Everyone loves the idea of a family vacation, but the reality may sometimes fall a bit short of perfect. Once you’ve packed the bags, assembled the snack bag, found the sunscreen, rounded up the kids and gotten everyone into the car, many times you are still facing hours of driving and several rest stops before your final destination. Why invite more stress than necessary? Ohio offers plenty of family fun without frantic packing or grueling road trips.
Zoo-who? Why Akron, of Course!
The Akron Zoo is one of Ohio’s greatest hidden gems. The zoo features more than 700 animal residents, two remarkable cafés and several children’s rides and play areas all conveniently located on about 40 acres of land.
Now don’t be deceived: The zoo’s compact size doesn’t mean the animals are small. Guests can visit animals of all shapes and sizes from a variety of natural habitats. The Legends of the Wild area features animal residents from around the world who have legends associated with their species such as snow leopards, jaguars, bats, condors, lemurs and more. Or perhaps local wildlife is more your speed? Grizzly Ridge features animals who are either current or historic residents of Northeast Ohio, such as grizzly bears, red wolves, bald eagles and even North American river otters.
The Akron Zoo also has a rotational indoor habitat designed to change and feature new animals every four to five years. The space currently houses Curious Creatures, a variety of creatures with unique and interesting adaptations, such as the mantis shrimp, who can punch with strength equal to that of a .22 caliber bullet; and a giant Pacific octopus, who can change both the color and texture of her skin!
The zoo continues to renovate and expand, improving conditions for human guests and animal residents alike. June 29 is the grand opening of the Akron Zoo’s new habitat area, Landon and Cynthia Knight Pride of Africa. The expansion highlights animals from the savannas of Africa, including Speke’s gazelles, guineafowl, white storks and a pride of five African lions. The area also features guest attractions such as a solar-powered train ride and an interactive misting station. In 2020, guests can also look forward to Wild Asia, a new habitat area that will house Sumatran tigers, white-cheeked gibbons and red pandas.
The Akron Zoo also hosts a variety of scheduled events throughout the year that ranges from educational to entertaining and family-friendly to adults only.
Families can visit on June 1 for Rhythm of Summer, a celebration of local music, dance and art. The zoo will be open extended evening hours, during which families will enjoy dancing and limbo contests, live performances, crafts, animal encounters, yard games and music trivia, as well as all of the animals the zoo regularly has to offer.
Other upcoming family fun events include Carnival of Tails on July 28, Sundae Sunday on Aug. 4, Clue at the Zoo on Aug. 24, Boo at the Zoo throughout October and Wild Lights in November and December.
If you would prefer a more adult event, you can participate in Wild for Wine or Brew at the Zoo. Experience animal encounters and alcohol in a one-of-a-kind event environment while getting an exclusive look at animal residents after-hours. Or, if you are creatively minded, sign up for Wine and Paint where you will receive individual painting instruction, enjoy a glass of wine and see one of the zoo’s animal ambassadors create their own piece of art.
The zoo also plays host to several fundraising and conservation events throughout the year. If you are interested in saving local, national and even international species and habitats, there are many opportunities to meet conservationists, volunteer and give financially. The largest fundraising event for the Akron Zoo is Summer Safari on Aug. 9. Not only do guests experience live performances, enjoy food and drinks from local caterers and participate in unique animal encounters, they also have the opportunity to participate in raffles and a silent auction. Proceeds from this event benefit many conservation initiatives supported by the zoo.
So if you are looking for some summer fun, forget the road trip and vacation locally. Be sure to stop by the Akron Zoo, where the parties are wild and wildlife is close!
505 Euclid Ave., Akron