Cincinnati is fortunate to be the home of one of the best zoos in America: the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. So renowned for its conservation efforts and successful captive breeding program that it was once called by Newsweek, “the World’s Sexiest Zoo,” the Cincinnati Zoo is one of the Queen City’s crown jewels. Many seniors living in the area make regular trips to take in the realistic animal habitats and beautiful landscaping.
Second Oldest Zoo in the United States
Though the Philadelphia Zoo is the oldest continuously-operating zoo in America, the Cincinnati Zoo isn’t far behind. It opened in 1875, just a few short months after Philadelphia’s.
The Zoo can trace its roots back to 1872, when a group of concerned, wealthy Avondale citizens— led by Andrew Erkenbrecher, owner of the St. Bernard Starch Works which eventually grew into Proctor & Gamble’s “Ivorydale” manufacturing complex — founded the Society for the Acclimatization of Birds in response to a caterpillar infestation that threatened to kill off many plants and trees in the area. Though fears about introducing invasive, non-native species would no doubt have the Zoo’s modern keepers discouraging anyone from doing so, the Society imported birds from Europe to control the caterpillars, and housed those birds in Burnet Woods.
Eventually, the organization morphed into the Zoological Society of Cincinnati, which opened on a 65-acre plot in Avondale featuring “just eight monkeys, two grizzly bears, three deer, six raccoons, two elk, a buffalo, a hyena, a tiger, an alligator, a circus elephant, and over 400 birds, including a talking crow,” according to the Zoo’s website.
Conservation: the Zoo’s Mission
With so many species likely becoming extinct every year, one of the primary goals of most modern zoos is the preservation of our planet’s priceless biodiversity. The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens is no exception, participating in several robust conservation and re-population efforts.
The Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife, or “CREW” program, was founded in 1981 to “Save Species with Science.” In the 23 years since, CREW has become recognized for its expertise in global preservation efforts—including the successful rehabilitation of Florida manatees and conservation projects for endangered Sumatran rhinoceroses.
More Than Just Animals
Many people, however, do not realize that the Cincinnati Zoo’s horticultural exhibits are more extensive than its fauna habitats. Seniors looking for a quiet place to stroll, sit and enjoy the weather love the many trees, vines and flowers to be found on the grounds which features rare grasses, shrubs and even many varieties of bamboo.
Gardeners can even take home a little bit of the Botanical Garden. Every spring, the facility sells tulip bulbs from its collection to support the upkeep of the plant collection.
A Great Outing with the Grandkids!
People of all ages delight in the exhibits like the Rhino Reserve, Giraffe Ridge, Night Hunters, and Reptile House (housed in an original structure from 1875, but children particularly love the Spaulding Children’s Zoo. The family-friendly exhibit features a large playground, an animal nursery, a petting zoo, and up-close encounter spaces where kids can talk with zookeepers and see a wallaby, a bearcat, alpacas, or an aardvark named “Lucy.”
Although they do cost additional admission fees, the Safari Train ride, Conservation Carousel and 4-D Experience high definition theater are crowd pleasers.
Admission to the Zoo is only $11 for persons aged 62 or older and children 2-12 years old. That admission does not include rides or the theater, but a complete experience package including unlimited rides and one movie showing is available, discounted, at $21 per person for seniors and children when purchased online.
A little planning and coordination can help you to save even more. Admission discounts can be easily arranged for groups of 15 or more, so consider gathering the whole family and a few friends for the day! With a group discount, general admission for children and seniors is lowered to $8 per person.
And individuals with mobility concerns need not worry — the Zoo is accessible, and there are many comfortable, shaded benches on the grounds to sit and rest. Electric scooters can be rented for the day.
All in all, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is a best bet for family entertainment, or for a day spent enjoying your quiet, retired lifestyle.