Live at the Cincinnati Zoo

My rep as an Ohio summer festival expert has been thwarted this season (apologies), so let’s shoot for fall? Plenty of ox roasts and autumnal harvest celebrations on the horizon. The summer’s been busy around Casa Zagatto-Elliot – school, work, work, work -- and thus the “stay”cation has replaced frequent travel or a real get-out-of-town vacation. I’m not complaining, it’s just we had the Olympics on schedule two years ago, and Philadelphia, two weeks ago, and neither will come to fruition. We have resigned to that NPR tag-word to explain America’s leisure weekend alternative caused by continuing economic suffocation. Regardless, I’ve always wanted to take the wife to the Cincinnati Zoo and we finally had an opportunity to see if it lived up to my highest expectations.

My girl and I are big fans of zoos, for $10 there’s little entertainment as rewarding/mesmerizing as gazing at monkeys for hours on end. The Cincinnati Zoo, built in 1873, is the second oldest active zoo in America – and besides the Central Park Zoo (heralded for its concise yet varied collection) and the San Diego Zoo (so big it takes two days to roam it) Cincy has few rivals. Of course we get all saddened by an animal pacing restlessly in a small space, but relieved when we see that Cincinnati is one of the leaders in preserving endangered species – education and conservation trumps moral quandaries.

Yes, pictured above are live vampire bats. The nocturnal house (a favorite of childhood) has scads of them in a pitch-black, cave-like enclosure. I’m pretty sure my bro was routinely scared to enter. That space is second only to the insect house, which boasts an amazing display of carpenter ants and naked mole rats. Still, this is a botanical garden to boot, so the trails through the monkey jungle and the hoofed mammal exhibits make the Columbus Zoo look barren and all-too-familiar, hence the trip South. This summer also marked the opening of Giraffe Ridge, which is basically a raised deck that allows you to view the herd of youngsters at head level, quite enlightening really (didn’t get to feed them though). The grounds are here are immaculate, despite construction for another new exhibit coming next summer (not sure what it could be?), and the exercise hiking up the Queen City's hilly terrain very beneficial.

Not exactly a play by play, but you’re already bored I’m sure. We’ve made it a personal goal to reach the Philadelphia Zoo (the nation’s oldest), the Toledo Zoo, and St. Louis (yearly voted as one of the best) by year’s end. Zoos in America are open year round, so there’s no excuse to peruse, in fact it’s better to visit in early winter (less crowds and very active animals). Should’a been a zoologist.

Oh those monkeys I was talking about...

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