Sunday, August 30, 2009

Baedeker: Columbus, OH

Part I: Columbus Zoo

I spent a Saturday in Columbus recently and took in a few sites. Part I includes a trip to the Columbus Zoo. I had never been and just wanted to see it. But I also wanted to compare it to Cincinnati’s historic zoo. A few facts: Cincinnati’s zoo is an urban zoo established in 1875. Columbus’s zoo is in the suburbs and opened in 1927. But then they get hard to compare because of size, location, and added amenities like a whole water (Zoombezi Bay) park at Columbus. For instance . . .

The Columbus Zoo feels huge and by all account is bigger than Cincinnati’s. I can’t find precise numbers though as for instance an article in Parent’s Magazine did a story of the top ten best zoos for kids and they describe the Columbus Zoo as having animals on 90 acres. But another article I read says a total of 340 acres and the Zoo’s 2007 Annual Report says the total complex approaches 600 acres. That last number though I think includes the huge parking lot, the water park and maybe even the Zoo owned golf course. For reference the parent’s magazine article has the Cincinnati Zoo at 75 acres.

Animals and Species:
I see a number of numbers for total species and total animals. Cincinnati I see by their website has over 500 species and by the parent’s Magazine article 1,733 animals. (That seems low.) Columbus Zoo numbers are anywhere from 5,804 animals (2007 Annual Report) to 11,773 animals (Parent’s Magazine). And the number of species for Columbus is actually listed as 600 in 2007 and now 700 on their current website.

Attendance & Visitors:
The Cincinnati Zoo website said there were 1.2 million visitors a year annually.
A recent newspaper article on the Columbus Zoo said they have nearly 2 million visitors (and Wikipedia says 1.8 million). I assume that counts the water park which opened in 2008. The 2007 Annual Report, prior to Zoombezi Bay, included visitors of over 1.5 million.

So what did I think?

Well, I liked the Columbus Zoo in a lot of ways but it is just spread out and if they have more animals than Cincinnati, it didn’t feel like it. I walked A LOT and I thought I walked a lot between some animal exhibits. Cincinnati is just so dense and charming by comparison. I personally like the older feel of Cincinnati’s Zoo but I also think the amount of land given for some of the animals at Columbus has to be nice for the animals. However, even as big as the Columbus Zoo is, it felt crowded attendance wise. I was there at a peak time I am sure. And it has been a while though since I’ve been to Cincinnati’s zoo in the middle of the day. I like going early and leaving around lunchtime. Finally, I really liked some of the species the Columbus Zoo had on display. I loved seeing things we don’t have here like kolas, kangaroos, moose, huge tortoises, and huge flying foxes to name a few. (I wanted to see the bison but they were not out.)

Ok, finally some pictures . . .
For the Record, in the 2009 Parent’s Magazine article “The Top Ten Best Zoos for Kids”, Cincinnati came in at No. 6 and Columbus came in at No. 10. A 2009 USA Travel Guide article has Columbus as the “No. 1 Zoo in America” while Cincinnati comes in as No. 7. Not too shabby for Ohio when you think about it. (Toledo Zoo get’s props in the polls as well.)

Next: Part II Columbus Clipper’s Baseball

Author's Note: Baedeker was a German-based travel guide begun in 1827 by Karl Baedeker. These comprehensive guides were hugely popular in Europe, the United States, and throughout the British Empire. I have adopted the moniker for all my travel pieces beyond Cincinnati. Given its German history and stately influence, I thought it fitting for the Queen City.

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