A Winter Visit to the Cleveland Zoo

Don't worry, we'll stay warm by visiting 6 key locations: Greenhouse, Northern Trek, Pachyderms, Koala Habitata, Primates and Aquatics, and the Rainforest. Check out the map first, to get an idea of the Zoo size and where we will go.


It is winter and you want to go to the Cleveland Zoo but it is so cold. What to do? There is a solution. Go to these nice and warm places in the Zoo where you can enjoy the wildlife even during the fiercest winter storm. There is a complimentary tram ride which connects the two main winter attractions - the Northern Trek hut (below the Fulton road bridge) and the Primates (on the hill). Somewhere in the middle, on your way to the Northern Trek, you can check out the Greenhouse. There are beautiful vivid color flowers and butterflies reminiscent of the Cleveland Botanical Garden.

Japanese gold (and not so gold) fish. Throw a penny if you want to get back here. By the way, throwing pennies is the pool/fountain/artificial lake keeper's worst nightmare because it clogs the plumbing.

Northern Trek

This is the place where deer, caribou, wolves, polar bears and seals feel at home. And they don't mind the cold even a little bit.
We reached the Gold Rush frontier hut at the Northern Trek section of the Zoo, this is the Wolf Lodge. You can make your own drawing over the template with paws and other snow marking of different animals. Kids love it!

Inside the hut, there is all the equipment needed by a good trapper, along with the hunt trophies.

More attractions in the hut - you can see a wolf pack up-close. It is easy to find the dominant alfa male (shown in the picture). There is a river and a pond which you can see from underwater.

Wolves roam on the other side of the pond, on dry ground, of course. The picture above shows a beaver gliding underwater looking for fish. This is an underwater look at the fallen leaves.

The camels look like they always have something on their mind. Deer drinking water.

Zoo director: “We are always balancing the public experiencing with conservation needs. If you ask me why I have camels, I would say that we need something interesting for people to see at the back of the zoo in winter, and they are always outside.” There are 64 polar bears in captivity in American zoos, far short of the 200 considered optimal for maintaining the population over 100 years. Source: Zoos’ Bitter Choice - To Save Some Species, Letting Others Die - NYTimes.com http://goo.gl/UiiLj -- Zoos Have to Decide Which Species to Keep - Graphic http://goo.gl/bfTlh

Winter at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo: Northern Trek

Pachyderm Building

The biggest animal on earth is actually very playful, as you can see. The elephants' teeth constantly grow and fall off, as if they are on a conveyor belt.

Update: Cleveland Zoo: The Pachyderm Building Has Closed, 09/2008.

Turtles; Tapir

Koala Gum Leaf Hideout

Koalas habitat is at the entrance of the Australian adventure which is closed during the winter but you can still see these cute bear-like creatures. Koalas sleep 18 hours per day, then they wake up, eat some Eucalyptus tree leaves and doze off again. What a life... Related: Koala - Cleveland Metroparks Zoo - photo, 2012.

Primates and the Aquarium on the hill

If you want to avoid the chilling cold, you can take the tram from the Northern Trek to the Primates.

The center piece is the largest primate on earth - the gorillas. There are three of them in the Zoo and their sheer size and power commands respect even through the one-inch thick glass.

Silverback Gorilla at Cleveland Zoo during the summer, on Google Video

Madagascar lemur or a similar primate (?).

This is the wonderful coral reef, along with other magnificent underwater creatures, including a shark... Scary... See the real-life Nemo and his father in the picture above.


The Bornean orangutans are in the glass dome at the top of the rainforest building.

The rainforest exposition is focused on South American flora and fauna including the aquatic life. You can see turtles, fish and even a caiman. This python reminds you of the scary Kaa from the Jungle Book...The rainforest has two levels: lower and upper. The lower level is dark and it rains regularly - actually, the rain is realistically simulated every 10 minutes.

The upper level is all green and full of sunshine. This is where the orangutans and the birds live. You can also see capibaras and giant anteaters.


Cleveland Zoo - the seventh oldest zoo in the United States
Admission fees and hours
Studying a Koala Mystery in Eastern Australia. NPR, 2007.

Related reading:

Cleveland Zoo: The Pachyderm Building Has Closed, 09/2008.

Study Finds Elephants In Zoos Live Shorter Lives. NPR, 12/2008.
A Life Aquatic, Part 1: Fish Food. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, 12/2008.
A Life Aquatic, Part 2: It's Not Your Parents' Aquarium. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, 12/2008.

Published: 02/01/2005

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