A Visit to the Toledo Zoo & the New Aquarium

This morning my daughter and I joined her friend and his mom at the Toledo Zoo for a last summer excursion. Despite the heat, it was a perfect day at the zoo. It wasn’t too crowded since Ohio schools have already gone back to school. Our kids (4th graders) were definitely a lot bigger than many of the toddlers and preschoolers at the zoo today.

We belonged to the Toledo Zoo when my daughter was younger. As our schedule has gotten busier with school, soccer, scouts, etc, we haven’t had the opportunity to return as often as we used to. 

Recent Changes at the Toledo Zoo

Our last visit to the Toledo Zoo was in April 2014 (for the Easter Bunny Breakfast). There have been a few changes at the Zoo since that visit.

The New Aquarium

The new aquarium opened at the Toledo Zoo this spring after a lengthy renovation. While it is still located in the historic building from the 1930s, the inside has been completely redone. With the new layout, the aquarium felt even larger inside than it was before. As you enter, there are two touch tanks. The first (smaller) touch tank rotates animals throughout the day so you can interact with various animals.

Toledo Zoo New Aquarium Touch Tank

 

The second, larger touch tank is a coral reef and has rays, sharks, and horseshoe crabs available to touch. I decided to participate instead of photographing the touch tank. 

The aquarium is considerably brighter than the old aquarium with walls painted white. Many of our favorite aquatic animals from the old aquarium are back including the alligator snapping turtle, jellyfish, and seahorses. Each tank features tv monitors that have change between pictures of the animal and information about them. Our only complaint was that the screens are too high. You can see them great when you are standing back from the tank, but when you are up close, you really needed to crane your neck.

‘Keet Retreat

New this season is the ‘Keet Retreat. The ‘Keet Retreat occupies the building that I remember holding a seasonal butterfly exhibit. In the ‘Keet Retreat, parakeets fly freely as you walk through a path. For $1, you can purchase a feed stick to hold and feed the parakeets. You do need either a $1 or $5 bill to exchange for tokens, so make sure to bring the bill(s) you will need. As long as your kids don’t mind taking turns, they can share a stick. My daughter fed 5 birds with her stick and there was still some seed left on it.

My daughter loved feeding the Parakeets (although I should warn you that it is warm in the ‘Keet Retreat). It did take a little patience before the first parakeet started to feed, but after that she had no trouble getting 4 or 5 different birds to come feed.

Penguins

My daughter loves penguins and was very excited to see their nearly completed new enclosure when we were last at the zoo in April 2014. Today the penguins were lounging in the shade and not very active when we visited. We planned to return after lunch to see if they were more active and possibly check out the underwater viewing. We ended up not making it back to the penguins (or the nearby splash pad).

Little Things

There were also lots of small exhibits that were new since our last visit including Cassowary, a butterfly garden, and Galapagos Turtles.

Old Favorites

As usual, we started on the entrance side of the zoo with the Arctic and Africa exhibits. The wolves and African animals were particularly animated when we were at their enclosures.

Toledo Zoo Africa

Next we visited the aviary and the Primates to see new baby Langurs, Gibbons, and Orangutans. After the Keet Retreat and the Aquarium we had lunch at Carnivore Cafe. I had brought some watermelon and we bought a hamburger and turkey sandwich. 

We finished with the reptile house, elephant house, Tembo Trail, and the tigers. When we finished, we offered the kids ice cream, but they were both ready to head home.

What We Skipped

The Toledo Zoo has so much to offer that it is hard to visit everything.

The Toledo Zoo recently opened a splash pad near the penguins in the location of the old playground. We had prepared for the kids to visit the splash pad with quick drying clothes, and a change of clothes. We were near the splash pad right before lunch and the kids were too hungry to visit the splash pad. After lunch, we headed the other way and never returned.

Since my daughter and her friend are both 9 and entering 4th grade, we decided not to visit Nature’s Neighborhood, the children’s area. We also skipped the nearby Museum of Science which has an insect, spider, and amphibians exhibit. 

Traditionally we have ended our zoo visit with an ice cream – which I was looking forward to with the heat. However, my daughter and her friend both turned down the ice cream. They were just ready to leave.

Final Thoughts

Overall, we had a great time at the Toledo Zoo despite the heat and recommend a visit for all Ann Arbor families. I love how much effort they put into improving the zoo over the last few years. I also see some fun new exhibits in their 10 year plan.

As we walked through the zoo, we could see them starting to put up the lights for Lights Before Christmas. We have enjoyed the lights the couple of times we have braved the winter weather. I definitely recommend experiencing Lights Before Christmas at least once.

We also saw signs for Little Boo and Pumpkin Path. We have enjoyed both exhibits in the past. I’ll be adding both to the Events Calendar as we get closer to Halloween.

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