By Rita Joy Egan
The Bronx Zoo is one of New York City’s finest attractions and a place for all ages to enjoy — no kids needed. During recent years, I’ve visited a few times with extended family, with just my mother, and most recently, with my boyfriend.
The zoo is the perfect spot for little ones to discover animals from all over the world and learn a bit about the wild. And, for those with no children, it’s the place to go to reconnect with nature. Every visit has been a relaxing one for me, and if you go prepared, you can have the same peaceful experience as me.
Before visiting, make sure you download the map at bronxzoo.com. It will help you plan, and once you’re at the zoo, it will help you stay on track. With going in and out of some indoor exhibits, you can easily lose your sense of direction. Let’s just say I know from experience. If you forget to download the map or your smartphone isn’t getting good service, paper maps are available when you enter the zoo.
While on the website, take note the admission fee doesn’t cover all experiences, and you may need to pay extra for some of the attractions. Also, some aren’t open year-round.
Keep in mind, you’re going to be covering a lot of ground. The zoo spans 265 acres so wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. Many of the animals are outside, and while there are some opportunities to go inside and warm up or cool off, there may not be as many as you would like if you’re getting a bit chilly or sweaty. Speaking of weather, many of the animals enjoy the cooler weather and therefore are more active, which provides more opportunities to spot them. There is a shuttle if needed, but the best way to enjoy the Bronx Zoo is by walking every inch of it.
For those who have never been to the zoo, it’s important to note that this isn’t about viewing animals in a stark cage. Most of them are outside and are viewed behind glass almost making the humans feel as if they are the ones on display for the animals to enjoy discovering instead of the other way around.
As for the creatures to meet, there are more than lions, tigers and bears. Here, visitors will find various birds, sea lions, gorillas, American bison, baboons, giraffes and more. Among my favorites are the penguins who can be seen enjoying a swim, and the butterflies at the Butterfly Garden, which is open from April to October.
I’ve always found it interesting after a visit to the Bronx Zoo as to how much I learn while I’m there. Throughout there are signs about each animal, which includes information about their natural habitat and foods they eat. What I always find impressive are how many of the species were facing extinction until the zoo took them into their care. The Bronx Zoo not only serves as a fun attraction but also as a wildlife conservation.
One thing not to miss when visiting the zoo is the Wild Asia Monorail where red pandas, elephants and rhinos can be seen wandering around while humans sit in a tram at a safe distance. Other attractions at the zoo include the 4-D Theater that stimulates all the senses, and the camel rides as well as penguin and sea lion feedings to share a one-on-one experience with an animal. The zoo also offers the Nature Trek where participants can challenge themselves with bridges, tunnels and walkways, and ziplining at the Treetop Adventure.
If planning a visit, check the website to see if any special events are planned. Again, the zoo offers something for all ages including Boo at the Zoo in October where children can take part in a costume parade, and Brew at the Zoo in the summer where adults can enjoy an after-hours event with beer and wine. Last time I was there, Boo at the Zoo was taking place, and the kids were adorable in their costumes, especially the animal-inspired ones.
Finally, the best day to visit is Wednesday when there is no admission fee, however a donation is suggested.