Cincinnati Zoo Experiences
Explore Cincinnati,  Travel

Top Spots To See Animals In Cincinnati: An Animal Week Adventure

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Animals take center stage this week as we explore the top spots to see animals and have incredible animal encounters in Cincinnati.

An annual visit to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden when I was young would often leave me starry-eyed as I gazed upon the massive elephants and watched the Bonobo swing from their trees. I eagerly scanned each exhibit, hoping to get a peek at the animal living within.

Top things for kids to do in cincinnati ohio
See Fiona at the Cincinnati Zoo

Fast forward thirty years later, and I still eagerly hope to see the animals with each visit. While I would always love to see animals in their natural environment, we know that animals in zoos and aquariums are often there because they can’t survive in the wild, whether through injury or being born in captivity.

A trip to see animals in Cincinnati can be as educational as it is entertaining. This article shares excellent resources to help you get the most out of your animal week with daily activities, a scavenger hunt, and a guide to animal encounters in the area.

This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you purchase something through a qualifying link, I may make a small commission at no cost to you.

Plan A Animal Week Or Animal Day

During the summer months, we designate a week to learn about animals. Hands-on experience is always a great way to learn, so plan a visit to your local zoo, nature center, or farm.

Weather will play a significant role in if the animals will be out. Many zoos and farms will keep their animals indoors or in cooler spots if the weather is scorching.

Planning Tip: Check the hours of the places you plan on visiting, as hours can change seasonally.

Preparing For Animal Week

Since we typically allocate a whole week to discovering animals, we check out books from the library about our daughter’s favorite animals and even a few about the different types of animals. Once, we even left with an encyclopedia of cats since she wanted to learn about them.

Here are a few animal books I recommend:

Download Our FREE Printable Zoo Scavenger Hunt

Kids will love this fun FREE printable Zoo Scavenger Hunt. I recommend laminating them so you can reuse them over and over. You can snag a great laminator here for roughly $30.

Grab Your Supplies

Whether you go to the zoo or the local nature center, remember to bring a few necessities.

  • Get a fun animal notebook for them to document what animals they see!
  •  Sunscreen and bug spray.
  •  Snacks
  •  Stroller or Wagon if needed
  •  Water Bottle- I love our Kids Yeti to keep her water cold during the summer months!

The Best Spots To See Animals In Cincinnati

With its award-winning zoo, Cincinnati is the perfect place to get up close with animals of all kinds. However, you don’t have to visit the zoo to experience the animals! Our guide breaks down the best spots throughout Cincinnati for animal encounters.

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

The best place to see animals in Cincinnati is the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Cincinnati’s most famous celebrity resides at the Cincinnati Zoo. You may even be able to snag a quick photo with her! Fiona took to national news as the smallest premie hippo to survive.

Millions cheered the little hippo on to wellness as we waited with bated breath for the next zoo update to be released.

Cincinnati Zoo Experiences
Feed the giraffes at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Now Fiona is a superstar, showing off for her adoring fans at Hippo Cove. The Cincinnati Zoo has been named one of the best zoos in the country. Along with being one of the top attractions in the city. With a sprawling African Savannah, Cat Canyon, and exciting animal encounters.

Feed the giraffes at Giraffe Ridge, walk with the kangaroos in Roo Valley, or brush the goats at the Petting Zoo.

The Children’s Zoo leaves a lot to be desired. There is a small play structure, a few animals in the pens, and the goats. Petting and brushing the goats is the highlight of the Children’s Zoo.

During the wintertime, the zoo transforms into a winter wonderland with its Festival of Lights. The Festival of Lights is a busy time at the zoo, so I recommend visiting during the week and arriving early.

Local Tips

  • The best times to visit the zoo are when they first open or two hours before closing for lower crowds.
  •  Buy your tickets ahead of time. This way, you don’t have to wait in line to buy tickets, then wait again to have your ticket scanned to enter the zoo.
  •  The zoo does allow you to bring coolers, so feel free to pack lunch, snacks, and drinks. They have picnic tables throughout the zoo.
  •  There is a train, a carousel, and a ropes course. Each of them costs extra.
  •  Parking at the zoo is $10; however, if the lot is full, there are two additional zoo parking lots. I do not recommend parking on the street.
  •  There are a lot of hills. Pushing a stroller or wheelchair up “Big Bear Hill” is a workout!
  •  If you pass the zoo’s entrance (near the pedestrian bridge), turn around as soon as possible. If not, you could follow the road for a long way down, making it easy to get lost.
  •  The zoo offers an assortment of unique behind-the-scenes experiences.

Parky’s Farm

Parky’s Farm is a fun, family-friendly educational farm located within Winton Woods that has everything from goats to gardens to bees. Guests can see traditional farm animals, go on hiking trails, and see the gardens.

Educational Animal Programs in Cincinnati
Educational Programs about Animals in Cincinnati

Children of all ages can get hands-on farm experience through various educational programs throughout the seasons. These experiences often allow you to get up close with the farm animals.

Planning Tip: Wagon Rides and Pony Rides are currently not available.

Newport Aquarium

One of the best things to do with kids in Cincinnati is to cross the river to visit the Newport Aquarium. The aquarium is on the Newport on the Levee, which has plenty of restaurants and additional entertainment.

Newport Aquarium
Newport Aquarium

The aquarium offers guests hands-on experiences like touching stingrays, sharks, and tide pool creatures. Walkthrough the underwater tunnels getting you up close with sharks, stingrays, and a sea turtle.

A visit to the Newport Aquarium is never complete with a visit to the penguins or white alligators. For those brave enough, try to cross Shark Bridge. Shark Bridge is the world’s first suspended rope bridge where guests can walk just inches above various sharks, rays, and more than 300 fish.

Local Tips

  • Investing in a season pass may be best financially if you are local. The pass typically pays for itself after two visits.
  •  Sharky’s Cafe offers a variety of meals, snacks, and drinks. My advice: There are better food options throughout Newport on Levee.

Alpaca Paradise

Unbeknownst to many, a charming little Alpaca Farm is located just outside Cincinnati in Goshen, OH. Alpaca Paradise is a family-owned and operated farm that specializes only in Alpaca. It is an Alpaca lover’s dream.

Alpacas Encounters  in Cincinnati
Animals In Cincinnati To Visit

They are usually open to public visitors on Fridays and Saturdays, but we would call to ensure they are open or to schedule an appointment. If your family wants a fun afternoon adventure, this is it. “Did someone say adventure, Alpaca bag?”

Animal Encounters Near Cincinnati

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

Rich with science, history, and art, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery provides an incredibly immersive experience for visitors of all ages.

Whether you want to explore the sciences, uncover history’s secrets, or enjoy art, this museum has something for everyone.

Discovery Zoo at Boonshoft
Discovery Zoo at Boonshoft

One of the most extraordinary things that Boonshoft has is an Indoor Discovery Zoo.

An indoor zoo is always a great option on rainy days or any day. While you won’t see a rhino or an elephant at this zoo, you will come face to face with a sloth, meerkats, river otters, and more friendly animal faces. 

Most exhibits are at levels where little ones can observe their collection of live animals. The River Otters, Owls, and the turkey vulture were popular crowd pleasers, while I enjoyed the sloth in a box. 

The museum’s indoor discovery zoo isn’t big and can get crowded during busy days. The entrance to the zoo is to the right of the pizza parlor, or you can enter through the vet.

Eden Zoo at the Creation Museum

Did you know you can visit the Eden Zoo at the Creation Museum without visiting the museum? The Children’s Museum is open to the public giving visitors a chance to pet the goats and even experience FREE live animal encounters!

The Children’s Zoo consists mainly of farmyard friends such as goats, donkeys, alpaca, and camels. You can stroll the beautiful gardens and play on the playground during your visit!

Planning Tip: While the Eden Zoo is free, guests must pay to park. 

Wolf Sanctuary

Learn about wolves and get close to them at Wolf Creek Habitat in Indiana. Guests have the unique experience of snuggling, petting, and even getting wolf kisses! We recommend reading about the expectations and requirements before planning this adventure so that you come prepared.

Wolf Creek Habitat: Animal Encounters near Cincinnati
Wolf Creek Habitat: Animal Encounters near Cincinnati

Planning Tip: Children will be measured without their shoes and must be 60″ inches to interact with the wolves.

Go On A Safari At The Wilds

It is bizarre to think one can go on an actual safari in Ohio. On the contrary, The Wilds, located in Columbus, offers guests a unique safari experience. See giraffes, rhinos, and other rare and endangered animals from your open-air vehicle as you make your way through the vast savannah.

Give An Elephant A Bath At The Wilstem Elephant Spa

One of the most incredible animal encounters on your bucket list should be the Elephant Spa at Wilstem Wildlife Park. Guests can assist in bathing their resident elephants, including exfoliation and painting their toenails!

ive An Elephant A Bath At The Wilstem Elephant Spa
Elephant A Bath At The Wilstem Elephant Spa

We enjoyed learning about the elephants, including why their daily baths are so important. The elephant’s caretaker was extremely knowledgeable, offering us fun facts about the elephants, “Cindy and Vicky.”

Kids even have the chance to participate in helping care for these gentle giants with options to help scrub, rinse, or paint toenails. Luckily, we were the only family, so we got to do it all!

Tips For The Wilstem Elephant Spa

  • This experience is two hours long and includes an elephant educational program.
  •  The elephant’s caretaker will give detailed instructions on where to stand, what to do, etc.
  •  Wear closed-toe shoes.
  •  You will likely get wet but not soaked.
  •  There is a bathroom available.
  •  They feed the elephant animals crackers as part of their training. You may want to bring a pack for your kids as a snack.
  •  Sign your waiver before arriving.

Address: 4229 US-150 W, Paoli, IN 47454

Travel Time From Cincinnati: Roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes

The Columbus Zoo and Zoombezi Bay

Columbus is home to many fun family attractions; one of the top spots is the Columbus Zoo. The zoo is spread out, offering animals plenty of space to roam, including an African Savannah!

The Columbus Zoo is home to an incredible zoo, aquarium, amusement park, and Zoombezi Bay water park.

Animal encounters near cincinnati
Columbus Zoo

Adventure Cove is a popular area in the zoo offering amusement rides such as a wooden roller coaster, swings, bumper boats, and more. Guests can purchase a Zoo More wristband to enjoy all the rides throughout the zoo, including those at Adventure Cove.

Zoombezi Bay is a waterpark full of waterslides, a lazy river, a kid’s splash area, and a 21+ Lazy River called Croctail Creek. Cocktail Creek allows adults to float with alcoholic beverages. 

Planning Tip: Admission to Zoombezi Bay also includes admission to the Columbus Zoo. The zoo offers two-day tickets because there is so much to see and do! Remember that attractions such as rides in Adventure Cove, rides throughout the zoo, and unique animal programs require an additional charge.

Travel Time From Cincinnati: 2 Hours

Horsefeathers Farm

Did you know that you can pet a Wallaby at Horsefeathers Farm? Venture to Warren County for a unique animal encounter that gives guests a hands-on experience with wallabies and joeys. Guests must call ahead to schedule a time to visit the farm.

Top Spots To See Animals In Cincinnati
Top Spots To See Animals In Cincinnati

Animal Week is a part of our Explore Cincinnati With Kids Series. For more fun things to do in Cincinnati with kids, check out these related articles:

Top Spots To Go Creeking In Cincinnati: Creek Week

Discover The Art Scene In Cincinnati: Art Week

Plan A Dinosaur Week With These Activities In and Near Cincinnati

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Top Spots To See Animals In Cincinnati