8. Toledo Zoo
SIZE: 4,723 animals on 74 acres
The Toledo Zoo
- Distributes a trading card of Eddie the Education Dog, an Australian shepherd mix who performs agility demonstrations several times daily; the back of the trading card highlights the important responsibility of pet ownership
- On May 1, opened a 5-acre African exhibit landscaped to replicate the plains of the continent (complete with simulated termite mounds) and featuring numerous free-roaming African animals such as Masai giraffes, Grant's zebras, greater kudu, Nile lechwe, impalas, and wildebeests
- Offers a newly renovated aviary with a walk-through exhibit of desert birds and a keyboard kids can use to play bird songs
- Ensures that all exhibits are stroller-accessible and offers rentals of wagons and strollers at low cost
With one of the highest ratio of staff to visitors in our survey, the Toledo Zoo provides personalized attention for even the smallest guests. Its children's zoo has a minimum of four zookeepers at all times. "We want to make sure that every child has a great experience," says Bill Dennler, the zoo's executive director. "For example, some kids get scared when a goat comes up to them. If that happens, a zookeeper sits with the child on a bench where he can still pet the farm animals, but they're inside the enclosure."
The extra staffing also fuels another goal of the zoo: interactivity. In the "Arctic Encounter" exhibit, children can turn a wheel to see how Arctic animals change their coat in the winter from brown to white to blend in with their surroundings and go up to six stations that ask them questions. One, for instance, tells visitors they've been stranded in the Arctic with a big storm coming and prompts guests to figure a way out. The zoo's new "Africa!" exhibit also features a Passport Program. Kids receive a passport with pictures and facts about animals at the gate and get it stamped at five locations in the exhibit.
Contact information: 419-385-4040; www.toledozoo.org