Columbus Zoo – #1 US zoo within 50 min. drive

Columbus Zoo - Manatees

My trip to the Columbus Zoo – May 18, 2009

I spent all day today with my four-year old, Grace at the Columbus Zoo (Wikipedia entry here.)  It was part of a field-trip with her Rolling Hills Elementary pre-school class. We had an absolutely marvelous time, as we always do. We are family members of this great attraction. Today, I realized another reason why we love living in Springfield – it is only 40 miles from the Columbus Zoo, easily a drive under an hour.

#1 Zoo in the Nation

The Columbus Zoo was recently named by the USA Travel Guide as the best zoo in the nation. I can confirm how great this place is personally. The zoo has over 7,000 animals (now) representing over 700 species and over 1.8 million visitors annually. The zoo’s amusement park, a water park, and a golf resort makes it a top tourist destination for the state of Ohio, although my family and I usually just visit the zoo.

Gone Fishin’!

One of our favorite places to go is the Shores area, which has a building with Discovery Reef, a 100,000 gallon saltwater aquarium that is 65’ long, 13’ deep, and 11’ wide. It has bonnethead sharks, palette surgeonfish (the Dory fish from Finding Nemo), and various other fish. In the Discovery Reef building is also a submarine replica with plenty of buttons to push (for play) as well as a saltwater touch area, where after rinsing their hands in salt water, kids (and adults) can touch starfish, porcupine urchins, hermit crabs and sea shells. The building right next door has two West Indian Manatees in a 192,000 gallon aquarium, one of only three aquariums outside Florida with manatees. There is also a boat replica where kids can “drive” it with three video screens featuring Jack Hanna, who is boating out in Florida, so that it looks like the boat is actually travelling. The mangrove trees there lends it a great atmosphere (although make sure the little ones don’t climb on it…it’s not allowed), and the small gift shop is also a lot of fun, and Grace enjoys it.

Take a break!  Ride the Rides, Climb the Slides

Grace also likes the boat ride ($1 each participant) and the train ride ($1 each), which provide a nice break-up (and rest for the adults) to the day. There is also a fantastic playground for kids 54” and under, and quite honestly, it’s unbelievable. Add to that a great building with reptiles, AsiaQuest with elephants, bears and tigers. The elephant exhibit is the largest of its kind in the world. Don’t forget the vintage Carousel, either.

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