I LOVE to experience unique overnights. Overnight in a Treehouse. Check. Museum. Check. Submarine. Check. Aquarium. Check. Tepee. Check. Kings Island Amusement Park. Check…..so when I found out that the Cincinnati Zoo offered family overnights where you can sleep in African Safari style tents near the giraffe area, I had to check it out!
You might be familiar with the “Sleeping with the Manatees” overnight program at the Cincinnati Zoo, and if you’ve already tried that one, or want an overnight that’s even more unique, you will want to check out the Twiga Family Overnight. Twiga means giraffe in Swahili which is appropriate because you are camping near the Giraffe Ridge exhibit.
How Does it Work?
Guests ages 5 and older check in with their families between 5:45-6:15 at the Education’s Center Erkenbrecher Ave entrance. You check in and then drop off your gear at your assigned tent. Dinner is not provided so I recommend that you eat dinner before you arrive and you can bring additional snacks if you need them. Once the program started, we joined our tentmates on a guided tour of the zoo with our awesome leader Kayla. I would suggest carrying a water bottle with you during the tour, especially if you visit the zoo on a warm day.
During the evening, you will have several opportunities to get up close with a variety of animals. Questions are highly encouraged and the animals that you will meet during each overnight can vary. You can encounter them as close… or as far away as you feel comfortable. You will also be given instructions on how to safely touch the animal (important for the animal and for the human) during the encounter.
Top Secret Behind the Scenes Tours
There are some places you get to visit during the zoo tour where you are not allowed to take pictures. This is a special surprise for overnight guests and once you experience a Twiga overnight, you will be in on the secret. It’s a wonderful opportunity to just enjoy your surroundings and be in the moment.
You will have the opportunity to use some of your brain power during an educational activity where you can show off a little bit of your competitive side. The program does a great job of making learning interesting and FUN!
The evening activities conclude with a bonfire and S’mores. It’s a great time to reflect on your favorite activities and experiences of the evening. Everyone heads to bed between 10:30-11:30.
Each safari-style tent sleeps up to 10 people. Our tent was the “parents of boys” tent. We had a mix of genders for the adults in our tent but every parent slept directly above or below their child. The cots are set up bunk style and even have an area on the side with pockets where you can store your cell phone and other items you want to keep close by.
It was pretty warm during our visit but the circulating fans in our tent helped cool it down. Underneath the bunks are additional camp style chairs that are nice if you want to sit out outside in the evening or while you are drinking coffee in the morning.
Not to worry, your bathroom experience will not be primitive. The restrooms at the Education Center building are steps away and they are open for overnight guests all night. There are no showers so plan accordingly.
You won’t need an Alarm
The wake-up time is 7:30 but let’s be honest, who really sleeps in when they are camping??!! The staff said that they have never had to wake anyone up for breakfast.
A Beautiful Breakfast
The breakfast buffet honestly exceeded my expectations! Adults will appreciate the coffee, juice, and the assortment of breakfast foods with scones, muffins, and danishes along with some healthier options like fruit and yogurt.
Early Morning Encounter
In the morning you are in the zoo when the animals tend to be the most active. We walked around with our guide to visit several animal exhibits and watched the educational bird show at the Wings of Wonder Theater. The morning activities will vary during each overnight.
Enjoy the rest of the day at the Zoo
If you didn’t see your favorite animal the evening before, don’t worry! You can stay as long as you want at the Cincinnati Zoo after the overnight program concludes at no additional cost. You will need to move your car to another parking lot and just let the attendant know that you were part of the overnight program. If you are a fan of Fiona the Hippo, I suggest trying to go to that area of the zoo as early as possible because she is pretty popular.
Locally Sourced Food Options
You can find lots of locally sourced menu options for lunch at the Base Camp Cafe rated the “Greenest Restaurant in America” located near the Africa exhibit and located across from the Train Station.
What to Pack
You will receive an info sheet from the zoo suggesting what to pack. Here are a few of my essentials to recommend (Sleeping bag, pillow, flashlight, battery charger for your cell phone, water bottle, flip-flops and gym shoes, hygiene essentials, and mini backpack)
I attended the Twiga Overnight with one of my best friends, whose son also happens to be one of my son’s best friends. It was such a great experience to share and I would definitely recommend this overnight adventure to anyone who enjoys an experience that’s unique, educational, and FUN!
You can find out more information about Overnights at the Cincinnati Zoo from their website. (If you don’t have kids, there are also special adult only TWIGA overnights )
Thanks again to the Cincinnati Zoo for hosting my visit. All opinions are my own.
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