This is an Insider’s Review of the Remarkable Columbus Zoo

The Columbus Zoo is far more famous than I realized, thanks to Jack Hanna. We have a membership, visit often, and the zoo visits were the best thing ever last summer with my 2 and 3 year olds. I’ve had my membership for one year now and we are at the point where neither child wants to be worn OR ride in a stroller. What’s a mom to do?

The Columbus Zoo in Columbus, Ohio


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Polar bear sleeping at columbus zoo and aquarium

This polar bear is passed out!

Zoo meltdown? Now what?

For the zoo trips with my kids, I really like to have my carrier and my single stroller. I’ve mentioned that I love babywearing in other posts. I know it won’t work for everyone (really, is there anything that does?), however I do want to spread the babywearing love. Why? It makes life easier! You can nurse in a carrier, you can bottle feed in a carrier, you can chase your other kids around with your baby in a carrier, etc. Kid melting down? Carrier to the rescue!

My favorite newborn carrier is called a Beco Gemini Baby Carrier. It doesn’t need an infant insert and it can grow with your child up the weight limit on the carrier (or comfort for wearer and wearee, whichever is less). If I have another newborn, this is the carrier I would start with.

I use a cheap umbrella stroller currently. I doubt anyone would steal it and its also pretty light. My dream stroller? The BOB Revolution SE Duallie Stroller *swoon*. Update: I was able to find a used BOB Duallie and I loved it. The sillily part is that I never actually used it outside of my driveway. I sold it when we moved in 2017, wishing I’d had it when my kids were younger.

Always, always, always bring food

I also always pack lunch for our zoo trips, which typically last around 2 hours. I need to learn to overpack, as it never seems to be enough food! Always bring plenty of water, too. Zoos seems especially hot in the spring and summer and involve so much walking.

I asked my kids what their favorite things are at the zoo.

My 3 year old son replied, “The cheetahs!”

My 2 year old daughter replied, “The train and the carousel!”

Then, my son added, “The whole zoo!”

I like the lions and elephants a lot. Oh, the giraffes and polar bears, too! I also love the kangaroos, tigers, and pumas! Is it too late to change my answer to the whole zoo? No? Okay, I like the whole zoo, too!

Natalie with Tomo, the lion.

The lion, Tomo. It was a cold, rainy, and deserted day. Shortly after this, he began roaring at my kids. My fight or flight response kicked in and it was flight. I have video of the lioness roaring. It’s loud, but not as loud and visceral as this guy’s roar!

The heart of Africa

The Heart of Africa exhibit at the zoo has a really cool design. You walk through the gates and you’re in a different part of the world (only pretend, it isn’t Narnia). You can ride a camel, buy a souvenir, and eat some food. Then, you come to the lions. They have a yard to play in and part of it is shaded by the viewing area and a small aircraft (it’s real and kids can play in it). Beyond them is the giant area where the non-predators roam.  Moving along the pathway, you look down into another yard with a watering hole. The zebras and ostriches are usually in there on the summer mornings. They are moved before the first Cheetah Run.


The Cheetah Run is exactly that: one of the cheetahs, mood permitting, chases a wired toy that is pulled by a machine around the yard. It is exhilarating!  This happens several times a day during the summer season. The Columbus Zoo cheetahs were raised with dogs and on an off day for the cheetah, one of those dogs was more than happy to take her place!

Feeding the Giraffes

Next, you arrive at the zebra viewing platform. There are regular giraffe feedings  (cost per feeding is $3 for 3 pieces of lettuce and no, you can’t bring your own). I love this activity. I want to pet those giraffes soooo much, but you aren’t allowed to do that, either.

Giraffe feeding

My 3 year old feeds the giraffe. Sort of.

There are vervet monkeys, wildebeest, zebras, and ostriches around this area, as well as some fun things for your kids to explore. There’s a vehicle for them to climb in and “drive”, two different tents and they can touch everything. It’s all nailed down!

Columbus Zoo Admission and information

Parking is currently $10. Columbus Zoo admission rates vary.

For Franklin County, Ohio residents, kids ages 3-19 are $11.99 and ages 10-59 are $16.99 (adult must show an ID to provide proof of residency). Outside of Franklin County, ages 3-9 are $16.99 and ages 10-59 are $21.99. Current as of August, 2018. To see more, check their admissions page.

The Heart of Africa opens in late May and stays open until October, weather permitting. Fall 2015 and Winter 2016 was the first year they kept it open through to the lion exhibit. This is the area where I’ve caught a glimpse of Jack Hanna, too. You never know who you’ll see!

Ostrich checks out the camera.

Curious Ostrich! Should we call him George? Nah, I’m sure he has a name.

Our favorite highlights from the rest of the zoo

The train and carousel  (both cost extra and the adult doesn’t need to pay for the carousel if they are standing next to their child), the elephants and tigers, the polar bears and the Arctic playground, and the kangaroo walk through. No, you also may not pet the kangaroos. Occasionally, you’ll get a photo op with one.

There is also a boat ride, which was converted to a pirate theme in 2015. My children do not enjoy the sounds coming from it and we haven’t ridden it yet. If your child doesn’t like loud sounds, you might want to consider skipping this ride. There is a bridge in the Australia area where you can stand and hear the cannon noises. Go there if you aren’t sure!  I rode when I was 28 and it was fun. It probably won’t thrill your teenager. In that same direction is a large playground that your older kids will probably love.

The Manatees and the Aquarium

There is also a huge Aquarium building and next to that are the manatees! There are also things in here for your kids to explore, like a boat (it isn’t near any water). In 2016,  new play area was added outside of the aquarium and manatees’ buildings. The highlight is the giant whale! There are also a beluga whale fountain that operates in the summertime.

Smiling goats

These are some happy goats! They are in the Petting Zoo next to the train station.

The Columbus Zoo has so much to offer visitors! I recommend a visit! You might even run into me!


Napping, another babywearing advantage. This is inside the bus on the Artic playground.

Celiac concerns: There are some options , but nothing I’m really comfortable recommending. I got a hamburger, no bun at a place in the food court and didn’t have any noticeable reactions. Fries are not okay for celiacs here. It’s best practice to bring your own food if you have celiac or food allergies.

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