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Akron Zoo heats up with winter events

1/14/2016 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Grizzly bears are among the Akron Zoo’s animals that enjoy winter. They will be highlighted at the zoo Feb. 13-14.
A red panda is shown on a snowy day at the Akron Zoo.
WEST AKRON — The Akron Zoo is helping make winter a little warmer with a slate of special activities for visitors.

Weekends through January will continue to host Penguin Palooza activities while February will feature Some Like It Cold weekends to highlight the zoo’s animals who enjoy the cold and snow. The zoo will also offer free admission on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Jan. 18, for the first time.

“Winter is a great time to come out and see the animals,” said David Barnhardt, the zoo’s director of marketing and guest relations.

In February, each weekend puts the spotlight on a different cold-weather loving animal at the zoo. Zoo talks will enlighten visitors about the animals and children will have the chance to participate in animal-themed crafts.

Animals to be featured are snow leopards Feb. 6-7, grizzly bears Feb. 13-14, red wolves Feb. 20-21 and red pandas Feb. 27-28.

Barnhardt said winter doesn’t mean many of the zoo’s animals are removed from exhibits.

“A few animals, like some tropical birds, go in,” he said. “Any animals that can’t be out in the cold, there’s an indoor space for them. Most of our animals are viewable.”

Returning to the zoo this year is Random Acts of Kindness Week Feb. 14-20. Each day, one zoo visitor will be randomly selected to receive a prize. Barnhardt said last year winners received items such as gift cards for the zoo gift shop and Komodo Café or behind-the-scenes tours.

Visitors in 2016 also will want to make sure they get a look at Journey to the Reef before the indoor exhibit closes in November. Located in the Komodo Kingdom building, the exhibit features sea creatures such as jellyfish and an octopus.

Barnhardt said a Bon Voyage party will help fans bid farewell to the exhibit Nov. 19. The party is still in the planning stages but will likely include information on what will be put in the exhibit space, which was created to hold short-term exhibits.

Barnhardt said the zoo is in the midst of going through surveys from members and the public as it decides what kind of exhibit to install there. He added plans call for having a new exhibit ready to open in the space in May 2017.

In addition to free admission on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the zoo will offer admission discounts on other days throughout the year.

College ID Days, March 21-27, will provide college students with buy one, get one free admission. The zoo will offer half-price admission to anyone wearing Akron RubberDucks paraphernalia July 12-13 in honor of Canal Park hosting the Eastern League All-Star Game, which is July 13.

Mothers and fathers will receive half off on their respective holidays of Mother’s Day (May 8) and Father’s Day (June 19). Veterans will get free admission in honor of Veterans Day Nov. 5-11.

Also this year, the zoo will celebrate National Teddy Bear Day Nov. 12 by providing half off admission for anyone who brings in a teddy bear. The stuffed animals also will get a check-up from the zoo’s veterinary staff in the teddy bear clinic.

Members always get in the zoo free, and this year they also will get to participate in three members-only events on summer evenings. They are planned for June 24, July 21 and Aug. 19.

Barnhardt said the zoo added the evening openings at the request of members in the last couple of years, and they were well received. Nonmembers are welcome to attend and join that night, he added.

The Journey to the Reef exhibit at the Akron Zoo is in its final year.
Photos courtesy of Akron Zoo
For adults 21 and older, Brew at the Zoo returns with four different events. Barnhardt said the beer tasting events have become some of the most popular offerings at the zoo, almost always selling out the 500 tickets available.

This year, after voters in the zoo’s precinct approved a local option ballot measure, the zoo also will be able to serve wine at those events, Barnhardt said.

This year’s first Brew at the Zoo June 9 will feature a 1980s theme. Other themes are Christmas in July on July 14, a football tailgate party Aug. 27 and a costume party Oct 1. The hours are from 6 to 9 p.m., and designated driver tickets are available.

The newest addition to the zoo is its expanded parking lot. Barnhardt said the lot accommodates an additional 168 vehicles, some of which previously had to park in an adjacent area in recent years during high attendance days. [For more on that, see “Akron Zoo adds parking, water management system” in the Dec. 24, 2015, edition or visit the archives at www.akron.com.]

Speaking of attendance, Barnhardt said attendance at the zoo in 2015 was at its third highest, with 363,903 visits. The zoo’s attendance peaked in 2013 with 389,508 visits.

The zoo is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $7 per person, but free for children under 2. Parking is $3.

For more information about the zoo, located at 500 Edgewood Ave., call 330-375-2550 or go to akronzoo.org.

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