Top 10 reasons to “ride all day” at the zoo

A trip to the zoo with baby or even young toddler Zoe meant an hour or two at most of visiting the animals, followed by a stroller or car nap.

Oh, how times have changed. Now, a trip to the zoo can be an almost all-day endeavor and includes visiting animals, watching the animal show, petting the stingrays and and – if she’s very lucky – going on some of her favorite rides.

This week, for the first time, I bought us both the “Zoo it all” Ride All Day wrist bands ($9.99 each) so we could do all the rides. We had an absolute blast.

It was a great value and here are my top 10 reasons why this is a super-fun thing to do with the 3 and up set:

10. The carousel. You already know how I feel about carousels! The Columbus zoo showcases an authentic 1914 Mangel-Illions carousel complete with 52 restored original horses, chariots and band organ.Once never seems to be enough – Zoe always wants to ride multiple times. With the wristband, it’s no problem – she can ride all she wants. This is usually $1 per rider – free for adults standing by a little one’s horse. (The carousel is located on the way up to Africa, Asia and the Islands/Dinosaur Island.)

9. Stingray Bay. I wrote about this last summer, and it has only gotten better with the birth of several teeny tiny adorable baby stingrays this year. We absolutely love our visits to Stingray Bay and it’s usually $2 per person for members. Free with the wristband. Done! (Stingray Bay is located over in Jungle Jack’s Landing, between the zoo and Zoombezi Bay.)

8. Dinosaur Island. This too has its own post, because it’s awesome. I’ll be so sad to see these dinos leave our zoo (although they are staying through end of October, which is great!). Normally $2 per person for members, this too is free with the wristband. It’s an absolute must-do at the Columbus zoo. Get ready to go for a hike though – Dinosaur Island is located a-l-l the way at the top of the zoo in the Australia/Islands area (it’s the former Islands boat ride, made extra cool with the addition of the dinos).

7. The train ride. Who doesn’t love the choo choo? It’s normally $1 per person for members so we typically skip it as an “extra” – but with the wristband, all aboard! It’s super cute and the best part is waving to all the folks you pass as you’re chugging along. I’d love to see the zoo upgrade this experience the way they did with the Islands boat ride – not with dinosaurs, necessarily, but some kind of extras. Even if they don’t, though, it’s worth doing – especially with the wristband. The train is located on the way up through North America (just past the barn and petting farm area).

6.  Journey to Zanzibar. Located in Jungle Jack’s Landing (between the zoo and Zoombezi Bay), this swinging ship ride provides wonderful thrills for little ones. Riders must be 48 inches tall to ride alone or 36 inches if accompanied by an adult. This thing swings 50 feet in the air and if you sit in the back row, WHOA! It really gives your stomach a lurch! Zoe absolutely adores this ride and usually insists on riding it five, even six times in a row, whooping it up the entire time (I know. Her poor parents, right?!) She just lights up when talking about this ride and how it makes her feel – it’s fairly hilarious. This is usually $1 or $2 per rider (I can’t remember the single ride price and they don’t have it on the zoo website).

5. Swingin’ Gibbons. This is another favorite for us in Jungle Jack’s Landing – the high-flying swings. Designed for both adults and children to ride together, riders must be 42 inches tall to ride the outside chairs alone or 36 inches tall to ride the inside chairs with an accompanying adult. It’s pretty much a blast unless you’re scared of heights! Zoe loves this one and grins the entire time she’s on it. I, on the other hand, just grin and bear it. This is usually $1 or $2 per rider (I can’t remember the single ride price and they don’t have it on the zoo website).

4.Tiny Tusks in Jack’s Landing. This knock-off of the classic Disney “Dumbo ride” is designed for both adults and children to ride together; riders manually raise and lower their elephant vehicles as they fly through the sky. Riders must be 36 inches tall to ride or accompanied by an adult. This is a super fun one to let your “big” kiddo ride by themselves, once they understand the mechanics of how to raise and lower their elephant! Usually $1 or $2 and sure to be a repeat favorite.

3. Golden Frog Hopper in Jack’s Landing. This is a great example of a ride no adult would ever willingly get on – it takes you up 25 feet and then “bounces” you back down again. The kids love it, though! Riders must be 36 inches and there are no adult seats. This was one of Zoe’s first-ever rides that she went on all by herself, and it’s still a favorite. I love to watch her grin as she goes up, then hear her giggle as she bounces all the way back down! What’s not to love, if you’re a little kid. It’s usually $1 or $2 and this is another one they like to ride more than once.

2. The spinning rides in Jack’s Landing – there are three of them: the Whirligigs, the Dust Devil and Jack’s Tea Party. All basically do the same thing, and most adults can not tolerate these more than once in a row (at least the adults in our household!) Adults can skip Jack’s Tea Party (riders must be 36 inches or accompanied by an adult) but alas, the shorties will need a parent on the other two (must be 46/48 inches to ride alone). Usually $1 or $2 each per rider, but all are free with the wristband.

1. Pony Rides. A huge highlight at the zoo, but normally $4 so a pretty rare treat, the pony rides in North America (in the barn/petting farm area) are FREE with the wristband. You can even ride more than once if you want – heck, you could ride all day! This put the wristband over the top for us. It was already well worth the price after all the above rides, but once we found out we could do the pony ride too – and more than once if we wanted – that settled it. What could be better than topping off an already fun day at the zoo with a ride on an actual, adorable pony?! (When I asked Zoe toward the end of our zoo day if she wanted to ride a pony, she said “Do you mean a real pony? A furry one?”)

So, there you have it. If you’re like me, you may not have bothered with a ride wristband at the zoo for your very little one – but I definitely think 3.5 years old is the sweet spot at which point this starts to make a lot of sense.

We won’t do this every time, but it’s a very fun way to have a special day together. In our case, we were celebrating Zoe’s move up to the next classroom up at school. She’s an actual Pre-K kid now, aka preschooler! I still can’t believe it myself.

Enjoy your day at the Columbus Zoo – and please let me know your favorite ride or attraction there? Have you tried the ride-all-day wristband yet for your little ones? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.


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