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Fun for every age

From toddlers to ’tweens, ideas for enjoying the Zoo this summer with kids.

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As summer approaches and school breaks begin, it’s a great time for families to get out and explore Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

There are activities and exhibits suited for every age, so you can have a fun experience with your baby, toddler, and school-aged child. With a Zoo Society membership, you can visit as often as you want and, depending on your membership level, bring guests to have a play date, too! Here are some suggestions for visiting the Zoo with different ages.

Stroller Set

No age is too young to enjoy a visit to the Zoo. The stroller set can take a relaxing stroll through the Zoo’s winding paths while their caregivers get some exercise. The path around Waterfowl Lake is lovely and flat, offering views of the outdoor flight cages, Wade Hall (which is one of the oldest zoo buildings in North America) and a pair of trumpeter swans that can typically be found swimming in the lake or nesting nearby.

If you’re craving a real workout with your stroller babe, take on the hill near the Circle of Wildlife Carousel or on the way to the Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building!

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If you’re visiting for just the morning, there are plenty of great animals to see near the front of the Zoo, so that you can make it in and out before naptime. African Savanna offers rhinos, zebras, Colobus monkeys, and giraffe, all of which can be viewed from stroller height.

Also near the main entrance of the Zoo are meerkats in African Elephant Crossing and flamingos, both of which can easily be seen from the comfort of a stroller seat! A walk through Australian Adventure also offers easy viewing of kangaroos, wallabies, and koala.

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Toddler Time

As kids get bigger (and become harder to keep contained in a stroller), the Zoo offers new fun to explore. Make a stop at Nature Discovery Ridge, with hands-on play inspired by the natural terrain and animals found in Ohio. From streams to nests to animal statues, the area can be a one-stop visit for toddlers. It is specifically designed to not only be fun, but also educational, so you can feel good about all the time your toddler will want to spend there!

Right next to Nature Discovery Ridge is the beautiful Circle of Wildlife Carousel, which is a must-ride, with discounted tickets available for members. You can let your child choose their favorite animal to ride; each species represented is endangered or otherwise at-risk in the wild.

Over in Australian Adventure, hop aboard the Boomerang Line for a fun-filled train ride. (Members receive discounted train tickets!) If you purchase a Total Experience Pass powered by Cleveland Public Power, you can enjoy the Circle of Wildlife Carousel and Boomerang Line experiences without additional cost on each visit.

At the toddler stage, the Ben Gogolick Giraffe Encounter also offers a chance for hands-on animal exploration, as you can purchase lettuce to feed the giraffe. The smiles and giggles of the toddlers feeding these gentle giants are contagious!

Don’t let a little summer rain dampen your Zoo fun either. Toddlers will love exploring The RainForest, with bats, frogs, birds, monkeys, turtles, and much more. The winding pathways and warm temperatures make this a great place to play when it’s wet outside.

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School-Aged Children

For elementary ages or even ’tweens, the Zoo has plenty to fulfill their new curiosities and abilities. The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Welcome Pavilion immediately introduces children to the importance of conservation by allowing them to select an animal they want to help in the wild. You and your child can “vote” on one of six Future for Wildlife species by donating a green token to the species of your choosing. It’s a great way to begin a conversation about how the animals at the Zoo are ambassadors to their counterparts in the wild, and we all have a responsibility to protect wildlife and wild places.

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Throughout the Zoo, school-age kids should be encouraged to read (with you or on their own) signage near animal habitats. The facts, figures, and conservation challenges help you learn more about the animals you are seeing. In particular, Rosebrough Tiger Passage and Asian Highlands offer ways to engage not only with the animals, but also learn about the cultures of their native lands. Asian Highlands’ wishing wheels are a fun way to discuss Asian culture and conservation.

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Be sure to catch a viewing of the crossing of the elephants in African Elephant Crossing, which usually happens twice a day. The presentation allows for a closer view of the elephants, as well as inside information about the animals and their training. Then hop aboard the tram to the Primate, Cat & Aquatics building, because trams are fun at any age!

If the summer day gets too warm, cool off in the 4-D Theater, located near the Ben Gogolick Giraffe Encounter, for a 12-mintue immersive show. Tickets are discounted for members or included in the Total Experience Pass.

The Zoo is truly a tradition that can carry through for your child’s whole life. From basic introduction to animals and nature, to hands-on exploration to deeper learning interactions, the Zoo offers quality experiences for every age. You will be amazed at how your child’s interests blossom and change with time. Through the years, they will become truly invested in the Zoo. Spend your summer break at the Zoo and have a wild time!

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