Columbus Zoo vs Cincinnati Zoo – What to Know Before You Go

If you’re looking for a fun zoo trip in Ohio, two top contenders are the Columbus Zoo and the Cincinnati Zoo. Both offer memorable animal encounters and family-friendly environments. But which zoo is better for your visit? Here’s an in-depth comparison of the Columbus Zoo and Cincinnati Zoo to help inform your decision.

Columbus Zoo

The Columbus Zoo opened in 1927 and covers 580 acres. It’s one of the largest zoos in the country with over 9,000 animals representing over 600 species.


  • Large, sprawling zoo with many exhibits spread across several themed regions like Asia Quest, Congo, and the Islands of Southeast Asia. You can easily spend a whole day exploring.
  • Diverse animal collection including rare & endangered species like snow leopards, clouded leopards, gorillas, red pandas, and lemurs.
  • Lots of interactive exhibits like the corral where you can brush goats and feed lorikeets.
  • Adjacent water park, amusement park, and 18-hole safari-themed golf course. Great for families who want an all-day/multi-day getaway.
  • Open year-round with holiday-themed events.


  • Large size means lots of walking. Can be tiring for younger kids and guests with limited mobility.
  • Exhibits spread out so need to budget time to travel between sections.
  • Peak crowds during holidays and summers. Parking and lines can be challenging.
  • Admission and activities are expensive – budget $40-$50 per person.

Cincinnati Zoo

Founded in 1875, the Cincinnati Zoo is the second oldest zoo in the US. It’s smaller at 74 acres but still houses over 500 animal species.


  • Compact layout makes it very walkable. You can see most of the zoo in a day.
  • Amazing rare cat collection, including their famous white lions and Bengal tigers.
  • Home to the longest zoo train ride in the US at 20 minutes long.
  • Fun kids’ area with petting zoo, playground, and splash park.
  • More affordable than Columbus. Tickets around $20 for adults.


  • Older facility that feels more dated than other zoos.
  • Limited selection of animals compared to larger zoos. Misses exotic species like pandas.
  • Peak days get very crowded.
  • Closes seasonally from November-March.


Both the Columbus Zoo and Cincinnati Zoo are great options for Ohio families. Columbus offers more sprawling space, exhibits, and activities while Cincinnati provides a more compact, cost-effective experience. Figure out your key priorities like budget, crowd tolerance, and accessibility to pick the better zoo for your visit!

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