I love the kid-friendly size and layout of the Akron Zoo, so my family has been visiting since my oldest son was a baby. This time around, we were excited to check out the all-new Curious Creatures exhibit, which opened in June 2017.
Located in the Komodo Kingdom Education Center, Curious Creatures features plants and animals with strange adaptations: unique hunting styles, color-changing abilities, locomotive functions, etc.
We knew we were in the right place when I saw the giant octopus tentacle pointing us toward the door. The spacious setup is crowd- and stroller-friendly, which made getting through a breeze.
Each featured animal’s display includes an adjacently mounted tablet that offers an interactive way to learn the unique characteristics of that particular species. Visitors can tap “Creature Feature,” “Why am I curious?” and other options for each animal, and even watch videos of the animal in action. While my 3- and 1-year old aren’t reading yet, my oldest loved tapping the appropriate place on the screen and having me read the information.
My 3-year-old’s favorite was the Giant Pacific Octopus, which he immediately recognized as Hank from the Disney movie “Finding Dory.” The species can change the color and texture of their skin by using special pigment-containing skin cells.
Speaking of blending in, the Panther Chameleon was another big hit. With two in the same tank, one on brown sticks and the other amidst a green plant, the “curious feature” was clearly displayed when we passed by.
Finally, what little boy wouldn’t love a built-in maze of tubing and tanks that housed an army of leafcutter ants — one colony can, in fact, contain up to two million members.
Our journey through the exhibit ended at the Learning Lab, where adventurous visitors can touch different marine and terrestrial invertebrates up-close. While my extra-cautious 3-year-old wasn’t up for exploring the sea urchins, I was able to convince him to touch the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach — but only if I did first. After a quick, deep breath to steel my nerves, the mission was accomplished.
The Curious Creatures exhibit will remain on display for a few years, as the space it occupies was designed to change exhibits every 4-5 years.
The Akron Zoo, located at 505 Euclid Ave., is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily April through October; winter season hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily November through March. For more information, visit akronzoo.org or call 330-375-2550.