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*REVIEW* Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and The Rainforest (July 2012)

LocationCleveland Metroparks Zoo and The Rainforest   3900 Wildlife Way Cleveland, OH Review:  Go on, you try filling 14 days of vacation with the kids. Sooner or later you're going to have to squeeze in something that you're not 100% excited about but the kids are. "It's a zoo," I thought, "how much fun and what new to see can there really be?"  My wife assured me that I would enjoy it and started to tell me about how cool The Rainforest was for her when she went as a kid.  I agreed we could add it to the itinerary. We pulled up to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo around the time they opened and enjoyed free parking and a spot close to the entrance to both the Zoo and The Rainforest. We quickly made our way to the ticket booth and while the kids looked at the several colorfully painted miniature elephant statues decorating the entryway, I paid the ticket fee ($12.25 for adults and $8.25 for kids).  Considering the prices we've paid in Atlanta before, it was a relief to see the bill for this adventure was going to be less than half of that. Despite The Rainforest having a separate entrance than the Zoo, the cost of visitation is included with Zoo admission. 

We started by going to The Rainforest and walked into the sights and sounds of a rainforest environment immediately. As Kid #1 poignantly observed, ‘It’s a little humid but that’s to make the animals happy.’ For someone who’s lived in Atlanta their whole life to take note of the humidity, you know it’s high!

The first steps you take inside you hear and see a 30-foot waterfall and plants abound as you begin your walk toward the Upper Forest via a spiral staircase inside a giant ‘tree’ like you’d see in a real rainforest. The kids went on and on about this tree for days after we were there.

What I really liked about The Rainforest aside from how much the kids visibly enjoyed it was the up close views of the animals we got.  Many of the exhibits allow the animals to come within inches of you. Many of the animals co-habitat with other several other species making each stop at the Upper Forest like a peek into  way of animal life in the real rainforest.

On the bottom level of The Rainforest live several creatures that would reside in the murky areas of a real rainforest. There are giant porcupines, a gnarly looking gharial, and an entire wall of bats. All attracted long periods of watching by our entire family.

We ended our time at The Rainforest by watching the monkeys swing  through a three story exhibit and headed over to the Zoo.

Walking into the Zoo I was surprised at what I saw. When you drive through Cleveland on your way to the Zoo, you see the remnants of industry, a city trying to hang on and re-invent itself.  When you enter the Zoo, you’re presented with a modern, colorful elephant exhibit right off.

It was a very hot day there even for us Atlantans so we decided to look at the map and decide what we really wanted to see. The kids decided on the Northern Trek and the Primates, Cats, and Aquatics Building. Luckily, we stumbled upon the tram which carried us the several hundred yards to each site.

As we got farther back into the Zoo, it was evident that the sparkle and shine that was at the front of the Zoo and throughout The Rainforest had not made its way to those exhibits. The Northern Trek did look dated but the animals and exhibition areas were clean.  The Primate, Cats, and Aquatics Building was perhaps the most outdated looking exhibit we saw but enjoyable nonetheless.

No matter the age of any of the exhibits, the animals looked well cared for and the kids loved seeing them.  It was evident that progression toward modernization at the Zoo is underway.

The Rainforest was everything my wife had promised it would be for the kids and very enjoyable for the adults. Seeing The Rainforest is worth the price of admission to the Zoo alone!

On the downside, we wished the signs for the tram had been more evident and more informative. We appreciated the reasonable prices for food at the Zoo and the reasoning behind not having lids and straws but this isn’t very practical for children and, in our case, also my wife who somehow managed to accidentally put her entire elbow inside Kid #2’s Coca-Cola.

What left the biggest positive impression on us besides the animals was the large number of special needs persons that were working at the Zoo and The Rainforest. Kudos to Cleveland Metroparks for employing such friendly and helpful people!

If you’re staying in the Cleveland area for a vacation, the Zoo and The Rainforest should be on your list.


This family friendly attraction was reviewed as part of The Great American Family Road Trip.  Do you have an event you’d like reviewed by Occupy My Family? Send us an e-mail at  We invite you to look at #RoadTrip pictures on FacebookTwitter, Instagram (@occupymyfamily), and Tumblr

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