What is it about zoos that make them the perfect place for family adventures? Maybe it’s the fact that you get to see wild animals from all over the world up close. Perhaps it’s the fact that no matter how many times you go to the zoo, you learn something new every time. For me, it’s the fact that we get to make fantastic family memories each time we go. That might be because one of my favorite stories to tell from my childhood involved the zoo.
I wasn’t very old, maybe four or five, and my dad and I had a special day at the zoo, just the two of us. (When you are the middle child and the only girl, this is a big deal.) So, my dad and I were enjoying our time and had stopped to eat the picnic lunch we brought with us.
We were sitting at some picnic tables close to a pond. As we were finishing up, we started feeding some corn chips to a few of the geese . Then suddenly, a massive amount of geese started surrounding us. If you know anything about geese, it’s that they can be mean. They started attacking us for corn chips!
My dad grabbed me and ran. Let’s just say that was the part of our zoo visit that we have never forgotten. And I think it’s safe to say I have a healthy fear of geese after that incident. However, it did make for a great story.
While I hope that our zoo visits now are not quite that exciting, I do love to head to the zoo with Shadrach and Logan and make those great family memories. I’m learning to embrace the unexpected and enjoy our visits because the unexpected is what makes for the best stories and memories
I can’t guarantee excitement and unexpected moments, but I can give you a few tips on how to make great family memories when you visit the zoo. Here are seven ways to create memories and enjoy your visit at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
Take Your Time
Something I’m learning as a parent is that when we visit places, it is less about what I want to do and see and more about making sure that my child gets to look at the things that interest him. I want Logan to have a love of exploring and learning as we go, which means letting him lead us and direct us in his time and not ours.
I think as adults we tend to want to see everything and hurry through the zoo. It is so hard sometimes to slow down and enjoy where we are and what we are seeing. I’m learning that I miss so much by not slowing down enough.
I find it fascinating to sit and watch an active animal for a while. I’m pretty sure Logan could sit and watch fish of any kind for hours. Just a side note, the Cincinnati Zoo does not have an aquarium area, but I do believe there are some fish in the reptile house which Logan loved!
So, take your time as you walk through the zoo. Don’t worry if you don’t see every single animal. Let your children enjoy their visit. Maybe make out a list ahead of time of the animals they would like to see so you can plan your trip and ensure you see what is most important to your family.
Take Lots of Pictures
Part of making those memories at the zoo is watching my child’s expression as he learns and discovers animals. So, I make sure to get lots of pictures! I do get some of the animals but more than anything I want to capture and remember his excitement and awe at the moment as he sees each animal.
So, have that camera ready, whether it’s a big fancy camera, your phone camera or anything in-between. Be sure to capture those moments, like when they get excited to see their favorite animal. Years later, you’ll be glad you took the time to snap the picture.
Oh, and be sure to find those little cutout boards that you stick your head through. I love those, and we always stop to get a picture of them. They make fun memories, and the Cincinnati zoo has a few of them throughout the park.
Hit up the Extras (like the 4-D Theater, Train, and Carousel)
The day we visited the Cincinnati Zoo, it ended up being the hottest day of the year so far. I mean, 90’s hot where you sweat just standing there. So, we decided when getting our tickets that we would need a breather and bought tickets to the 4-D Theater, train, and carousel.
There were a few options on what to see in the theater, but we opted for the animated movie of Storks. This was not the entire movie, just a fifteen-minute condensed version and let me tell you; it was so much fun! We had 3-D glasses, and the theater was equipped to make sure that it all felt like we were experiencing the entire movie. Logan loved it! In fact, he was still talking about this for days after.
Keep in mind if you want to do the 4-D Theater that you need to buy tickets in advance (like at the entrance or online) and you must buy them for a specific time and show up at that time. We sort of lost track of time and ended up having to run to the theater to make it in time for our show. It was worth it though!
The train was also a must do on our list because Logan LOVES trains and we knew it would be a nice little break from walking. The train at the Cincinnati Zoo is fun, and you get to see parts of the zoo from a different perspective.
In short, check out the extras when you are heading to the zoo and consider them because they do make your visit to the zoo just a bit more special.
Check the Schedule for Shows and Special Feedings
If your children have a favorite animal, be sure to check the schedule to see if there is a special event during the day with that animal. For example, leading up to our visit, all Logan could talk about was seeing and feeding the giraffes. So, we made sure to get there and head straight for the giraffes so he could feed them. And, he is still talking about that experience.
You can check here for a list of animals and their feeding schedule. Let me tell you; it is one way to make memories that will last forever with your children. There is nothing quite like seeing your favorite animal up close and personal. Logan shares with everyone about how weird the giraffe’s tongue felt. I love that we were able to do this with him.
Look for Stations Set Up with Zoo Employees Featuring an Animal
As we were walking through the zoo, we happened upon a little booth set up with an employee. We ventured over to it and discovered that they had a lizard there that you could touch and learn a bit more about it. Logan couldn’t wait to feel the lizard, and he didn’t want to leave it.
So, keep your eyes out for these little booths throughout the park because they are a great way to get up close to animals you might not get otherwise. Also, you have the opportunity to learn more about an animal from an expert, and it gives your kiddos the chance to ask questions as well.
Plan a Fun Lunch
When planning our visit, we debated between taking a picnic lunch or eating at the zoo. We decided on this trip to eat at the zoo. Usually, the dining options have pretty good food. I have to say though; I never expected to find a food truck inside the zoo! The food was so good! There are lots of options at the Cincinnati Zoo that you won’t see at most zoos and you can check out the list here.
Although we bought meals this time, I love having a fun picnic at the zoo too! So, go with whatever works for your family and relax and enjoy it! I promise you won’t be disappointed with whichever option you choose!
Know Your Children’s Limits
My last tip for making memories at the Cincinnati Zoo is to know your children’s limits. Know that trying to get through the entire zoo might be too much. It is a relatively large and spread out zoo, so it does take a while to get through.
Plan out your visit ahead of time. Discuss as a family what animals are a must-see and help everyone understand that you may not see every single animal. That way if you do end up making it through the whole park, it’s a pleasant surprise, but if you don’t, no one is upset.
We arrived at the zoo later than we planned and ended up running out of time to see everything. The funny thing is this ended up being a blessing because Logan was tired after seeing half the zoo and spending four hours there. So, it worked out exactly as it needed to.
At the end of the day, you know your children and how much they can handle, so plan your trip according to that.
Most of all, have fun! Enjoy each other’s company and focus on creating memories that will last forever.
Don’t forget to take a minute and check out our video below that shares more details from our visit!
A Few Quick Tips for Your Visit
- Be sure to bring a stroller or wagon if you know your children won’t be able to walk the entire zoo.
- Plan your visit before you go so you can ensure you get to do animal feedings or extra’s like the 4-D theater.
- Avoid planning your visit around busy and hot times. We went the Friday of Memorial Day weekend thinking it would be kind of slow because it was a weekday. Boy, were we wrong, and it ended up being hot and crowded! So, plan around holidays and weather if possible. (maybe even go one day in the middle of the week while everyone else is working)
- Don’t forget your sunscreen, hats, water, and a camera!
Now Go Make Adventures at the Cincinnati Zoo
I hope this helps you plan your trip to the Cincinnati Zoo in a way that will be enjoyable and create unforgettable memories with your family. We loved our visit and throwing in a few of those extra things helped make this visit a memorable one for Logan.
The Cincinnati Zoo does have such amazing animals and most of all, I loved that they kept the habitats feeling natural. A lot of times I didn’t feel like I was looking at animals through a cage and I love that! This is a fantastic zoo and is guaranteed to make for a great family adventure.
Have you visited the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens? Do you have any tips? I’d love to hear them! Comment below or send me an email.