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I am planning on going over to the Columbus Zoo for the first time tomorrow! Are there any tips or information you guys have for me? Any must-sees or must-dos? Thanks for the help!

Are you doing just the zoo, or are you trying to squeeze in Zoombezi Bay, too? Hopefully it's just the zoo, because you can't come close to doing both parks in one day.

Here's my advice..

Get there as close to opening as possible and head straight for Heart of Africa. The animals are incredibly active in the mornings and you want to be there before the crowds fill in. Pay the $3 to feed the giraffes... it's totally worth it. Really explore this region... there are wonderful details everywhere. Here, you'll see Lions, Cheetahs, Giraffe, Zebra, Vervet Monkeys, Camels, Warthogs, and all sorts of African Hoofstock. The vistas here are jawdropping. Bring your camera.

After Heart of Africa, visit Polar Frontier and the other North America exhibits that create the route from Heart of Africa back to the rest of the zoo. At Polar Frontier, try to catch the polar bears underwater... the viewing tunnel is spectacular. The Kodiak bears next door, Brutus and Buckeye, are hams. You may want to spend some time watching them.

The other main exhibit area on the east half of the zoo is AsiaQuest... again, don't miss this one. Pay special attention for Big Hank in the elephant area of AsiaQuest... he's said to be the largest elephant in any American zoo. Other animals here include Langurs, tufted deer, sun bears, Amur Tigers, Red Pandas, Pallas Cats, Markhors, Crested Cranes, Flying Fox, Water Monitor, and "Hanna", the daughter of Fluffy, who was the largest snake in North America before her death a few years back.

Crossing over into the western half of the zoo (the 2 sides are separated by a tunnel that takes you under Riverside Drive) you'll first come into the Shores region: Manatee Coast, Discovery Reef, Flamingos, Alligators, and the Reptile House. The Manatees are a must see... beautiful exhibit. If aquariums aren't your thing, Discovery Reef is skipable, but it's still nice. The Reptile House has a huge collection of snakes... so be ware.

After the Shores you come to The Congo Expedition. This whole region is a must do. You'll see leopards, mandrills, bonobos, warthogs, cobolus monkeys, Okapi, Bongos, and the famous Columbus Zoo gorillas. Spend a good amount of time inside the Gorilla building. There is an adorable baby boy in there currently. He's hilarious. Also, look for Colo: She's the oldest gorilla in captivity and was the first gorilla born in captivity. If it's not too crowded, spend some time playing with her. She loves to make faces, clap, and interact with you.

After the Congo, you'll come to The Islands of Southeast Asia... The boat ride through this part has a dinosaur overlay now... not worth the upcharge unless there's a dino lover in your group. This area doesn't take too long to cover on foot; you'll see orangutans, siamangs, Komodo dragons, and Asian small clawed otters.

Australia is next. You can walk through the Kangaroo Walkabout, which is a fenceless 'roo exhibit... you just walk right around them. It's cool. The Lorikeey aviary is nextdoor, you can buy nectar for $1 and feed them as you go thru. They're cute, and this is fun. The Koala exhibit is around the corner, these guys are cute as well. Don't expect them to do anything though. They just sleep. On your way out of Australia, walk through the Roadhouse. It's a nocturnal house with really unique animals.

If you're an amusement park history buff (and why wouldn't you be?), ride the 1914 Mangles Illions carousel located across from the Congo. It's beautifully restored and gives a great ride.

The food in the park is of good to decent quality and the prices are reasonable. Your best bets are the new restaurant in Heart of Africa and the food court in the Congo (Charley's Steakery. Donatos Pizza, a Mexican counter, a Grill counter, and a fresh salad counter.

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Two more notes: Don't miss the Animal Encounters Village and Stingray Bay... They're complete, hands on exhibits on the path between the Zoo proper and Zoombezi Bay. Also, you can ride the classic, John Miller designed Sea Dragon wooden coaster here, too.

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Wow! That is about all I can ask for in terms of tips and info. Thanks! I'll be sure to follow that advice.

No worries! Enjoy your trip. We're actually going to be over at Zoombezi Bay for most of the afternoon... getting our mileage out of these season passes.

Let us know how your trip goes!

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