The Akron Zoo is a place for everyone at any time of the year. Whenever you go, you will experience the Akron Zoo tagline “You’ve never been this close” first-hand. Follow along as we use the Akron Zoo App with this detailed review of what to expect at the Akron Zoo.
Akron Zoo App
Planning your trip to the zoo is now even easier than before. Visit the zoo’s website at www.akronzoo.org or download the Akron Zoo App, available for both Android and iPhone users, to your smart phone before you even leave your home to find out important details such as directions, admission ticket prices, and to verify operating hours. It is important to note the both admission and hours are different during the summer and winter months. The app allows visitors to plan their trip before their visit, find restrooms, find ATM’s, locate food options, preview a list of many menu items, view a zoo map without hunting and keeping track of a crumpled map, find information on animals and attractions that include pictures, and post updates to both Facebook and Twitter on how much fun your family is having at the zoo.
One of my favorite features of this app is the Friend Finder. It is now quite simple to keep track of your group. This is great for large field trip groups that separate into smaller groups during visits. A group coordinator can now keep track and locate easily any part of the group should the need arise. Conversely, a parent or teacher can easily locate the group coordinator. This feature would also be useful for allowing teens to wander off on their own together while still keeping tabs on them.
Personally, I look forward to using this feature for myself and my husband. Since my son tends to like to spend extra time on the playground areas and my husband tends to like to spend extra time taking photographs, we can now meet up easily. Ever lose your car after a day of fun? No more dragging exhausted kids around the parking lot looking for the car with this app. Using the travel tab, mark and locate your car in the parking lot before you enter the zoo.
Akron Zoo – Just the Right Size for Families
Some might think that a smaller zoo would have less to offer, but my experience with the Akron Zoo has impressed me far more than much larger zoos. In fact, I find the zoo’s size to be one of its best features. Because of its size, exhibits are much closer. Everything can easily be seen in a reasonable amount of time. With things not spread so far apart, little ones as well as older patrons do not tire as easily. Although the zoo does offer some hills, it is still quite stroller and wheelchair friendly with many places to sit and rest. People of all types can enjoy the zoo. In addition, its size is perfect for parties and field trips because the entire zoo can be seen in a fairly short amount of time without feeling rushed, and group rates are available.
For these reasons, hot, rainy, or cold weather should not deter a visit to the Akron Zoo. Long exposure to the elements is not necessary to view all the animals. There are plenty of indoor areas. All are air conditioned in warm months and heated in cold months and always offer shelter from the rain and snow. As a special tip, there is a water mister between the Sika Deer and Chilean Flamingo exhibits during hot weather. Furthermore, most outdoor exhibits have some shelter above the viewing areas that offer shade, shelter from rain, and help to block the wind. In our years of visiting the zoo in different weather, we were pleasantly surprised that we greatly enjoyed our visits in rainy and cold weather. We discovered that different animals such as the Red Panda and Snow Leopards were much more active.
On one of our visits, we had the privilege of seeing the lions playfully experience their very first snowfall. The zoo has easily become one of our favorite cures for cabin fever. There are even special Cabin Fever Reliever activities during specified winter weekends that include stories, crafts, and activities at no additional cost to guests.
Since space within the zoo is carefully considered, children are able to get up close and personal with the animals. Walls and barriers are designed low to the ground so small children can easily see exhibits without having to be lifted to see. This is especially helpful if you have a child riding in a stroller because they are able to see almost all exhibits without it being necessary for them to get in and out of the stroller at each to be lifted higher. Animals are also not so far away so that it is always easy for young children to spot them. No need for binoculars or sticking quarters in the viewers here. The Akron Zoo is the most kid friendly and enjoyable for the entire family zoo that I have been to thus far.
Entering the Akron Zoo
As you drive up to the entrance of the zoo, you are greeted in large orange letters adorned with animals on top of a hill. Without fail, as soon as my son sees them, he squeals, “The Akron Zoo!” with complete delight. We often surprise him with where we are going, and despite how many times we have been there, he is still invoked with excitement as soon as we arrive each and every time.
One thing you should know upon arrival is that there is a $2 parking fee. However, this fee is waived for Akron Zoo members. Sometimes this fee is charged at the gate and sometimes this fee is charged at the ticket counter. Zoo members must simply show their membership card at the gate for entry.
If your family happens to be traveling by bus, there is also a Metro bus stop within the gates of the zoo. Drop off and pick up are at a sheltered stop near the front doors of the zoo.
Speaking of doors, the entry doors of the zoo are these grand wooden doors that somehow make me feel like I am going on a new and exciting adventure each time I go through them. They seem to transport you to a different place. Perhaps it is because they lack the modernism we see so much. Whatever it is, entering the Akron Zoo always feels like a grand entrance as you enter the high ceiling lobby. I should mention that there are restrooms right at the entrance. If your family is like mine, kids always seem to have to go potty when you are not near one.
Akron Zoo Cost
The cost of zoo admission is fairly reasonable. Children under two years of age are free. During summer months, children and seniors have a lower admission. In the winter months, everyone gets a little discount.
If you are a frequent visitor to the zoo, a Zoo Membership not only pays for itself after a few visits, but it is also a great way to support the zoo and its animal conservation efforts. Some other benefits include discounts and free entrance to other zoos, a 10% discount in the gift shop, discounts to special zoo events, free admission to special member appreciate nights in which the animals are provided enrichment activities, and newsletters. We find that our membership allows us to make many trips throughout the year without thinking about if we have enough money in the bank that day to go.
We have no guilt during short trips as to if we got your money’s worth. It is a relief to not feel obligated to spend the entire day. The short day trips can sometimes be much more relaxing with fewer things to take along with us. More frequent visits seem to provide us with an increased opportunity of having different experiences each time we go and allows us to get to know the characteristics of the animals on a more personal level. The newsletters keep us informed of special events, when an animal is expecting, if a new animal has arrived, or if a new animal has been born. It also keeps us up to date on changes happening at the zoo that without explanation might seem disappointing. Our zoo membership has made us feel like we are a part of the zoo in which we take great pride.
Akron Zoo Employees
Employees at the ticket counters are always quick, courteous, and helpful. Even if there is a line, it typically moves quite quickly. We have found that they are a great resource of information offering great pointers on when your favorite animals will be on exhibit that day. Different animals are out at different times.
Akron Zoo Welcome Center and Rentals
If you are in need of renting a wheelchair, they may be rented for free at the admissions counter by showing a valid driver’s license. We used this service when visiting the zoo with my grandfather who has difficulty walking long distances. Without the use of the wheelchair, he would not have been able to enjoy the visit in the same way. Other rental options include single strollers for $6.00, double strollers for $10.00, and electric scooters for $25.00. These too require a valid driver’s license for rental and are available at the Survival Station just outside the Barnhardt Family Welcome Center near the Humboldt Penguin Exhibit. These rentals can offer convenience for guests visiting from out of town who do not wish to travel with their own strollers and scooters or for visitors who have traveled by bus.
Other conveniences offered at the Survival Station are sun screen, hats, sunglasses, rain gear, zoo maps, and free animal hand stamps, so if you find you forgot something important, check out this little station. A discount card may also be purchased here good for riding the Conservation Carousel, A&K Wilbur Express train ride, and crackers for feeding the animals in the Farmland Contact Area. One card may be used for more than one child and does not have to be used all in the same visit. This extra savings is helpful for larger families or families that visit frequently. Once filled, it can be redeemed as an extra discount coupon in the gift shop.
Akron Zoo Animal Exhibits
Many exhibits such as the Snow Leopards and Jaguars display the males and females separately. We have noticed that the animals seem to be more active when they first come out versus when they are ready to go back inside. Knowing this tip can be incredibly helpful in colder months when animals like the Jaguar are only out for a short time or when there are baby animals on exhibit during a small portion of the day. You do not want to miss the excitement and playfulness of seeing them. Sometimes there are even signs near the ticket counter providing these times. It has been our experience that even when the employee does not know the answer if a certain animal will be out that day they are happy to call over the radio to ask the animals’ keepers.
The section of the zoo closest to the entrance and exit is the Legends of the Wild. You are first welcomed by the Humboldt Penguins. Many of the penguins are very curious, interactive, and playful. They swim right up to the glass that allows you to view both above and below the water.
This area is always filled with giggles of laughter as the children are amused by the penguins following them. When temperatures are 55° or below, December through February, guests are sometimes given the opportunity to feed the penguins. The employees at the admissions counter can help inform you if this activity will be taking place on the day of your visit, and if so, what times. Do not forget to take advantage of the penguin photo opportunity. Your kids’ faces will look adorable poking out of a family of three penguins. After exploring how fast a penguin can swim, four times faster than the fastest human swimmer, one can meander by the waterfall and check out various waterfowl.
The Madagascar Exhibit is an air conditioned and heated building that houses a Dumeril’s Ground Boa, three types of Lemurs, and a Day Gecko. We can never leave without listening to the sounds lemurs make using the phones in the corner. Ever wonder what the difference between an Alpaca and a Llama is? Read the signs that explain the difference next to the Alpaca exhibit. Call me strange, but the Andean Condor is one of my favorite exhibits at the zoo.
Grock and Carlotta may not be the most beautiful birds in the bird family, but Andean Condors are the largest flying birds in the world with an impressive wingspan of about 10-12 feet. They can often be found sitting up close and personal on a stump near the glass window. There is also a frequently overlooked window on the left side for viewing into their nesting cave area. Occasionally you might get to see them feed. On a hot day they can be seen cooling themselves by spreading their wings out. This site is how they became one of my favorites as I was amazed at how large their wingspan is. Kids can compare their own arm span with that of a condor by the model next to the exhibit.
Before coming to the Jaguar exhibit, you will find a play area with a rope bridge. One of my son’s favorite spots, kids can hear animal stories, hide in a blind, and “drive” in a safari vehicle across the savannah. One of the rarest of the big cats, the zoo has three jaguars, Chack, Bella, and Naom. Only one is on exhibit at a time because they are solitary animals that only come together to mate. In fact, the Akron Zoo has already successfully bred the Jaguars. It was incredibly fun to watch the young ones play before they were sent to their new homes. Ironically, the one named Lebron was sent to Florida.
Zoo employees are often passing by and can usually help identify who is in the exhibit area if you ask politely. In warmer months you may get to see one of them playing or bathing in the pond since Jaguars are one of the few cats that enjoy water. In the winter, however, do not be surprised to find a Snow Leopard in the Jaguar exhibit. This is not a mistake. Jaguars are not equipped with thick fur and can only be out when temperatures are suitable. Recently, the two baby Snow Leopards were also displayed here before they went to their new homes. Again, the people working the admission counter can let you know if the Jaguar will be out on the day of your visit and notify you of those times so as not to miss getting to see them.
The placement of the Jaguar next to the Capybara may seem kind of funny as the Jaguar often seems he is ready to pounce through the fence, but this offers natural predator/prey enrichment for both animals. Capybaras are the world’s largest rodent. These interesting creatures amuse my family because they kind of look like giant guinea pigs. These animals also love to swim and can sometimes be seen swimming in their pond as well. Nearby you will hear the noisy greetings of Tupi and Yama the beautiful Hyacinth Macaws, the largest parrot in the world. They too are off exhibit during the winter months when other birds are housed here.
Inside the Meso-America Building, also air conditioned at heated, you will find the surprisingly active Pygmy Slow Loris, the long Red Tail Boa, close views of Straw-Colored and Jamaican Fruit Bats, Green and Black Poison Dart Frogs, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, and two critically endangered Axolotl, a type of salamander. The room of the building is dark at first, but eyes adjust quickly. I recommend keeping your children close especially on busy zoo days as they can easily panic when they lose track of you in the dark. More importantly, a trip to the zoo is always more fun when you can avoid the panicked feeling of loosing site of your child. For peace of mind, we prefer to hold hands inside.
This building can be an educational opportunity to discuss with children how important animals such as bats are to our environment. When people think of bats, they also think of insect control, but in the case of fruit bats that feed on fruit juices and flowers, they play an important role in pollination and seed dispersal of forests. A nice close view of these flying mammals helps to eliminate fears. Focus may then be placed on how easily impacted their environment is due to loss of habitat, lack of food sources, pesticides and sprays. Sometimes when we visit, we get to see the bat exhibits getting cleaned. This is not only interesting, but it also shows the not so glamorous side of being a zoo keeper. The numbers of Axolotl in the wild are quickly declining primarily due to a loss of habitat as the lakes where they are found have either dried up completely or nearly vanished. Discussing these things will help children to appreciate their zoo as a place of conservation and not as a place of capture and viewing of rare and exotic species.
Another natural predator/prey pair in the Akron Zoo is the Snow Leopards and the Himalayan Tahrs. Roscoe and Shanti have recently parented two cubs that have already found new homes in other zoos. It is always entertaining to watch them play in the snow, and the Tahrs, close relatives of the wild goat, provide further stimulation and enrichment. Both the Snow Leopards and the Tahrs enjoy climbing on the rocks of their exhibit. Spectators are always impressed to watch one of the Snow Leopards leap to the rocks at the very top or rush straight down. The Tahrs always seem quite unalerted by the leaps and bounds going on in the exhibit next to them because they know they are not in any danger.
We often venture over to the beautifully painted Conservation Carousel. Prepare ahead of time to spend $2.00 per person on this ride. They do accept debit and credit cards, but we have come to discover that our son thoroughly enjoys walking up to the ticket window to buy his own little wooden token. Parents may ride free if they are riding standing next to their child. Each time we visit it is a new experience as he chooses which of the thirty-three hand carved animals he wishes to ride. Like many carousels, a few of the animals do not move up and down.
This is good to know for smaller or squirmy riders. This zoo favorite is open March through November, but be aware that when the weather is still cold it is only open on nice weekends. A photo booth is nearby the carousel to capture a fun or goofy moment. A nearby snack tent offers pretzels and frozen treats. If you wish to avoid traveling up the steep hill by the Conservation Carousel with your stroller or wheel chair, head to the lions first, and work your visit such that you will finish your visit coming down the steep hill.
Lions and tigers and bears! Oh! My! Tiger Valley is the closest most of us will ever come to these magnificent animals. Most days Tamarr and Mandisa, the zoo’s African Lions or found napping in the sun. Enrichment times are some of the best times to see them. Once we watched them fight over a kiddy pool. On many occasions, they will come right up to the glass offering great photo opportunities of your child nose to nose with a lion. It is always neat to hear them roar, and since it is said that they can be heard up to five miles away, I sometimes think it must be interesting for the zoo’s neighbors. Next to the Lion exhibit is the Keeper Kitchen.
From June through September, this educational space allows your child to pretend to “prepare” diets for some animals. Here they learn what and how much some of the animals eat while following “recipes”. Around the corner is the Sumatrin Tigers. Since Sumatrin Tigers are also solitary animals, Jae Jae and Kemala do not enter the exhibit together. Frequently they pace the top of their space, and the window at the top offers a different and sometimes excellent view. Many guests of the zoo call the Sloth Bears dancing bears because of the unusual head nods of Bala, the male bear. The sign next to the exhibit explains his behavior. It is quite impressive to see him climb to the top of the tree in his enclosure. Keesha, the female Sloth Bear, loves to interact with the kids through the glass, and you almost wish you could hug her. Then her breath fogs the glass, and her long nails are an instant reminder that she is still a wild animal.
As you begin along the Asian Trail, you overlook a Trumpeter Swan. Look quickly because by now most kids realize there is a playground area ahead and take off running. Here they may poke their faces through the heads of different types of bears and see how tall the bears are if standing on their hind legs. This is always a fun photo opportunity as well.
Around the corner and up the hill there are little shacks. My son enjoys looking in the windows to figure out what the different objects are and he enjoys telling us we cannot look inside the one that says “kids only” on it. The next enclosure is the Barking Deer. They are three miniature deer-like animals. I have taking a liking to the one named Freedom. Sometimes she comes when I call her name and make kissing noises. Opposite the trail is a very active Red Panda named Zheng. He tends to be most active in cooler weather and even comes right up to the glass. At the top of the hill you will find the zoo’s oldest resident, the male White Stork, with his female companion.
The Wild Prairie is an area perfect for burning off the kids’ energy. Open May through October, the Grasslands Café offers fruit smoothies, hand-dipped ice cream, refreshing beverages, and some snacks. During hot summer days, stepping inside the air conditioning to grab a tasty treat is always a nice break in the day. The Burrowing Owl exhibit is on the outside of the Grasslands Café. There is interactive information on this exhibit that draws the kids to lift the flaps to see pictures of bird pellets and other things. Children are able to see inside the burrow in the ground. There are also restrooms here with picnic tables and a pavilion.
If you chose to pack your own lunches, this is a nice, quiet place to stop. Hiding on the side of the restroom building is the entrance to a small aviary. Inside, the birds land next to you and swoop overhead. Take the time to check out the Wild Turkey exhibit too. Then get out your camera as your kids pop their heads up into a dome that allows them to see the turtle exhibit from the inside. After wrangling your kids from the boat play area, mosey on over to Frontier Town. The interactive play space encourages kids to use their imagination and several benches for parents to chat. The old train now sits here for kids to climb.
While the animals are definitely the main feature at the zoo, the Lehener Family Zoo Garden is a beautiful landscape for a relaxing stroll and stopping to literally smell the roses. There are little surprises hidden in a few places you would not expect like a little rock garden and a whimsical butterfly bench. The fountains are a favorite place to cool off. A giant caterpillar sits in the middle of a maze made to look like wings of a butterfly. Kids are sure to have fun running through here and climbing on the caterpillar. Be sure to see things through the eyes of an insect with the bug viewers.
A building in the back houses Nature’s Theater where the It’s The Wild World Animal Show takes place twice a day, Tuesdays through Saturdays, June through August. For $1.00 each, tickets to this show can be purchased upon entry to the zoo when purchasing your admission tickets. Since this show is located in the very back of zoo, plan time accordingly. This cute show offers animal education in an air conditioned room. There are restrooms and a refreshingly cold water fountain located inside as well. The zoo will be featuring a new version of this show in the upcoming summer, so be sure to check it out even if you have already seen it before.
Off the Track Snacks is also a spot for a quick soft pretzel and a cold beverage. While getting your snack, be sure to look up at the giant ant and check out the sundial out back. The frog and turtle statues right next to the building also offer cute spots for pictures. It is open from June to August. Even when it is closed, be sure to visit the Barn Owl, an endangered species in Ohio, which lives inside. There is also a groundhog sometimes in an exhibit next to the building.
The Farmland Contact Area is open year round. Two crackers may be purchased for $1.00 at the Granary to feed the goats and sheep. As you buy your crackers, be careful where you hold them. Some of the animals know where the window is and eagerly await them as you pay. Crackers may easily be broken into several small pieces to get to feed more animals. Be sure to keep an eye out for Norman, one of the goats. He stands out because he is dark in color and much larger than the others. Visibly well fed, he is well known for pushing the others out of the way when it comes to the crackers.
According to the smart phone app. Cletus, the Guinea Hog will apparently come when you call his name. During my most recent visit, he was separated because they have had some difficulty with him chewing on the wood. Keep in mind that if you are feeding the animals close to closing time, they tend to not be as interested because they are waiting for their normal feed. This time can be exciting to watch too, and the keeper shares info with guests while caring for the animals. Kids are able to ask the keeper questions like why certain animals are separated out for feeding time. When you are all done feeding and petting the animals, warm water, soap, and paper towels are available at the hand washing station.
When the weather is warm, take the time to stop and milk the cow statue. The kids seem to really enjoy it. Tokens for the A&K Wilber Express may also be purchased at the Granary for $2.00. Be sure to get your token here first before waiting in line for the train. It operates from April through October. The solar powered train ride is the first of its kind. While riding, your kids will venture through a covered bridge and past a yard of chickens. When the ride is over, they can explore in the maze and “ride” a real tractor.
Coming July 20, 2013 is the Mike & Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge. While under construction, signs along the fenced off area explain the various machinery and equipment being used. When complete there will be three to six Bald Eagles, North American River Otter, Grizzly Bears, Red Wolves, Coyotes, a walk in aviary, and interactive educational areas. The Bald Eagle exhibit serves as a perfect example to our children how protection of a species can change their status on the endangered species list. As an added benefit to zoo members, a special preview will take place on the evening of July 19th.
As you head out you will pass both the Indochinese Sika Deer and the Chilean Flamingo. Did you know what makes a flamingo pink? Their coloring comes from pigments, called caretonoids, in the tiny animals they eat. Apparently sometimes you really are what you eat. Since the Flamingoes tend to be quite aromatic, I find visiting this exhibit last is a nice way to get my son out of the zoo at the end when he is not quite ready to go home.
Barnhardt Family Welcome Center Gift Shop offers many souvenirs for your kids to remember their favorite animals. Worried about having to exit the zoo through the gift shop? There are many inexpensive animal figures, as low as $0.50, that may be purchased. As you depart, vote for your favorite animal at the electronic kiosk located outside the gift shop doors. I always vote for the Andean Condor. Before you go to the car, throw a penny in the fountain out front. My son usually makes a wish to come back to the zoo. No worries on finding the car because you used the zoo app to mark it.
Do not forget to wave goodbye to the friendly zoo employee at the gate. Later you can use the pictures and information in your app to talk to your kids about their favorite animals, things they learned, quiz them on animals, and then begin to plan your next trip. After all, “You’ve never been this close.”
500 Edgewood Avenue
Akron, OH 44307
Guest Post written by Kimberly, local Akron, Ohio area mom.
This was not a paid post. My own opinions were used based on the writer’s perceptions and experience.