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Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Offering Limited Drive-Thru Visits

The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Welcome Pavilion at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. [Stephanie Jarvis / ideastream]
The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Welcome Pavilion at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Updated: 12:05 p.m., Wednesday, May 20, 2020

No fries will be available at this drive-thru. In fact, please don’t feed the animals.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is reopening for drive-thru visits until the end of May.

The zoo has been closed to visitors since March 16, but employees have continued to care for and feed the animals. As a result, the zoo has lost around $1.5 million in revenue.

“Our animal care team has been coming in every day,” said Executive Director Chris Kuhar. “We need to continue to feed those animals and make sure they’re getting the proper care.”

A limited program called Cruise the Zoo launches Wednesday, allowing visitors to drive along some of the zoo’s most popular exhibits and see the animals from inside their cars. The program will also bring in some much-needed funding, Kuhar said.

“We’re just trying to bridge that gap and get some revenue back in the system to help support the zoo,” he said.

Ticket sales for the event were temporarily put on hold Tuesday due to high demand. The webpage and ticketing platform for the event were taken offline to address technical issues, and have since been restored.

“It was the most web traffic we’ve ever experienced, so we’re really feeling the love,” spokesperson Jacqueline Gerling said.

Reservations are still available for the event, Gerling said, and all tickets sold before the website went down remain valid.

The drive-thru concept is a safe way to bring people in while following social distancing guidelines, Kuhar said. The zoo is still waiting for state guidance on when and how it can fully reopen to the public, he said, and right now it isn’t clear if the property will resume regular business this summer.

Cruise the Zoo will run through May 31, but could extend into the summer.

“Depending on what it looks like in terms of reopening, we may extend it,” Kuhar said. “We’re just going to have to see how things go and make a decision at that point.”

The route will take visitors through a portion of the exhibits, he said, including the Asian Highlands and African Elephant Crossing. Indoor areas like the rainforest will remain closed.

“You enter the zoo, you stay on the path, it’s almost as though you’re on a track,” Kuhar said. “It’s an opportunity to be very safe and for us to reach out and provide folks with some entertainment.”

The zoo will operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday through the end of May. Visitors will need to make online reservations for a one-hour time slot to participate at a cost of $40 per car for non-members and $20 per car for members.