There are a whole lot of reasons the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium keeps earning the title of America's Best Zoo. It's enormous, offering a huge variety of experiences with animals, it is dedicated to conservation, and it's just downright fun! We put together  some insider tips to help you have the best day at the zoo!

zoo 3Arrive Early - It can be tough to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to the zoo, but most animals are most active around dawn and dusk. If you'd rather see a tiger prowling than napping, you'll have a much better chance if you arrive at opening time. We suggest visiting Heart of Africa first, as it's the newest (and very popular) section of the zoo. It will be hard to resist stopping for a peek at the North American river otters and moose, but you'll have time to visit with them later in the day.

zoo1Keeper Talks - The zoo's staff members are both knowledgeable and entertaining - take advantage of their expertise at a keeper talk, where they will give you details on the animals in their care, often including funny stories about Here's the schedule (at each time daily through Aug. 18, weekends only Aug. 19- Oct. 26.)

  • 11 a.m. - Polar Frontier Bears
  • 11:30 a.m. - Koalas
  • noon -  Orangutans
  • 1 p.m. - Discovery Reef Diver
  • 1:30 p.m. - Tigers, Bonobos,  and the Australia and the Islands Aviary
  • 2 p.m. - Gorillas and Elephants
  • 2:30 p.m. - Flying Foxes
  • 3 p.m. - Penguins
  • 3:30 p.m. - Asian Small Clawed Otters
  • 5 p.m. -  Polar Frontier Bears
zoo4Up-Close Animal Experiences - Some areas of the zoo offer opportunities to get very familiar with the animals. In the brand-new Heart of Africa, you can feed the giraffes romaine lettuce (they grab it with their 18-inch-long purple tongues!) The Kangaroo area allows you to walk into the kangaroo enclosure itself, and there is a zookeeper on hand to answer questions. The aquarium offers a touch pool, where you can feel animals like starfish, and the lorikeet exhibit lets you feed the birds nectar.

zoo 2Don't Try to See Everything - With the recent addition of the 43-acre Heart of Africa, it's getting harder to do it all in marathon day. So we recommend that you don't try to do that. Enjoy the zoo at your own pace. Leave time for relaxing with a picnic lunch or enjoying the air-conditioned aquarium on a particularly hot day.

What are your best tips for enjoying the Columbus Zoo?