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The Short Version: Since 1875, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has offered visitors a wild experience. The zoo cares for over 500 animals, including many endangered and vulnerable species, and the 75-acre botanical gardens has over 3,000 plant species on display. Couples can stroll through these diverse habitats on a date and get an up-close look at giraffes, hippos, tigers, sloths, and other interesting creatures. The Cincinnati Zoo entertains and educates future conservationists with its one-of-a-kind animal encounters.
Matthew F. has been visiting the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for over 30 years, and he has many fond memories there. As a kid, he enjoyed watching the walruses spit water. As an adult, he attended an event that brought him face-to-trunk with an elephant.
Over the years, Matthew has seen the Cincinnati Zoo grow, and he has grown along with it. “I cannot express in words the memories that have been made here,” he said. Matthew even proposed to his girlfriend (now his wife) during the Cincinnati Zoo’s annual lights festival.
When couples want to make a special memory, the Cincinnati Zoo is a natural choice. Where else can you see lions, tigers, and bears in the middle of Ohio? The Cincinnati Zoo is the second oldest zoo in the U.S., and its conservation efforts support many endangered species, including gorillas, white tigers, and manatees.
In 2019, the Cincinnati Zoo was voted the #1 Best Zoo in a USA TODAY reader poll, and it has also received rave reviews from Child Magazine, Parents Magazine, and TripAdvisor.
Couples can head to this beloved zoo to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and get an up-close look at some pretty amazing animals.
“The world-famous Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is committed to inspiring visitors to care about wildlife and wild places,” said Angela Hatke, the zoo’s Digital Engagement and Publicity Manager. “The Cincinnati Zoo is perfect for visitors of all ages. From educational camps to adult overnights and programs, the zoo has something for everyone.”
When the Cincinnati Zoo opened its doors in 1875, it featured a relatively small animal collection that included one retired circus elephant, a single buffalo, a tiger, two elk, and three deer. Still, locals jumped at the chance to see some wildlife in the middle of the city, and the 65-acre zoo thrived and expanded to house more animals and attractions.
Today, the Cincinnati Zoo is home to more than 500 animals and 3,000 plant species, and over 1.8 million people visit every year. Visitors can buy tickets online or in person and then tour 20+ animal habitats and gardens at their leisure.
One of the most popular zoo residents is Fiona the baby hippo. She made a splash in the news when she was born six weeks premature, but she beat the odds and became the smallest hippo ever to survive. Her inspirational story has earned her celebrity status at the Cincinnati Zoo, and crowds of people gather at the glass to see her swim by.
The zoo’s staff members are passionate animal lovers who can educate visitors about the life, habits, and struggles of certain species.
“The Cincinnati Zoo staff is a diverse group of individuals, all dedicated to the livelihood of animals both in the zoo and in the wild,” Angela said. “We aim to inspire visitors and get them close enough to care.”
As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), the Cincinnati Zoo is dedicated to protecting and caring for animals of all shapes and sizes. Its breeding programs and conservation efforts help ensure that future generations can enjoy seeing these animals at the zoo and in their natural habitats.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is one of three zoos in the U.S. to have a facility dedicated to conservation and research.
Thanks to its leadership in sustainable habitat design, the Cincinnati Zoo has earned the reputation as the Greenest Zoo in America. The zoo reduces its impact on the environment through rain gardens, recycled building materials, and solar panels.
The Cincinnati Zoo engages the public and brings in a crowd by hosting special events designed to catch people’s attention. It’s not all educational programs and lectures, either. The zoo hosts social events where animal lovers will feel right in their element.
The Toast to the Wild series, for example, invites adults to dine and drink while enjoying an up-close animal encounter. Every year, over 4,400 people attend these unique events, which raise money for the Lindner Center for the Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW).
Couples can attend Cocktails for Conservation or Zoo Brew to sample tasty, wildlife-themed drinks in a VIP setting. These events often sell out, so be sure to check the events calendar and get your tickets far in advance.
Every December, the Cincinnati Zoo lights up and creates a beautiful setting for family outings and date nights. The PNC Festival of Lights is a fantastic display of over 3 million LED lights blanketing the zoo. The event’s entertainment also offers s’mores, puppet shows, train rides, and Santa Claus. The Festival of Lights is included with general zoo admission.
Whether you’re sipping mimosas at an animal exhibit or taking romantic pictures under the twinkling festival lights, you can unleash your wild side at the Cincinnati Zoo.
“No matter what time of year, visiting the zoo can bring out the kid in you,” Angela said. “Grab a map and your partner’s hand and make your way through the zoo on a romantic, and fun date.”
The Cincinnati Zoo is full of beautiful, natural sights and once-in-a-lifetime experiences, so it’s no wonder both locals and vacationers enjoy their time here. Many reviewers praise the animals, the staff, and the gardens, and many couples say the Cincinnati Zoo offered the perfect daytime date activity.
“Going on a date to the Zoo is magical,” Roberto wrote in a TripAdvisor review. “It’s a time to reconnect with nature and your spouse. It gives you time to talk and take in the sights and sounds.”
Roberto said he and his wife modeled their garden at home in New York after the botanical gardens in Cincinnati, and they plan to return to the zoo one day with their children.
Allison G. and her boyfriend traveled from Indianapolis to see if the Cincinnati zoo was truly one of the best zoos in the country. “We were definitely impressed,” Allison said. “My favorite exhibits were the giraffes and the manatees.”
Tiffany W. described herself as an “avid zoo goer” who chose to celebrate her birthday by visiting the Cincinnati Zoo with her boyfriend. They spent a joyful day watching cheetahs playing on the ground and birds flying through the trees.
“The zoo is set up to offer good photo opportunities at most stops,” Tiffany said. “This is something not to be missed in Cincinnati and is perfect for both young and old to enjoy.”
A couple from Knoxville said the Cincinnati Zoo exceeded their expectations and gave them a unique opportunity to see polar bears, manatees, orangutans, and other animals in one trip.
“At the Cincinnati Zoo, we love creating lifetime memories for our guests and bringing them close enough to care to animals,” Angela said. “At least 10 people a year choose the Cincinnati Zoo as their location to propose.”
By creating a personal connection between humans and animals, the Cincinnati Zoo has inspired its visitors to become conservationists and animal lovers. Some visitors, like Matthew, have become so enamored with this place that they have planned wedding proposals, birthday parties, and other special events here.
The Cincinnati Zoo has been around for almost 150 years, yet it is still growing its exhibits and making headlines with its trendy attractions. In 2020, the Cincinnati Zoo will open a beer garden as part of the new Roo Valley habitat. This casual watering hole will overlook a 15,000-square-foot kangaroo walkabout area and a two-level adventure ropes course. Couples can hang out here and share a round of drinks while watching the kangaroos in their habitat.
“The Cincinnati Zoo is a fun, relaxed location for a date,” Angela told us. “As one of two accredited botanical gardens in Ohio, mixed with stunning animals and habitats, it makes for a beautiful date. Grab a beer or wine or water, maybe some ice cream, and explore the zoo together while learning and having fun.”