kids are still small enough the sharing a bed isn’t an issue.

Our only hotel dinner also came at the in-house restaurant Zephyr. We enjoyed the outdoor patio overlooking the river. Since it wasn’t crowded, it gave the kids to room to roam a little.  After a long day of traveling with kids, hotel restaurants while not the cheapest are definitely convenient.

Visiting the Franklin Park Zoo

On our one day to explore, we chose to visit the Franklin Park Zoo. Easy decision really because the kids love animals. Visiting the Zoo is something the we do a lot in different cities. So far we have done the Nashville Zoo, Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, DC, Cincinnati Zoo and the Franklin Park Zoo.

The Franklin Park Zoo overall was a fun experience. We were able to buy tickets online to skip the line. Admission for all four of us was about $50. I think the kids liked the Meeting Barn farm animals section the best. The Meeting Barn puts the kids up close and personal with some familiar farm animals. 

Courtesy of www.zoonewengland.org/

The zoo is not super big (72 acres), so we were able to hit all of the exhibits within a few hours. Although the zoo itself is on the smaller side, the playground is pretty big. I don’t think it is possible to walk about a playground and not let me kids play we let them go. The playground has two sections, one for older kids and one tiny toddlers. At that time, the littlest little was about 2.5 so she was still in the small kid section. With our usual divide and conquer strategy, the husband took one kid and I took the other.

Courtesy of www.zoonewengland.org

Since I was mostly tied up for work but we somehow managed to make a trip to Target. My excuse was that we needed snacks for the ride home, the reality is that I couldn’t resist the huge Target downtown in view of Fenway Park. There was a game that night but we didn’t go but did make traffic a little busier. Check the game schedule if you will be out in the summer downtown to see how traffic might be if you are not going to the game.

In other visits to Boston I’ve enjoyed some great seafood, taken in the beautiful history and architecture, hung around the Haah-vard yard, road the subway, and peeped the Green Monster. There is a ton more to do we didn’t experience this time around, I’m sure at some point I’ll make another return visit. 

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