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Visiting the Cincinnati Zoo During COVID-19

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden opened back up this month, and we were lucky enough to snag a spot! We had a great experience, even with all the changes. This blog post will give a run down of what it’s like to visit the Cincinnati Zoo during COVID-19.

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The Reservation Process

If you want to visit the Cincinnati Zoo during COVID-19 you’ll need to purchase tickets + reserve a time slot ahead of time via their website.

  • First, you’ll go to their website to purchase tickets + reserve a time slot.
  • Then, you’ll be asked if you’re a member or non-member.
  • Next, you’ll be given a calendar view to pick a date and time to visit.
  • You will choose a 30 minute window in which you need to arrive and enter the zoo. This is so that they can control zoo capacity (which they’ve stated they’re keeping under 50% to allow for social distancing).

You cannot just show up at the zoo and gain entry. If you do not purchase tickets ahead of time, and/or you do not have a time slot confirmation email, you will not be allowed to enter the zoo.

If you’re a member, you’ll have access to more time slots than non-members. Guests that require a paid ticket can be on your reservation, but they will not be allowed to enter until 10am. So be careful when you’re booking tickets, because members themselves can get in as early as 9am.

One of the things that I appreciate about the reservation portal is that you can see an exact count of how many reservations are available per time slot, and the numbers change in real time during checkout.

Measures They’ve Taken For Safety & Cleanliness

They have installed a TON of hand sanitizing stations throughout the zoo. My kids became obsessed and I actually had to yell at them to STOP cleaning their hands about half way through because it was just too much lol.

They have also installed paw prints on the ground at all of the exhibits to help you socially distance when viewing animals.

Throughout our visit I saw many employees wiping things down (tables, trash cans, etc). ALL employees were wearing masks.

The tables have all been spread out, and each one features instructions on how to be safe when ordering food, eating, etc.

What’s Open & What’s Closed?

You can check the status of all the exhibits on the day you arrive via the website. While things could be different on the day that you visit, here’s what we experienced:

All of the outdoor exhibits are open for viewing. We had no problem seeing all of our favorite animals.

There are a few indoor exhibits that are closed, but quite a few were open. We were able to enter the reptile house and the building with the manatees. Both had specific instructions on how to enter/exit, and neither were crowded. It also appeared as if the insect house was open (I saw strollers parked out front), but my girls were exhausted at that point so we didn’t try and go in.

We could not enter any of the indoor monkey exhibits, or the exhibit with all the nocturnal animals.

Something that was quite shocking was that the penguins by the children’s zoo are GONE. That has all been filled in with dirt + trees. After looking on the website it appears as if they’re getting a new exhibit over by Wolf Woods. Which makes sense, because the entire area by the train and birdhouse were blocked off by construction. You could not walk past the bird house at all, instead if you wanted to get to the polar bears / monkey trail you had to loop back around.

On the day we visited the train and carousel were both closed.

As far as food, all indoor dining is closed. But everything else was open! You can view more details about dining options here.

The indoor gift shops are closed, but they had outdoor stands set-up for souvenir shopping.

Our Experience

Because of the heat, and our nap schedule, I reserved a 9-9:30am time slot (the earliest one available, for members only). When we arrived we were able to park in the row closest to the entrance, and didn’t experience any wait time to get in.

There is an extra station at the entrance where we were asked to show our reservation email, and then when we got to the main gate we self-scanned our pass. You can also now download your pass onto your phone!

We brought our masks, but once inside I didn’t make the kids keep theirs on, because the place was just so empty and we rarely encountered another family! It seriously felt like we had the zoo to ourselves. The most we ever saw at an exhibit was 1-2 other families. We never had trouble finding a table + chairs for a snack break, and bathrooms were always completely empty.

I opted to keep my mask on the entire trip, and for the most part, all other adult guests were wearing one.

The entire time I felt that we were safe, and that the zoo had our best interests at heart. We had such a good time, that I immediately booked another visit for the following month.

When we left around noon, there was a line to get-in. So if you can, I’d definitely recommend getting there as early as possible to enjoy the empty zoo.

Are you planning to visit the Cincinnati Zoo during COVID-19? I hope that this post helped answer some of your questions!

For more ideas on what to do with your kids, click HERE.

Looking for more Cincinnati related posts? Click HERE.

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