Inside Look: A Cincinnati Zoo Virtual Tour
The Cincinnati Zoo is absolutely worth an in-person visit, but if that's not on the agenda right now, you can still get a lay of the land with a virtual tour of the zoo.
Inside Look: A Cincinnati Zoo Virtual Tour
The Cincinnati Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the country. It opened its doors in 1875 with just eight monkeys, two grizzly bears, three deer, six raccoons, two elk, a buffalo, a hyena, a tiger, an alligator and a circus elephant. The original zoo sat on 65 acres in the middle of Cincinnati and has expanded to include several reserves out in the city’s suburbs.
Today, it is a beloved part of the city that is committed to conserving nature, preserving species and educating the public about seven continents' worth of magnificent creatures. The Cincinnati Zoo is absolutely worth an in-person visit, but if that's not on the agenda right now, you can still get a lay of the land with a virtual tour. This will give you a feel for the hundreds of species of animals that today call the zoo home.
Are you ready to meet them? Keep reading to discover all that the Cincinnati Zoo has to offer.
A Lay of the Land
Before we get started, we wanted to share a map of the zoo to get everyone oriented on this tour.
First stop: Swan Lake and the Westland Trails.
Swan Lake and the Westland Trails
Upon entering the Cincinnati Zoo, visitors will walk through the zoo’s Historic Vine Street Village, which is just behind the main entrance. The view will open up to a Floral Display Garden and the expansive Swan Lake.
Swan Lake and the Wetland Trails take visitors to the heart of one of Earth’s most diverse ecosystems. Wetlands are a vital part of the life of animals, providing shelter, food, water and nesting sites. This part of the zoo takes visitors up close and personal with native species, like turtles and waterfowl. Wander the boardwalk and experience the interactive stations, telescopes and sound boxes that play various frog and bird calls.
After leaving Swan Lake behind, visitors to the Cincinnati Zoo will come upon the Reptile House. Did you know that the Reptile House at the Cincinnati Zoo is the oldest American zoo building? It was built in 1875 in the Turkish architectural style and, today, is a National Historic Landmark.
There are more than 35 reptile species within the building, including snakes, lizards, turtles and alligators. Keep your eyes peeled for the Amazon milk frog or the Angolan python. You will also be able to observe King cobras, beaded lizards and a Galapagos tortoise.
America's national bird is none other than the bald eagle, a majestic creature soaring the skies all over the country. Get up close and personal with these stunning winged creatures at the Bald Eagle exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo.
The zoo currently has four bald eagles in a new habitat that was finished in 2018. Bald eagles are especially important to the zoo, which has a long history working to educate the public about these birds of prey as well as protect their natural habitats. The newest additions to the bald eagle exhibit are Irene, who joined from the Memphis Zoo, and Carla, who was rescued in Florida from a territory fight.
Across the way from the Reptile House, you can't miss the expansive Roo Valley. This new habitat opened in August 2020 and is home to little blue penguins and two species of kangaroos.
The blue penguin exhibit includes sprinklers, underwater jets, heat lamps and heated rocks for the penguins to play on. The kangaroo exhibit has several kangaroos that hop about the Walkabout section. This exhibit includes a Hops craft beer garden, and will soon have a Kanga Klimb and ADA-accessible adventure ropes course that is scheduled to open in 2021.
After romping around with the roos, visitors will find themselves at the doorstep to Gorilla World. Built in 1978, Gorilla World was one of the first large naturalistic primate exhibits in the world. Guests enter the outdoor exhibit space and are plunged directly into the African jungle. A new indoor habitat means visitors can see gorillas year-round.
Within the exhibit you'll meet Western Lowland gorillas, black-and-white colobus monkeys and the Grey's crowned guenon. Visitors can get extremely close to these magnificent primates, as a floor-to-ceiling glass viewing window allows for up-close viewing.
Take a walk on the dark side of the wild kingdom with a trip into the Night Hunters exhibit. With a soundtrack of crickets lilting through the air, the Night Hunters house is a multisensory exhibit that takes zoo visitors on a tour through the dark of night.
Encounter leopards, sand cats, fishing cats and black-footed cats as well as vampire bats, aardvarks and a Burmese python. Part of the interactive elements of the exhibit includes an aardvark den, in which kids can crawl for a nose-to-nose experience via a glass panel.
Passenger Pigeon Memorial
Just across from the Night Hunters exhibit is one of the most architecturally impressive exhibits at the Cincinnati Zoo. A National Historic Landmark, the last remaining Japanese pagoda-style building used to be one of the zoo's early bird aviaries.
Today, the 19th-century structure is the Passenger Pigeon Memorial, which pays tribute to Martha, the last-known passenger pigeon. She passed away in 1914 at the zoo.
World of the Insect
Bugs may not be everyone's best friend, but their worlds sure are fascinating. Take a trip to the World of the Insect when you visit the Cincinnati Zoo.
The building that houses the world of creepy crawlies was built in 1978 and was the first building devoted to insects in any American zoo. Some species you'll be able to see include a wide assortment of cockroaches, giant water bugs, emerald beetles, red-eyed assassin bugs, brown recluse spiders and leaf-cutter ants. There is even an indoor tropical butterfly aviary, which is very popular.
More than just your ubiquitous mythical creature, dragons are very much creatures of the real world — and spectacular ones at that. At the Cincinnati Zoo, visitors can meet Hudo, the Komodo dragon who came to the zoo from Indianapolis.
But in addition to Hudo, there are other dragon species that live at the Cincinnati Zoo. Take the Ackies dwarf monitor lizard, also known as the spiny-tailed monitor. Ackies are indigenous to Northern Australia. The Cincinnati Zoo also has green tree monitors and quince monitors.
Perhaps collectively one of the world's most beloved creatures, ring-tailed lemurs are endemic to the African island of Madagascar. (They also happen to live in the British Virgin Islands on an island that is owned by Richard Branson.) And then there are the lemurs here at the Cincinnati Zoo at the Lemur Lookout exhibit.
Ring-tailed lemurs live in social groups of about 12 and are led by a single female. They are a species of lemur that actually spend more time on the ground than up in the trees. Their tail, known for the circular rings around it, can grow up to 2-feet long. Ring-tailed lemurs can live up to 16 years and love to eat fruit, leaves, flowers and insects.
Did you know that the Cincinnati Zoo is one of two U.S. zoos outside of Florida that participates in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership? If you like manatees, Manatee Springs is the place to be.
The program is dedicated to rescuing and treating sick and injured manatees, helping to rehabilitate them before returning them to the wild. The Otto M. Budig Manatee Springs highlights the Florida manatee and helps to educate visitors about the essential conservation of the species. The Cincinnati Zoo has rehabilitated 19 manatees since 1999.
Siegfried & Roy’s White Lion
One of the Cincinnati Zoo's biggest claims to fame are its white lions, who were gifted to the zoo by none other than the world's original lion tamers, Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn. In 1998 the zoo was given two male and two female white lions, who then went on to have cubs of their own at the zoo.
Today, white lions are among the most endangered animals in the world. Their snowy color is a mutation in a gene of African lions. They aren't albino, rather they are leucistic, which means they lack dark pigment. They are endemic to the Timbavati region in South Africa. They can live up to 18 years.
Across the way from the majestic white lions lives another humbling creature from the African continent — the rhinoceros. At Rhino Reserve, visitors wander down an outdoor path that circles several open-air sanctuaries that act as the habitat for several African animals and wetland birds, including rhinos, flamingos and zebras.
Within the reserve, visitors can see black rhinoceroses, plains zebras, okapi, and Visayan warty pigs. You'll think you have stumbled upon a watering hole right out of the African savanna.
In 2012, the Cincinnati Zoo opened a new exhibit dedicated to all things feline — Cat Canyon. The first species you'll encounter is the Malayan tiger. Malayan tigers are probably what you think of when you close your eyes and picture a tiger — it’s known for its striping pattern of black on orange, with hints of white.
Malayan tigers are typically solitary creatures who can travel up to 20 miles at night to hunt for prey. They are endemic to the forests of Malaysia and southern Thailand and feed mostly on deer, wild pigs and cattle.
Eurasian Eagle Owl
These impressive winged creatures are among the largest owls in the world; however, thanks to their silent wings, they are among the most deadly night hunters. Their wings can span up to 6 feet, and they are known to catch other birds mid-flight.
Eurasian eagle owls live across Europe and Asia in woodland, grasslands and rocky areas. They can live up to 60 years on a diet of mammals, like rabbits and rodents, as well as other birds.
Sleek, stealthy and graceful, the snow leopard has a protective 5-inch coat of snow-white, which helps protect it from the cold and camouflage it for when it's on the prowl.
The snow leopard's 3-foot tail is integral to its survival, as it helps the creature keep its balance on rocky slopes. They are endemic to Central Asia and live in grasslands, scrubland and open woodland. The Cincinnati Zoo is home to two snow leopards: Renji and Nubo.
Get up close and personal with these beautiful cougars within Cat Canyon. The cougar habitat has been crafted to mimic the rocky landscapes that cougars in the wild call home.
Throughout the past, cougars were native to the Americas. In North America, they are found in the western half of the continent, with a small contingent in Florida. They can also be found in Central and South America. They live up to 13 years of age.
Climb out of the savanna and plunge deep into the heart of the jungle. Jungle Trails takes zoo guests through the thick, lush jungles of Asia and Africa, among the most biodiverse regions in the world.
Jungle Trails sets the tone with a cacophonous soundtrack of chattering animals, which echo through the towering trees and among the exotic plants that fill the exhibit. Along the trail, you'll discover endangered primates, like orangutans, gibbons and bonobos, which can be viewed in both indoor and outdoor areas. The award-winning area is almost like a zoo within a zoo and can often be done entirely on its own. Your journey deep into the jungle begins here.
While meandering the Jungle Trails, a stop to visit the bonobos is a must. Otherwise known as the pygmy chimp, bonobos are slightly smaller than chimpanzees and, believe it or not, share more than 98 percent of their DNA with humans.
This exhibit will give visitors an up-close-and-personal glimpse into the life of bonobos and their family groups. The highly intelligent creatures often walk upright on two feet, just like humans. They are also capable of making and using tools. They can live up to 31 years and are endemic to the tropical rainforests of central Africa.
From the jungles of Africa, the journey continues into the lush, tropical forests of Asia — particularly northern Sumatra, where you'll come into contact with gorgeous orangutans. Orangutans are endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. They are the largest tree-dwelling animal and are one of a few ape species that spend a majority of their lives amidst the treetops.
They subsist on fruit, bark, insects, bird eggs and small vertebrates. Its main natural predator is the tiger, which is why orangutans spend so much time up in the trees, as it offers them true concealment and protection.
Lords of the Arctic: Polar Bear
Out of the steamy Jungle Trails, it's time to head north — way north. We're talking about the Arctic. It's time to visit the Lords of the Arctic exhibit. The Lords of the Arctic exhibit includes two pools, a waterfall, stream and an underwater viewing area that sheds light on the creatures that inhabit the wild, wintry north.
None is more breathtaking than the polar bear. These magnificent mammals are experts at surviving in extreme cold. The winter in the Arctic lasts six months and the average temperatures are -30º Fahrenheit. The Cincinnati Zoo has several polar bears in the Lords of the Arctic exhibit, who are truly humbling to behold. Polar bears eat seals, walrus, lemmings, lichens, moss and carrion. They can live up to 20 years and can weigh up to 1,500 pounds.
Arctic foxes are beyond cute to look at, but don't be fooled. These snow-white vixens of the north are quick to catch and extremely good at hunting and foraging. During the frozen winters, the Arctic fox sports a brilliantly white coat that allows it to blend seamlessly into the landscape. Come the warmer months, they swap for a lighter, brown coat.
Arctic foxes subsist on rodents, birds, fish, eggs, berries and carrion. But when the weather turns too snowy to hunt on their own, they settle for scavenging the scraps from a polar bear's kill. Arctic foxes live in the Arctic regions of North America, Europe and Asia. They can live up to six years.
Though not technically an Arctic creature, the Andean Bear shares real estate not far from the polar bears in the Lords of the Arctic habitat. Andean bears are native to the northwestern regions of South America, from Venezuela to Bolivia. It's the only bear that is native to South America.
Of all the bear species, the Andean bear spends the majority of its time up in the trees. Using its sharp claws to climb, and configuring tree branches across each other, this species typically forms platforms from which they pluck fruits from the trees. Andean bears can live up to 26 years old, though the species is in danger due to habitat loss and hunting.
Wings of the World
From the frigid expanse of the Arctic, take flight into the wide world of birds. The Wings of the World exhibit is all about shedding light on the wide world of winged creatures. The building was originally a reptile house that dates back to 1936. In 1996, it was renovated to house a wide variety of species, from buff-crested bustards to horned puffins, boat-billed herons and more.
What’s cool about the Cincinnati Zoo is that it cares for the largest collection of kea, a species of mountain parrot that hails from New Zealand. The zoo supports the Kea Conservation Trust, which works to conserve the kea in its natural habitat.
Then, it's out of the treetops and back down to the forest floor as you enter Wolf Woods. One of the newer exhibits at the zoo (it opened in 2005), Wolf Woods is the habitat for Mexican wolves and river otters. The exhibit sheds light on the conservation efforts to help preserve these forests as well.
As you enter Wolf Woods, you'll discover the conservation stories about the Ohio woodlands, which talk about the conservation of the North American river otter. The next section of the woods talks about the Mexican gray wolf, which is endemic to the southwestern United States. Keep your eyes peeled for the historic trapper's cabin, which has been transformed into a wolf field research station.
Spaulding Children’s Zoo
If you've got your own brood in tow, the Spaulding Children's Zoo is the perfect place to spend the day. Here families can interact with the animals in a much more hands-on way, from a petting yard and animal nursery to a playground. Alpacas, Nigerian dwarf goats, Parma wallabies and African penguins are among the animals that live in the Spaulding Children's Zoo.
Don't miss Barnyard Bonanza — a fun, interactive live show where audience members may get the opportunity to train a goat to jump through a hoop or race chickens.
Just next to Spaulding Children's Zoo is a critter that is beloved by the whole family. The rusty-colored red panda, sometimes called a cloud bear or Himalayan raccoon, is endemic to the mountain forests of southern and Southeast Asia, and looks more like a raccoon than to an actual panda bear.
These cute creatures are mostly active at dawn and dusk and prefer to spend the days sleeping. When they are awake, they are leaping from limb to limb in the forest canopy. Like their black-and-white cousins, they feast primarily on bamboo and leaves as well as fruit, grasses, acorns and small animals. The species is at risk, so the zoo supports the Red Panda Network, which was created to protect red pandas and their bamboo forests.
Perched at the center of a smaller section of Swan Lake, Gibbon Islands exist in what was once the Zoo Summer Opera Pavilion. The building was constructed in 1974, and today, visitors can hear the howling call of the apes, which echoes and bounces off the water. A wooden bridge over the lake marks the pathway, from which viewers can gaze up into the trees for a glimpse of these cream-colored creatures.
Gibbons are known for their long, branch-swinging arms as well as their booming calls. Among the species you'll see on the Gibbon Islands are the buff-cheeked gibbon, the siamang, and the white-handed gibbon.
Welcome to Africa, the last and, perhaps, the most impressive section of the Cincinnati Zoo. The Africa section of the park transports travelers on a wild safari, all from the heart of Cincinnati. The sheer volume of African species within this cluster of exhibits is dizzying, from lions and giraffes, to hippos, ostriches, meerkats and more.
Before embarking on a safari, you can fuel up at Base Camp Cafe, the African-themed main restaurant of the zoo. A renovation in 2013 saw an expansion of seating, and the addition of a deck that overlooks the exhibit.
During the pandemic, the zoo also launched a virtual Home Safari Facebook Live series to give visitors an inside look from home. It became so popular that they’re still creating new ones to check out.
Look quickly before you miss them — cheetahs are the fastest animals on land. They are also the first animals to greet you along your African safari at the Cincinnati Zoo. The cheetah exhibit shows off these sleek, agile beauties that can reach speeds up to 70 mph. They are known for their flexible backbones, long legs, non-retractable claws and muscular tails.
Cheetahs are endemic to Africa and Western Asia, particularly Iran. They live in dry forests and in the savanna. The cheetah is a species at risk, so the zoo participates in the Angel Fund, which helps conserve cheetahs and their habitats.
One look at these spectacular felines, and it's easy to see why they're known as the kings of the jungle. The African lions at the Cincinnati Zoo are truly stunning. Lions live in prides, which are social groups that are made up of related females and their cubs as well as two or three males.
At the Cincinnati Zoo, they are committed to contributing to Rebuilding the Pride, which is a conservation program that uses modern technology, combined with traditional methods, to help restore the continent's lion population. Lions can live 16 years and are found in the savanna, woodlands and deserts of Africa.
If you've ever dreamed of getting up close and personal with a giraffe, this would be the place to do it. Giraffe Ridge is a 27,000-square-foot exhibit that boasts a raised viewing platform that is eye level with the resident herd of Masai giraffes. You can even participate in a feeding, which is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Masai giraffes are the largest subspecies of giraffe. They are the tallest animals in the world and can reach heights of 17 feet. The species is at risk, sadly, but the Cincinnati Zoo supports research and conservation of Masai Giraffes in Tanzania.
Painted Dog Valley
African painted dogs are absolutely beautiful creatures. Unfortunately, their population is on the fast decline. Today, there are only about 3,000 African dogs in Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. A century ago, that number topped half a million across 39 countries.
When visiting the Cincinnati Zoo, the African dogs live in Painted Dog Valley, one of the most beautiful exhibits in the zoo. Lush with trees and sliced by a beautiful stream, it's almost as if you've been transported to the wild of Southern Africa.
When the Cincinnati Zoo opened Hippo Cove in 2016, it was to a flurry of excitement. The 70,000-gallon pool is home to Bibi and her daughter, Fiona, who lumber and splash around as visitors watch in excitement. There is even an underwater viewing area for a most unique perspective.
Bibi and Fiona are Nile hippos and can weigh as much as 8,000 pounds. Hippos spend a large portion of the day in water or mud to keep cool. They can live up to 35 years and subsist on a diet of grass.
Lastly, we come to the magnificent Elephant Reserve. Designated a National Historic Landmark, the Elephant House is a 1906 building that houses one of the most popular exhibits at the zoo. It’s home to the Asian elephant, which are some of the most majestic and beautiful creatures on Earth.
The Asian elephant is the largest land mammal in Asia. It lives in the forests of Southern and Southeast Asia in groups called herds that are helmed by older females. An Asian elephant can drink up to 40 gallons of water and eat hundreds of pounds of food each day. They eat mostly grasses, leaves, bark and fruit. Asian elephants can live up to 47 years old. Females are connected to the herd for life, while males break off when they reach puberty and either go solo or join up with groups of other males.
The Cincinnati Zoo works with the International Elephant Foundation and helps to fund the Conservation Response Units at the Seblat Elephant Conservation Center in Sumatra.