The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is one of the best zoos in the United States and one of the most popular attractions in Central Ohio.  I’m not just saying that because I live in Columbus.  It is consistently voted among the best zoos in America on practically any “best zoos” list you can find.

Here’s everything you need to know to enjoy a great day at the Columbus, Ohio Zoo plus what you can expect when you visit in 2021.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
If you’re visiting Columbus, Ohio, a stop at the zoo is a must!


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Columbus Zoo 2021

As of June 23, 2021, dated, timed tickets are no longer required. Masks are highly encouraged for unvaccinated guests while indoors. Select special tours will require masks, regardless of vaccination status.

Columbus Zoo Reopening 2020
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a fantastic place to visit in Ohio. Image Credit: The Columbus Zoo

Parking at the Zoo in 2021

No cash payments for parking will be accepted, however, you can pay by credit card. Memberships, season passes, and pre-printed parking vouchers will also be accepted.

Read More: 53 Fun Things to do in Columbus, Ohio

Columbus Ohio Zoo: At a Glance

Location: 4850 Powell Road, Powell, Ohio 43065

Columbus Zoo Hours for 2021:

  • January and February: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • March: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • April through May 22: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • May 23 – September 27: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Zoo closes at 3 p.m. on August 29 for Zoofari)
  • September 8-30: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • October – December: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Extended Hours for Boo at the Zoo and Wildlights; Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)

Columbus Zoo Admission Cost (as of August 2021):

  • Children Under 3: Free
  • Children Ages 3-9: $16.99
  • Ages 10-59: $21.99
  • Seniors Age 60+: $16.99

Parking: $10 per car

Columbus Zoo Attractions:

Rides: The Grand Carousel, North America Train, Island Boat Ride, Camel and Pony rides, Sea Dragon, Flying Clipper, Havoc Harbor, Safari Stampede, Swingin Gibbons, Dust Devil, Golden Frog Hopper, Jack’s Tea Party, Tiny Tusks, Tiny Town Train, Redwood Falls, Sugar Glider, Falcon Fall, Mission Macaw (*Rides cost extra)

Exhibits: Asia Quest, Australia and the Islands, Congo Expedition, Heart of Africa, North America, Shores and Aquarium

Playgrounds: Polar Playground, Strings, Wings n’ Things Playground, Shores Play Park

Shows and Presentations: Shores 4-D Theater, Surfin’ Safari, Discovery Reef diver, Cheetah Run

Special Activities: Giraffe feeding, Animal Encounters Village, Habitat Hollow, Kangaroo Walkabout, Petting Zoo, Stingray Bay, Tide Pool Touch

Driving Distance from Nearby Cities:

  • Cleveland, Ohio: 2 hours 1o minutes
  • Toledo, Ohio: 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Cincinnati, Ohio: 2 hours
  • Dayton, Ohio: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Indianapolis, Indiana: 2 hours 55 minutes
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: 3 hours 10 minutes
  • Detroit, Michigan: 3 hours
Columbus Ohio Zoo location
The Columbus Ohio Zoo is located in Powell, a northern suburb of Columbus.

If you love the Columbus Zoo, you should check out The Wilds — a 9,000+ acre non-profit wildlife park and conservation center located about 1.5 hours outside of Columbus. It makes a great day trip or overnight getaway!

5 Reasons to Visit The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

There are so many reasons why you should visit the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium! Here are 5 to start with:

1. Conservation — Manatee Coast Exhibit

At first glance, the Manatee Coast Exhibit looks like a regular zoo exhibit. But, it’s not. It’s actually a Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation facility. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium participates in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Program.

The exhibit opened in 1999 and has housed 21 manatees during that time. The ultimate goal of the program is to release the animals back into the wild. Once released, the manatees are tagged, tracked, and monitored as part of the program.

Manatee at the Columbus Zoo
Don’t miss the adorable manatees at the Columbus Zoo!

2. Family-Friendly Fun at The Barn

Bob Evans Farms My Barn allows the whole family to interact with domesticated animals like goats, sheep, chickens, and cows. You’ll get up close and personal with these animals and have the opportunity to brush or feed them (or give them a scratch between the toes)!

Petting Zoo at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
We learned these lovable goats enjoyed getting scratches between the toes!

3. Keep The Kids Entertained — Rides and Playgrounds

The kids will not run out of things to do at the Columbus Ohio Zoo!  There are 3 separate playgrounds, a boat ride, train ride, and carousel as well as pony and camel rides! The 4-D Theater shows 8-12 minute movies in 4-D and Stingray bay allows you to get up close with some beautiful rays.


4. Heart of Africa — Transport Yourself To An African Savanna

This exhibit is just plain awesome! The main area of the exhibit really makes you feel like you are on an African savanna.  This large exhibit spans 43 acres and features giraffes, lions, zebras, gazelle, ostrich, wildebeest, vervet monkeys, and cheetahs.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is involved in the Ewaso Lions project to promote conservation in Africa.  This project focuses on Kenya’s lions and other large carnivores by promoting peaceful coexistence between animals and people. While enjoying Heart of Africa, try taking a camel ride, feeding a giraffe (designated times), or have lunch with a view at the Mapori restaurant.

This exhibit is seasonal and is closed throughout the winter months. But you should definitely check it out if you’re visiting Columbus in the summer!

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell, OH (USA) | Best Zoos In The USA
An African savanna or the Columbus Zoo’s Heart of Africa exhibit?

5. Jack Hanna — America’s Favorite Zookeeper

Jack Hanna was hired as the director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in 1978.  Since then he has helped transform the zoo into a world-class education, conservation, and recreation facility!

He first appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman in 1985 and has been educating viewers and zoo guests about these amazing animals ever since. He is still involved in the zoo and his presence is undeniable as you explore.

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell, OH (USA) | Best Zoos In The USA

Read More About Jack Hanna And The Columbus Zoo:

Jungle Jack: My Wild Life | Jack Hanna’s Wild But TrueColo’s Story: The Life of One Grand Gorilla

Best Time To Visit The Columbus Zoo

As with any very popular attraction, the crowds can be large at times, especially in the summer. If you have the chance to visit during a weekday while school is in session but the weather is still nice, you won’t be disappointed! Central Ohio schools are back in session by mid-August and usually go until mid-May.

Boo at the Zoo

If you’re visiting the Columbus Zoo in the fall, be sure to check out Boo at the Zoo on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in October.

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo

If you happen to find yourself in Columbus from mid-November through December, check out Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo which starts every night at 5 p.m. This spectacular display lights up the whole park. Bundle up and grab a hot chocolate for a fun winter night at the zoo!

Columbus Zoo Wildlights 2021: November 19, 2021 – January 2, 2022

Columbus Ohio Zoo: Location, Cost, and Hours

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is located in Powell, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. It is open 363 days a year, closing only for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.  The hours vary by season so check their website prior to your visit for specifics.

If you will be in town for a few days, consider visiting Zoombezi Bay too.  This water park is located next door to the zoo.

Cost of Admission — Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (as of August 2021):

  • Children Under 3: Free
  • Children Ages 3-9: $16.99
  • Ages 10-59: $21.99
  • Seniors Age 60+: $16.99
  • Parking: $10 per car

Cost of Admission — Columbus Zoo/Zoombezi Bay 2 Day Ticket (as of August 2021):

  • Children Under 3: Free
  • Children Ages 3-9: $32.99
  • Ages 10-59: $44.99
  • Seniors Age 60+: $32.99

*Discounts are offered to Franklin County Ohio residents, groups of 15 or more, and military personnel.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium FAQs

Is The Columbus Zoo Open To The Public?

Yes, the Columbus Zoo is currently open to the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dated and timed tickets are no longer required.

Do You Have To Wear Masks At The Columbus Zoo?

Masks are highly encouraged at the Columbus Zoo anytime you’re indoors and unvaccinated.

How Long Does It Take To Go Through The Columbus Zoo?

The Columbus Zoo is large so it can easily take a whole day if you want to see everything. However, if you’ve got young children that can’t handle an all-day activity, you’ll be able to see plenty in a few hours.

Can You Take Food Into The Columbus Zoo?

Yes, you can bring your own food into The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. However, straws, glass containers, and alcohol are not permitted. You can purchase alcohol once inside the zoo. Bags up to 22″ x 10″ x 12″ and coolers up to 14″ x 14″ are permitted inside the zoo.

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The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a great place to visit in Columbus, Ohio. Located in the northern suburb of Powell, the Columbus Ohio Zoo has it all: animals, rides, shows, special events, playgrounds, conservation, education, and more! Here's everything you need to know to plan a fantastic day at the Columbus Zoo!




This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Cindy Ladage

    I like the detailed information you shared for this fun visit.

  2. Leah @ The Frugal South

    Loved this post! So much has changed at the Columbus Zoo since I worked there long ago. Would love to revisit it someday!

Comments are closed.