Ohio’s Top Tourist Spots Debut New Attractions and Experiences

Many of the Buckeye State’s most popular family destinations are unveiling new visitor experiences, including rides, baby animals and exhibits. And they’re all within a few hours of Columbus.

Anietra Hamper
Cedar Point

Families itching to get out of the house for vacation don’t have to go far, with some of Ohio’s largest amusement parks, zoos and other attractions debuting new experiences this summer.

The new offerings run the gamut from baby animals to exhibits to rides. Best of all, the destinations are close enough to make a day trip if you’d rather skip an overnight stay. Most require online ticket purchases and have specific safety precautions in place, so be sure to visit the venue’s website for up-to-date policies and details before you go.

ZOOS

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and Zoombezi Bay

4850 Powell Road, Powell; 614-645-3400; columbuszoo.org and zoombezibay.columbuszoo.org

There’s a lot happening at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium this summer, including the birth of a baby elephant in mid-June to mom Phoebe. The new calf joins brother Beco, who attracted large crowds of admirers after his 2009 birth. The zoo also has a new rhino habitat in the Asia Quest region and a new indoor orangutan environment.

Kids will enjoy the return of Dinosaur Island, a walk-through area and boat ride that features more than 30 animatronic dinosaurs with moving eyes and sounds. In Adventure Cove, a new family-friendly roller coaster called Tidal Twist debuted. The coaster, which has a spinning element, replaces the Redwood Falls log flume ride.

Zoombezi Bay retains all its old favorites and will continue Zoombezi Bay Summer Nights, a series of six Friday movie screenings. Kids 13 and older can plan ahead for a new Halloween experience, ZOMBIEzi Bay, featuring four haunted houses and two scare zones. The Sea Dragon roller coaster and other rides also will be open. The event takes place on weekends starting Sept. 17.

Hours: Zoo – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily during summer; Zoombezi Bay – generally 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Cost: Zoo – $16.99 to $21.99 for adults; $11.99 to $16.99 for children ages 3-9; free for ages 2 and younger; Zoombezi Bay $30.99 for adults, $24.99 for children ages 3-9, free for ages 2 and younger online, with gate prices slightly higher. Some zoo experiences and rides have additional fees.

Phoebe, a 33-year-old Asian elephant, gave birth to a new calf in June at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Akron Zoo

505 Euclid Ave., Akron; 330-375-2550; akronzoo.org

The Akron Zoo opens the Lehner Family Foundation Wild Asia exhibit featuring animals from the jungles of Southeast Asia and the Himalayan forests. Families can catch a rare glimpse of three endangered species, including two Sumatran tigers, Eko and Diburu. The exhibit also features three red panda siblings (Lulu, Coco and Penny) and gibbons.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Cost: $13 for adults, $10 for children ages 2-14, free for ages 1 and younger

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

3400 Vine St., Cincinnati; 513-281-4700; cincinnatizoo.org

There is always something new to experience at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. This year, families can explore an expanded play space and ropes course in Roo Valley, the kangaroo walkabout exhibit. Kids of all ages can do the self-guided tour of Zoo Blooms and see thousands of plants and flowers as they follow along with the zoo’s horticulture expert on a downloadable app. A Spotify playlist has background music designed specifically for the exhibit.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Cost: $14.50 to $26 for adults, $8.50 to $20 for children ages 2-12, free for ages 1 and younger; reservations are required

More Summer Fun:Summer Fun is Back: Check out Some of Columbus’ Top Family Offerings

AMUSEMENT PARKS

Cedar Point

1 Cedar Point Drive, Sandusky; 419-627-2350; cedarpoint.com

Cedar Point amusement park is celebrating its postponed 150th anniversary with events throughout the summer. The Celebrate 150 Spectacular parade each night commemorates benchmark moments throughout Cedar Point’s history with music, pyrotechnics and performances. Families will want to try out the new Snake River Expedition boat ride attraction. Cedar Point Nights features special activities on the beach starting Aug. 6.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 or 10 p.m. most days; Cedar Point Shores Waterpark has different hours

Cost: $39.99 to $79.99; save money by buying tickets online

Kings Island

6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason; 513-754-5700; visitkingsisland.com and visitcampcedar.com

This season’s new attraction at Kings Island is Camp Cedar, an on-site lodging option that will allow families to stay the night or a weekend. The resort features cottages and RV spaces on the grounds adjacent to the park. Camp Cedar has family-friendly amenities such as swimming and an indoor/outdoor restaurant. Kids will enjoy the surprise appearances by Peanuts characters throughout their stay.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 or 10 p.m. most days; Soak City Water Park has different hours

Cost: $45 to $75; save money by buying tickets online

Great Lakes Science Center

SCIENCE AND ROCK ’N’ ROLL

Great Lakes Science Center

601 Erieside Ave., Cleveland; 216-694-2000; greatscience.com

The summer theme for the Great Lakes Science Center is “Science Under the Sun,” which takes the hands-on learning that the center is known for outdoors. Tents will host stations where kids can engage in projects like large-scale tinkering and design challenges that focus on revolving themes such as robotics, space and machines. Inside the facility, families can still explore the hundreds of permanent exhibits and experimental learning.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays

Cost: $16.95 for adults, $13.95 for children ages 2-12, free for ages 1 and younger; advance purchase is required

Imagination Station

1 Discovery Way, Toledo; 419-244-2674; imaginationstationtoledo.org

Imagination Station debuts its KeyBank Discovery Theater, a large-screen 4K experience where kids and families can watch educational films on subjects like nature, geography, art and adventure. While the science center is open for in-person visits, there are also new virtual experiences available, such as Just Tinkering, for families that want to supplement their visit with a video and free activity kit.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays

Cost: $14 for adults, $12 for children ages 3-12, free for ages 2 and younger

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

1100 Rock and Roll Blvd., Cleveland; 216-781-7625; rockhall.com

There are several new exhibits at Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, including the expanded Legends of Rock & Roll attraction that spans four floors. It highlights iconic moments and artists and features items from the museum’s vault that have never been on public display. The new Super Bowl Halftime Show exhibit highlights the costumes, instruments and memories from legendary performers spanning more than two decades.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. many Saturdays

Cost: $28 for adults, $18 for children ages 6-12, free for ages 5 and younger

This story is from the Summer 2021 issue of Columbus Parent.