Yes, we live in DC and have a nationally ranked (free) zoo less than ten miles away. But hey, why not travel over 200 miles to visit another nationally ranked zoo? The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium may not be free like the Smithsonian zoo, but it makes up in what my good friend calls the customer service ‘wow’ factor. Visitors are greeted with a clean and open space all year round. This time of year the Columbus Zoo does “WildLights” and are completing their 25th year.
Every tree and bush is decorated and the central lake has an orchestrated light show every half of an hour. It is cold you are right, but the view is worth it. Little kids run around just as excited about the light animals glowing from the bushes as they are the real animals.
Because it is cold, the animals you see are either equipped to be in the cold or live in a large building with viewing windows. One of the aspects that impressed me the most was the educational experience you have as you wander from animals to animal. In the manatee area you can pretend to drive an air boat in Florida with surrounding televisions. Or you can read about projects all over the world that are working to make life better for animals in their respective countries.
In the middle of the zoo there is a large antique carousel to ride. So even if it is 200 miles away, I can now say that I have been to two ranking zoos in the country!