I love the zoo! Any zoo, really. I am a huge animal lover, and, since I’ve bred a little mini-me, my toddler is one too! But, what child doesn’t love animals–especially giant, exotic ones, typically only seen in their children’s books, stuffed animal trunks, or on TV shows?! It’s a treat for adults and children alike. And, with the direction the world has taken in terms of consciousness and respect for others and the environment, zoos actually do a whole lot of good. Many people argue that they are cruel and unnatural, but the zoos I go to do a lot for rehabilitation and preservation of animals and their habitats. No reason to not go and support your local zoo.
With that said, everywhere we travel, we try to hit up the local zoo. Our last trip to California led us to the Santa Barbara Zoo, and my daughter has also been to the London Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Central Park Zoo, and now, as part of our NYC Staycation series, we can add the Bronx Zoo to the list!
We purchased our tickets online a few days prior to avoid any potential ticket lines. Since we were going by the weather, it was still fine to purchase ahead, as you didn’t have to select a specific date. Both kids (two and under) were free, and us three adults each paid $39.95 for the zoo’s Total Experience Tickets. (You can buy less expensive General Admission tickets in person, but we went into enough Total Experience attractions to make the all-inclusive tickets worth it.)
From the Upper West Side, you’re looking at a lengthy public transportation journey with two young kids (and all the stuff they require) so we were initially going to opt for a Zipcar. Luckily, my dad wanted to join in on the fun and drove from Connecticut, collected us, and we went as a group. It cost $17.00 to park the car, much more reasonable than an additional $70.00 for a Zipcar!
The ride from the Upper West Side on a Sunday morning was about thirty minutes. As always, I recommend being the first to arrive at the zoo. The zoo opened at 10:00AM, so we left right at 9:30AM for an easy journey, prime parking, and zero lines. We folded up our Bugaboo pram into the trunk, so that our two-month-old could be loose and comfortable in the summer heat, and not squeezed into a baby carrier. The pram also boasts a wheel board for when toddler legs get tired, and was the perfect vehicle for TONS of water (it was almost 90 degrees!), endless snacks, and diaper bag essentials.
Upon arriving at the zoo, we first hit the Children’s Zoo. I highly recommend getting this out of the way since it’s the most narrow and interactive, making it really difficult to navigate through during the later, more crowded part of the day. Children’s Zoo was one of the attractions included with our Total Experience Tickets. After the Children’s Zoo, we explored the surrounding area, which took us to right about 11:30AM, the time our toddler has lunch. I had already fed the baby a couple times, to ensure proper hydration throughout the hot day, and while I minded the stroller. The Bronx Zoo really isn’t a bad place to have to withstand the heat since it’s set in a lovely, shaded park. The entire day was very manageable, as long as we hydrated and took a couple time outs to cool down in the AC, and lunch time was the perfect time for our first break.
We headed to the Dancing Crane Cafe at 11:30AM which was right in line with our daughter’s lunch, but before the mad zoo rush. We had our pick of tables, and didn’t have to wait in any major food lines. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, “The early bird gets the worm.” We cooled down, ate some mediocre cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, fruit cups, and yogurt, consumed a ton of water, fed and changed the baby, and used the restrooms. We were all cooled down and ready to get back out there!
We next explored the World of Reptiles, Butterfly Garden, and the Congo Gorilla Forest–most were Total Experience attractions that were, again, included within our special ticket. My biggest complaint about the Bronx Zoo was how unfriendly it was for stroller use. Most attractions banned them, and since we had such a small baby (and I’m not keen on leaving my belongings out, anyway) someone always sat something out. I sat out the World of Reptiles, which I later heard was actually very cool, but took part in the Butterfly Garden and Gorilla Forest. The Butterfly Garden was obviously miserable because the 90 degree outside temperature soared to over 100 in there, but, also, there just weren’t that many butterflies! I overhead a staff member say they release more as it gets crowded later in the day…I don’t know, I was surprised by the poor showing. I think I saw more natural ones outside the Garden! The Congo Gorilla Forest, however, was actually the best place to be! Dark, cool, and refreshing! A little musty, but that was okay. There was a huge bottleneck jam in the first area of the gorillas because no one realized that there were more later on. You think that’s your one chance to see them, and everyone is all over each other, craning their necks to take a peek. Don’t worry. Just go to the next room and they will be all around you. And what AMAZING creatures they are. Probably my favorite are of the zoo.
After the gorillas, we cooled down in the next door air conditioned gift shop, but only bought beverages, deciding to save our souvenir choices for the big gift shop at the end of our day. Once again cooled down, we used the restrooms, and toured the African Plains of zebras, lions, and giraffes. After that nice little walk, we headed to the Wild Asia Monorail to take a ride through the last area of the zoo. I sat that part out and fed the baby. My dad, husband, and toddler thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and she bragged all about seeing elephants! After, I traded spots with my husband while we toured our last attraction of the day, Jungle World. Another hot and humid one, but worth the visit! Next to the gorillas, the monkeys in there were my favorite!
So this brought us to right around 3:00PM, and we walked through most areas of the zoo. We skipped a few things, like the Bug Carousel (it was hot, and we really came for the animals), but had a really thorough experience. We visited the Dancing Crane Cafe one last time for a final cool down, and enjoyed some iced coffees, watermelon, water, and cookies! After that we visited the gift shop for some goodies to remember our day. I bought my dad a rhinoceros mug (his favorite animal of the day) to say thanks for the ride, and my daughter a pretend veterinarian kit, binoculars (to make living in a NYC apartment more fun for her), and a book (meant for the new baby, but we all know the toddler takes everything over). Then, we headed home. We got back just before our toddler’s 5:00PM dinner, gave her a quick meal, bath, and then an early bed time after being allowed to skip an afternoon nap. She handled it all beautifully, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day!
So, there you have it! That’s what a day at the Bronx Zoo looks like!