CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Zoo officially re-opened its gates on Wednesday, for the first time in nearly three months.
The zoo closed in March as a result of state orders related to the coronavirus pandemic. Guests who go will notice some big changes inside.
The first week is reserved for zoo members only, as part of their phased re-opening plan. The zoo opens on June 17 to the public for general admission. After 2 full months and 26 days, director Thane Maynard said the zoo experience is a little different now.
"You get a predetermined time ticket, just like if you're getting a movie ticket," he said. "Once you've got that on your phone, you bring that, you can have a touchless entrance and go on through the zoo."
Only the outdoor exhibits are open, but perhaps the biggest change will be the lack of crowds throughout the grounds.
"Typically on a June day, kids out of school, 4,000 per hour would come into the zoo for the first couple of hours and we'd have over 10,000 people in the zoo," said Maynard.
Now, because of the timed ticket dispersal and fewer tickets sold to keep the crowds low, the number of people inside the zoo will be closer to a couple hundred every half hour. But that hasn't stopped families from turning up to see their favorite exhibits.
"We bought a pass and right after we bought it, they closed it down, so we're really excited to be able to come back," said Darian Ware, a Hamilton resident who brought her four-year-old daughter Serenity to the zoo.
Couple David and Chela Burd drove more than two hours, all the way from Ironton, Ohio. Decked out in animal design face masks, the couple said they plan to come back again in a few weeks. They're members and once had their honeymoon here, they said.
"We plan to come back in two weeks and brave it again," said Chela.
For now, all tickets must be bought online. Guests are encouraged to wear masks and must arrive during their 30 minute window for entry. The train and carousel, as well as the indoor exhibits, remain closed so far.
"We're going to make sure we're doing it safely and then see where we can grow more opportunities," said Maynard. "We might let more people in. We might be able to open indoor buildings, for instance, but we're going to take it a step at a time."