6. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
SIZE: 1,733 animals on 75 acres
- Celebrates the newest animal arrivals with Zoo Babies special events on weekends from May 15 to June 20; visitors are given a map to locate the latest additions and are treated to appearances by cartoon characters and a family-oriented show in the 1,100-seat amphitheater
- Is home to the largest venomous snake in the New World, the bushmaster, and one of only two U.S. zoos to showcase the Chinese giant salamander
- In 2001, delivered the first Sumatran rhino calf to be bred in captivity in 112 years; the calf's mother, Emi, is expecting another calf in late July
- Offers 12 Ask Me Stations, where visitors can get their questions about the zoo's animals and plants answered, and a Comfort Zone with water misters, drinking fountains, and shaded tables
When the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden opened in 1875, there was little around it. Now the second-oldest zoo in the country is just a 10-minute drive from a bustling downtown. "We're an oasis in the center of Cincinnati for parents and children to escape from their busy lives and come spend time with each other," says Gregg Hudson, the zoo's president.
What are the best things to see? The award-winning "World of the Insect" exhibit includes one of the largest buildings in North America devoted to the display of live insects. Kids can step on a scale that gives them their weight in bugs and walk through a butterfly aviary. Another must-stop: "Dino Zone," an exhibit running through Labor Day, where children can walk among life-size animatronic dinosaurs and dig for fossils in an oversize sandbox.
But the most popular place is actually the nursery within the 5-acre children's zoo, says Hudson. "The infant animals housed here bring out a sense of wonderment in both adults and kids," he says. The children's zoo is also home to rare domestic breeds such as Dexter cattle, Jacob's sheep, a miniature donkey, and pot-bellied pigs, which kids can pet and feed. Other exciting spots: Otter Creek (offering underwater viewing of otters and seals) and the Discovery Center (featuring climb-on animal sculptures, climb-in tortoise shells, and a rope spider web).
Contact information: 800-94-HIPPO; www.cincinnatizoo.org