The Columbus Zoo is one of the most delightful zoos to visit in the United States. Not only is it incredibly large, but it has something for everyone. Between plentiful exhibits, a water park, a dinosaur ride, and the aquarium, no one could ever be disappointed to spend their day here.
While the park itself has several various attractions, we stuck to the actual zoo and aquarium itself. The park is divided into six different areas to explore: Shores & Aquarium, Asia Quest, Australia and the Islands, Congo Expedition, North America, and Heart of Africa.
In Shores & Aquarium, you get to see a wide array of fish and sea creatures while being one of the more beautiful places in the zoo (and if you visit in the summer one of the “cooler” areas as well.) This section may also be a favorite because it has one of the zoo’s coveted hands-on exhibits: Touch a Sea Star. Here you get to dip your hands into a tide pool under the supervision of the experienced and knowledgeable staff and feel a sea urchin’s spine and experience what a starfish feels like between their arms. I loved this SO much. I have not only never been this up close and personal to some of these sea creatures but I have never gotten to touch one either. I highly recommend it for any visitors to the park, even if the line seems a bit longer than desired. The Aquarium section also has newly added manatees that are a treat to see. They are adorable and honestly make me want to hug them but I feel like the zoo authorities probably frown upon that. Also take a moment to visit the Humboldt penguin tank. The adorable tuxedoed birds play and tussle around in their exhibit at the delight of everyone watching. I watched children watch with glee as the penguins played and it was frankly just the best.
Asia Quest, as you can imagine, features some staples of the zoo world like elephants and lions. But it has so much more! When taking the winding path through the Asian wonderland, you will see African lions, Amur tigers, Asian elephants, Black rhinoceros, a Bornean Sun Bear, a flying fox bat and a golden mantled bat, a Langur, a Markhor, the Red Crowned Crane, the red panda, the fearsome reticulated python, a western tufted deer, and a personal favorite animal the Pallas’ Cat (who is so painfully awesome.) Asia quest is truly unique in that it has both cute and terrifying animals. You will want to cuddle one animal and the next exhibit be struck down but the ferocity of the next. Asia is a scary place, guys but also astonishing.
Within the Australia and the Islands section, you get one of my favorite exhibits: The Kangaroo Walkabout. Here you get to walk around the kangaroos own home. While we were walking around and watching these guys hop around (and run around as you can see in some of the pictures below) one curious roo decided to join us on the path! Apparently he wanted to go home with us, I suppose! The Australia section also has a fun boat ride that takes you to around to see the different types of animals throughout the area while getting an exciting and rare look at the different types of dinosaurs that roamed the earth millions of years ago.
The North America animals are ones that we see often at other zoos but that doesn’t mean they aren’t amazing to look at and experience. I can also say that the Columbus zoo as a more extensive selection of animals then I have seen before. Here you will get to see the American Bison, Arctic Fox, Bald Eagle, Black Tailed Prairie Dog, Bobcat, Brown Bear, Grizzly Bear, Mexican Wolf, Moose, North American River Otter, Polar Bear, Pronghorn, Puma, Reindeer, Timber Wolf, Trumpeter Swan, and Wolverine. The polar bear exhibit is really fun because you get to see what they act like both above and under water. The area allows you to go underneath the ground watch the playful bears as they dive under the water and play and eat. My absolute favorite part of this area however was the otters. They played with each other and their toys in their pen the ENTIRE time we watched them. It was literally the cutest thing we had seen all day. The North American section also has another of the hands on exhibits that children (and adults like me) will love. At the My Barn at Habitat Hollow you get to pet a goat and ride a pony. And trust me; petting a baby goat is always, ALWAYS worth your time.
Heart of Africa is home to the large cats. My favorite animals in the entire world. Also giraffes. It is probably one of the areas I was most excited about. From leopards to gazelles and other beasts of the Savannah, it is the largest and newest area of the Columbus Zoo. It even has camel rides and seriously who wouldn’t want to do that??
There is one downside that should be mentioned but it is not one that would ever keep me from returning to the zoo in the future. You need to be prepared for the crowds. Though this really speaks to how amazing the zoo and aquarium is as well as how vast the park itself spreads. The crowd can be cumbersome at times especially at the more popular exhibits like the aquarium and the dinosaur ride, so expect a bit longer wait times. However, even for the most popular exhibits within the zoo, the wait was never longer than 30 minutes. Walking through the park got frustrating as you wanted to get up close to each exhibit but if you just breathe and relax and remember that everyone is thinking the same thing you are, you will be just fine.
Over all, the Columbus Zoo has been one of the best animal outings I have experienced so far. The sheer scale of the park and the overwhelming number of animals and displays to see is enough to keep you busy for hours and even your little ones entertained all day. The Zoo and Aquarium took us several hours of the day. This park could easily take up an entire weekend. They also have the Zoombezi Bay, a water park attached to the zoo, Safari Golf, and Jungle Jack’s Landing, a miniature theme park inside the zoo. Take a weekend, take your family or your loved ones and visit the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium!
You can see a full animal guide for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium here!