Winter with Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Winter with Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

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It seems counterintuitive, but the winter is a spectacular time to visit Cleveland Metroparks Zoo — not just the RainForest, either.

Different animals prefer different temperatures. So, sure, the African savannah is going to be a ghost town, and you’re more likely to find a tumbleweed than a zebra. But tigers? Bears? Snow leopards? The cold never bothered them anyway.

Take your kids through the Wilderness Trek and new Asian Highlands exhibit. It’s packed with animals who are comfortable with this climate.

See seals and sea lions splashing, red pandas frolicking, snow leopard cubs snuggling, and tigers stalking their expanded exhibit.

Animals that you rarely see during the dog days of summer — like the Mexican Gray Wolves — practically chew the scenery in December.

And, sure, your kid’s favorite animal might not care for the cold. But you can still visit the elephants, giraffes, gorillas and koalas in their indoor homes.

Furthermore, when you do visit, you’ll have the place to yourself. Most people stay home once the temperature dips into the 30s. During a recent trip, my kids spent 45 uninterrupted minutes with a frolicsome Amur tiger without seeing another family.

That means more time with both the animals and their keepers. Generally speaking, these experts love to talk about their animals, especially with kids. And fewer guests means more time to answer your children’s questions.

A couple of caveats: Most of the zoo’s restaurants close for the winter, so you’re either packing a lunch or eating at the RainForest or Pizza Hut. Also, attractions like the 4-D theater, Boomer Express and carousel are contingent on the weather and are closed most of the winter. So be careful before promising your kids a spin on the merry-go-round.

And, yes, it’s cold and we miss the sun. But what are we supposed to do? Hibernate until April?

This weather is an opportunity to see a different side of your favorite animals. Don’t miss it.

But, also, wear a coat.

About the author

Jason Lea has a son, daughter, and a full-time job at the Mentor Public Library. He uses his nonexistent free time writing about parenting for Northeast Ohio Parent magazine. You can tweet him @jasonmarklea. Or not. You're grown and can make your own choices.

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