Join our zoo community

Travel advise appreciated: Fort Wayne, or ...?

Discussion in 'United States' started by Yero, 5 Jul 2015.

  1. Yero

    Yero Active Member

    Joined:
    10 Jul 2008
    Posts:
    30
    Location:
    Belgium
    Dear all,

    long time since I have posted here. Some of you may remember I have asked for zoo travel advise here a couple of years ago. And yes, it is the time of the year again. In two weeks time I need to make a trip in the Midwest for work. Most of it is planned already, but I have some options.

    My main question is - is Fort Wayne worth the visit? Or are there better alternatives

    here's what I have (zoos marked with * I have already visited, but are musts on this trip. Zoos without * I haven't been yet). Advise is appreciated what to do in my free weekend:

    Land in Chicago / Drive to Indianapolis / Visit Indianapolis Zoo
    Drive to Columbus / Visit Columbus Zoo* / free weekend / Visit Milwaukee Zoo* / Drive to Chicago / Visit LP Zoo* / Fly back home.

    - weekend = 2 days free! I see 3 options.
    1) either: drive to Ft Wayne (2h30 drive), visit Ft Wayne + drive to Chicago (3h drive), visit Shedd * / Drive to Milwaukee

    2) OR: drive to Cincinnati* (1h40), visit Cincinnati Zoo/ Drive to Milwaukee / but then trip to Milwaukee will be longer / Have seen Cincinnati twice already, but hey - who would not want to see the last sumatran rhino

    3) OR: drive to the Wilds, but then trip to Milwaukee will be longer. Also, species list of The Wilds does not excite me very much...

    So, what do you guys recommend? Or did I miss some alternatives? IN general I dont mind driving in the US, but 3h in one go is about my limit.
     
  2. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    1 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    15,127
    Location:
    Abbotsford, B.C., Canada
    Of the three options that you presented I'd go with #1. Don't be fooled by the "Children's Zoo" name tagged on to the end of Fort Wayne as it is a worthwhile facility that is a must-see for any zoo enthusiast. This year is the 50th anniversary and the 2009 African expansion made the zoo much bigger and better. It is not a huge facility but the African and Australian zones are impressive and for a zoo that is only open 6 months of the year the fact that more than 500,000 people visit each year is extraordinary.

    Shedd Aquarium is my favourite aquarium that I've ever been to and by August I'll have been to 60-65 aquariums in my lifetime. The $40 entrance fee, $20 parking fee and long line-ups are all a major hassle but Shedd is perhaps just ahead of Monterey Bay and Georgia as the #1 aquatic facility in a country of 125 aquariums.

    A couple of side notes:

    - it is less than 2 hours from Fort Wayne to Toledo and the Toledo Zoo is worthwhile and it has a number of historic, 1930's-era buildings. One of those buildings was just renovated at a cost of $25 million and is the aquarium.

    - it is 3.5 hours from Fort Wayne to Cleveland and the Cleveland Zoo is large and quite extensive. It houses a major collection of animals, has a very interesting Rainforest complex and the nearby Greater Cleveland Aquarium is new (2012) but not worth more than 45 minutes of your time.
     
  3. jibster

    jibster Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    28 Apr 2015
    Posts:
    247
    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio, USA
    As a Midwest native and zoo aficianado, I see the quandary - your stay in our neck of the woods is simply too short to take in all of the available institutions...I find myself faced with a similar problem from time to time in my travels, so thought I would venture an answer (as I try to decide what I would do if faced with the same choice)...

    I can only speak to my own experience, but I have visited all of the institutions you mention as possibilities save for Fort Wayne (which I hope to rectify this summer), and here's a few things I can say...

    The Wilds is a truly wonderful experience, and while the species list may not be the most exciting (for me, the small species list always strikes me as thin until I get there), if you like hoofed animals at all, it's a rather unique experience. Based on the schedule you give, if you are willing to fork out a bit more than the usual, the Sunset safaris (which are offered evenings on Fridays and Saturdays) are a really special event. I've been to three of these safaris, with people who liked zoos but were by no means zoo fanatics, and everyone really enjoyed them. The highpoint of these evening safaris is that the many of the animals are fed during these evening times, meaning the hoofstock are close to the bus paths and the carnivores (especially the often hard to see dhole) are active and visible. Of course, the temperature is often much more pleasant during these evening safaris, and this also affects the activity level of the animals. The Wilds is about a two hour drive from Columbus; one could easily see the entire Columbus zoo and still make it to the Wilds for a sunset safari in the evening (though there's a bit of a drive back). As for the Wilds experience, it's perhaps most comparable to the San Diego Safari Park, but the site is much more green (the central Ohio climate is much less arid than southern California's) and, while the species list is much smaller, the sheer numbers of the species and the close viewing lends a superior viewing experience. A particular high point for me is the huge herd of Sichuan takin; while I have always found the species interesting, the species is downright charismatic when kept in such a large grouping (the largest herd outside of China, always full of babies). I could go on and on about the Wilds....

    If you were able to fit in a Sunset Safari at the Wilds, I would think you could still manage Ft. Wayne and the Shedd Aquarium. While I've yet to make it to Ft. Wayne, I've heard nothing but good things. The Cincinnati Zoo has much to offer, but if you've been there already, Fort Wayne would seem a better/easier fit into your schedule and the African section alone has much to recommend on paper (a great species list with many species not often found in the now-ubiquitous African savanna complexes). Furthermore, in my experience, viewing of the Sumatran rhinos can always be a bit iffy at Cincinnati (though I've seen Harapan more than most of his relatives), and while there is a new African section, it is rather small and leaves a lot to be desired.

    Snowleopard points out that both Cleveland and Toledo are not far from Fort Wayne. Toledo might be doable, and really represents a nice collection in a small but quite impressive zoo (with a brand-new aquarium i have yet to (but want very much) to see. Cleveland, on the other hand, I would counsel against for two reasons: first, it is more out of the way from the rest of your travels (although it wouldn't be far from Toledo or Columbus, it's in the complete wrong direction for future travel to Illinois); and second, while Cleveland is the zoo where I grew up and still has some to recommend, in my view, it's got little in the way of top-notch exhibits (Wolf Woods, Elephant Crossing, and portions of the Australian section are the best) with too many areas either outright outdated, poorly designed, ugly, or all three (Primates, Cats & Aquatics).

    Finally, if you're looking for company in you visit to Columbus, I'm a member, have a free summer, and always like to meet fellow zoochatters. Happy planning, and let us know what you decide to do and how your trip turns out!
     
  4. Yero

    Yero Active Member

    Joined:
    10 Jul 2008
    Posts:
    30
    Location:
    Belgium
    Thanks guys!

    I have visited both Toledo and Cleveland on a very similar trip I did two years ago (Chicago-Columbus-Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland-Toledo-Milwaukee).

    So I think I will stick to Ft Wayne, and stopover in Chicago this time.

    jibster, I will actually be in Columbus for three days, but need to do work there, so not sure if I will have time to catch up. Depends a bit on how smooth things go on the first two days. Maybe I can get in touch with you after these first two days

    thanks again!