Day Trip: The Toledo Zoo

Originally, after the Spartan Sprint, we had planned on going into Indianapolis to do some sight seeing. However, the race took us longer than we had anticipated, it was further away than we had expected, and we were just plain beat. With a 5 1/2 hr drive home, Sunday wasn’t looking so hot either. So instead we decided to stop by the Toledo Zoo on the way back since we had to pass directly by it and it’s only an hour out from home.

toledo zoo gate

The GF and I had never been. And everyone talks about how great it is so we thought it would be a good opportunity to scope it out for future visits with the kids. For me, growing up 20 mins away from the Detroit Zoo, I’ve always had a world-class zoo within reach to go visit whenever the mood strikes. Every other zoo I’ve visited naturally gets compared to this standard to see how it stacks up. Toledo was no different.

Louies 11th bday

We were both fortunate, and unfortunate in our choice of days to visit. Fortunate because it just so happened to be Louie the elephant’s birthday. Unfortunate because it was still the off-season there was lots of construction going on and parts of the zoo vacant and blocked off. Also, the temperature was cool around 50 degrees but sunny. In my past experiences that usually means the animals are prone to be more active than in the heat of the summer… but unfortunately this also wasn’t the case.


The Toledo Zoo also has the distinction of being split in two with a bridge over the main road connecting the two halves. In all my years I had never heard mention of this so it was an interesting surprise. The gate side houses the Arctic and Africa exhibits with the rest of everything across the street.

polar bear

Our first stop was the Artic Encounter. I have to say it is pretty much at par with that of the Detroit Zoo (minus the big pointless winding entrance) There were good views both above and below the water to watch the polar bears and sea lions swimming around.

sea lions

We then ventured over to Africa but it seems most of that area was still closed off still for the season. So after taking in the view of the giraffes we decided to cross the bridge. On the other side the first thing I noticed were the great old buildings. Im sure not too many people appreciate old architecture like I do but I was very impressed. In fact the overall décor of the zoo was very stunning and they added plenty of little special touches to complete the look.


Even the bathrooms were cleverly disguised. Also… FYI …there’s a big pile of poop in the bathroom…


The monkey and ape exhibits were pretty nice although strangely set up and a little confusing. It looked as if there were many empty cages but I’m not entirely sure. It seems that they can travel from room to room but I don’t know if they have free access to all the rooms or just a few… either way they all congregated in one single area.


The other thing that threw me was the trash. It was explained that it was to provide them with entertainment and enrichment …I don’t know, maybe it does… but there were like empty fruit snack wrappers and just really odd stuff in there as if they empty the lunch room trash into the cage. This is something they definitely do not do in my hometown.


The other gripe I had was about the fences. Almost every view of every animal was either through a dirty window or through a big ugly fence like this one. I absolutely understand it, but it makes for bad photos. Just another thing the Detroit Zoo has over Toledo. They seem to have less space in some cases, and the fence helps to give them more area to move around as opposed to a big moat I get it… but I wind up with a lot of fence photos with something off in the background.

bird statue

Some of the exhibits were just so-so… the bird house has nothing on Detroit.


There was this breath-taking old building called the Toledo Museum of Science. I was very excited to go inside, only to find…. a big empty space. Again this was the off season so maybe there is something missing here but I was at a loss of why such a great old place was hardly being used. I did house some bugs and reptiles but the displays were kinda small and hard to see while other people were in there viewing.


I did think this statue was pretty impressive as it greeted you at the entrance to the reptile house.


Another bummer is that the penguin house and aquarium were closed for construction… by the looks of this building I am very anxious to see what’s inside when it opens!


One thing that blew the D.Z. away was the hippo house. The D.Z. lost it’s hippo not too long ago when it died but the enclosure was very dull and you couldn’t see much of anything. Toledo, on the other hand, has this nice big building with an underwater viewing area. I bet on a hot day they are all lounging right out that window in front of your face… but it was cool outside and they were hanging out of the water. Next time perhaps.


And, of course, the elephants! Now this I like! The D.Z. sent it’s elephants away many years ago so it is nice to see some again. The pen is very large and they have lots of room to move around. The indoor facility is also very large and impressive. I don’t know which one Louie is, but apparently he got cake and gifts to open at some point but we didn’t get to see.

kissy fish

In the end it was well worth the stop. I still feel the Detroit Zoo wins best zoo but I think Toledo definitely deserves another visit once the construction is over and everything is open and booming. We blew through the whole place in a bout 2 hours… had we done the research, we wouldn’t have come during construction… but then we would have just drove straight home and robbed ourselves of this little adventure.