I think I love going to the zoo almost as much as my two kidlets do. Luckily, our family lives in the NYC metropolitan area, aka the Jersey ‘burbs, so it’s an easy hike to great places like the Turtle Back Zoo, Bergen County Zoological Park and Maritime Aquarium to just name a few.
This past weekend we went to The Bronx Zoo, located in the “Boogie Down Bronx” as the hubs jokingly told our son on the drive over. My son was as confused as I was by this comment, but we just went with it 😉 Our kids are big fans – during our last visit our daughter became obsessed with peacocks and this time she announced that we had to see the rhinos!
This year we finally sprung for a family membership, which gives us unlimited visits to the Bronx Zoo as well as zoos in Central Park, Prospect Park and Queens, and the NY Aquarium in Brooklyn. There are lots of plans for different budgets: we spent $130 and got four pre-paid parking passes, worth it for those alone, I think, sixteen free attraction passes, plus a cool limited edition wildlife t-shirt (my son claimed it immediately!) and plenty of additional perks. If you hit the zoo more than once a year, you’ll save a lot.
While the kids never get bored looking at all of the exotic animals, the zoo also plans seasonal themes keeping it fun and ever-changing all year round. This Halloween season, it’s “Boo At the Zoo” where kids, and even adults, can dress up in costumes and can go “trick or treating” throughout the zoo, grabbing treats like Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish and granola bars. There was a haunted hayride and maze — we ran out of time for those — as well as some Halloween mask making…you see the kidlets’ handiwork in the photo above.
If you go with little ones, go early. We got there soon after it opened and grabbed a plum parking spot. We also took advantage of short lines for “in demand” attractions such as the Wild Asia Monorail, Jungle World, Tiger Mountain, the Children’s Zoo and the Congo Gorilla Forest which can really get crowded as the day goes on. In addition to our kids’ favorite animals, we saw zebra, buffalo, a red panda, okapi (sort of a half zebra/half brown horse, kinda weird but neat looking), elephants and baboons. We never made it over to the monkey and reptile houses and to the sea lions – it’s really hard to do it all in one visit!
The whole family even took a ride on the Bug Carousel. The carousel has a photographer that roams around and takes your picture, and he took a great one of me & my daughter, but quite honestly it wasn’t a great enough photo to spend $13.95 on. In fact, I didn’t see one sale of a photo during our ride on the carousel. Sidebar here: the hubs & I decided that with digital photography today, it can’t cost them more than $1.00 to print out a photo, if they lowered the price to 9.99, parents and grandparents would be buying the pix like crazy.
We walked everywhere on our visit and must have logged more than 2 miles, plus lots of pushing the stroller uphill-a better workout than the gym! If you don’t want to walk, you can catch a tram, which are scattered around the zoo, but be warned, you have to buy an attraction pass to ride them. The zoo itself is so large – 265 acres – that even though there were lots of people, you never felt like you were over-crowded.
Another plus for a family looking to keep costs down, like ours, is that you can bring your own food with you. I made sandwiches, packed some juice & milk boxes plus some snacks and put them into a little cooler made just for outings like this. Not only does it save money –the food can get pricey – but I can actually get my kids to eat something they are familiar with. Plus it helps mom/dad avoid the inevitable fried lunch! My hubs joked he’s feeling like a gourmet expert on chicken fingers!
Our four hours at the zoo was perfect-and went fast. The kidlets fell asleep the moment we pulled out of the parking lot. They were still talking about all the animals they saw on Monday morning and couldn’t wait to tell their pals at school what they did.
I’d have to say that The Bronx Zoo is one of my favorites – with the Denver Zoo and Philadelphia Zoo coming in second and third respectively. Our next animal outing is likely going to be the NY Aquarium. I’ve never been, so I will share our experiences as soon as we go.
What is your kid’s favorite animal to see at the zoo? What’s your favorite zoo?