Abigail D. Malik

Month: August, 2013

Travel: Tips to Make Your Louisville Zoo Trip Awesome

photo by A. MalikThe Louisville Zoo is a Kentucky treasure. Whether you’re going with kids, your significant other, friends, or by yourself, keep these tips in mind for a great visit.

Before you go

Purchase your tickets online so you won’t have to stand in line once you get there. Because there’s always a stroller-filled line for the tickets.

And don’t forget to look for discounts through AAA, credit unions, your employer, and other memberships.

Let’s eat!

Bring in a backpack or tote filled with some drinks and a few healthy, filling snacks, like fruit, nuts, and a PB&J to share. That way, you can stave off hunger and not suddenly need to eat – and end up spending more than you planned.

For a recent visit, we packed a full picnic lunch. When we got hungry, though, we found ourselves across the park in Glacier Run and (it felt) a hike from the parking lot. None of us were willing to walk to the car and fetch the snacks, and we ended up eating at a zoo restaurant.

Which brings us to the zoo’s best-kept secret: the African Outpost restaurant, a large indoor facility that wasn’t crowded at all when we arrived. A lot of people eat near the always-crowded Papa John’s Splash Park. By-pass this food stand and trek a few more minutes to African Outpost for a nice indoor, re-energizing reprieve.

Keep your cool

Make sure to bring a hat. A lot of time is spent in direct sunlight walking from exhibit to exhibit. In the hottest summer months, a wide-brimmed hat combined with sunscreen is the only way to protect yourself from the sun. (Added bonus: you really do feel like you’re on a safari!)

Extra tip: Probably don’t feed the geese

A goose was hanging around the front of the zoo, and we thought it would be a good idea to give him some leftover French fries. He certainly enjoyed the snack – so much that when we were finished feeding him, he nipped my toe – totally harmless, but a little embarrassing when I yelped!

Travel: Cincinnati’s Eden Park is a Budget-friendly Weekday Getaway

Eden ParkWhen the weather is especially bright and warm, we want to get away for a day without spending a lot of money. The perfect solution for those living within 80 miles (1.5 hours) of Cincinnati: a day in Eden Park at The Cincinnati Art Museum and Krohn Conservatory.

First stop is the majestic Cincinnati Art Museum, one of the oldest art museums in the United States. And because of generous benefactors, the museum is always free, except for a $4 parking fee.

On a Friday, three of us traveled from Lexington, Ky., and arrived when the facility opened at 11 a.m. We spent four hours there (including lunch), and we could have stayed until they closed at 5 p.m. and still not have seen it all.

Visitors enter the lobby and are immediately struck by the cobalt Chihuly piece dangling from the ceiling. Before starting out, grab a map from the front desk to ensure that you don’t miss any exhibits. From African and Asian folk art to local Cincinnati history and everything in between, the museum is an incredible mix of culture, history and identity from across the globe.

For lunch, The Terrace Café located within the museum is a popular option. Outdoor seating in the sun-filled courtyard is a perfect break from some of the less-lighted exhibits.

However, to keep this weekday getaway budget friendly, pack a picnic lunch. Museum visitors can come and go from the building, so grab the cooler and snack bag from your car and stake out a lunch spot at one of the wooden picnic tables in the museum’s front lawn near the entrance gate.

After re-energizing with a picnic lunch outdoors and finishing up at The Cincinnati Art Museum, head to Krohn Conservatory, a mile away on the other side of Eden Park. The Conservatory is extremely popular in the spring and summer for its Moroccan butterfly exhibit that ends in June. Even without a special exhibit, the Conservatory is a wonderful little desert and rain forest adventure for both kids and adults.

Admission to the Conservatory used to be free when there weren’t any special exhibits. We were charged $3 a person, and it was completely worth it. Visitors can spend an hour or more exploring the more than 3,500 species of plants and trees from across the world, beautiful orchids in their own special room, a desert exhibit, a lush rain forest exhibit with a waterfall, and more.

Let’s assess: How budget friendly is this weekday getaway for a group of three traveling from Lexington, Ky.?

Cincinnati Art Museum admission: free
Cincinnati Art Museum parking: $4/vehicle
Picnic lunch: free
Krohn’s Conservatory admission: $3/person
Total gas cost (average 25 mile/gal at $3.50/gal): $23

Total: $36/3 = $12/person

Bonus: Before you leave Eden Park, take a stroll around the pond. You don’t realize how high above the city you are until the pond gives you the perspective. One stroll around the pond is 0.3 miles, so get your workout in while you’re there, and make sure to be respectful of the runners.