Cleveland culture: Zoos and aquariums to visit during the conference

Ohio is home to some of the best-rated zoos in the country, and a trip to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo when you are in town is sure to exceed your expectations. Only a 20-minute drive from the conference, this 183-acre zoo has been a staple in Cleveland for 136 years, houses one of the largest primate exhibits in the country, and is constantly engaged in numerous international research projects.

This summer, the zoo will be opening the $3.8 million dollar renovated Asian Highlands, home to the red panda and snow leopard, as well as the majestic Amur leopard and takin, a species of goat-antelope native to the Himalayas. A trip to the recently opened Tiger Passage is also a must-see; this $4.1 million renovation allows visitors to experience four separate, interconnected habitat areas for the tigers to roam, including two overhead elevated pathways that provide unique viewing for visitors and a way for the tigers to move between their habitat areas.

Your trip to the zoo is not complete without visiting the Rain Forest exhibit, one of the largest indoor tropical environments in the world boasting over 10,000 plants and 600 animals from the tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

If you enjoy aquariums, head over to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, just an 8-minute drive from the Convention Center. The aquarium opened in 2012 and is Ohio’s only freestanding aquarium. What sets it apart from other aquariums is that this one is built inside the remnants of the First Energy Powerhouse building, which was built in 1892 to power Cleveland’s electric streetcar lines. The old building’s exposed brick walls, coal tunnels, smokestacks, and steel girders remain a part of each visitor’s experience.

The facility has eight exhibition areas, including Ohio Lakes & Rivers, Lakes & Rivers of the World, Discovery Zone, Indo-Pacific, Northern Pacific, Coastal, Coral Reef and the main attraction, Shark SeaTube, featuring a 230,000-gallon tank with a 175-foot acrylic shark tunnel. The exhibit offers panoramic views of various species of sharks and other marine life.

Whether you are bringing the family or spouse to Cleveland for the conference, want to hang out with a few friends while you are in town, or just want to spend some time by yourself, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo both offer a great opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown only minutes from the Convention Center.

Header Image: Grizzly bear at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. ©Tim Evanson