Everybody’s heard of the Bronx Zoo, and there’s a reason: it’s an incredible, beautiful, world-class destination, and New Yorker’s are lucky enough to claim it as one of their hometown attractions. The zoo has been enthralling visitors since way back in 1899, when it was called the New York Zoological Society, and has continued to expand its rich offerings over the years, with exciting additions as recent as 2017. Should you go? Of course! Should you have a game plan? You better. Here’s what to know before you and the family get wild.
photo: Rich Brooks via Flickr
When You Can Go
The Bronx Zoo is open year-round, and while of course many of the habitats are outdoors, plenty are inside (the popular JungleWorld, and the World of Reptiles among them) making them ideal for a winter afternoon trip to the zoo.
The zoo is closed on select holidays: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Martin Luther King Day. From early November to early April, the zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; from May to October hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (5:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays).
Hot tip: the zoo is free on Wednesdays.
photo: Jeffrey via Flickr
Plan of Attack
Be forewarned: the zoo is huge! More than 6,000 animals occupy its 265 acres. It’s difficult, if not straight up a bad idea, to try to cover the whole thing in one day. (This fact makes a strong argument for getting a membership, but more on that later.)
If you’re looking to hit the highlights, the zoo itself recommends a two-hour tour of its most popular exhibits: Tiger Mountain, Himalayan Highlands, Congo Gorilla Forest (a must) and the aforementioned World of Reptiles.
But that’s barely scratching the surface. There’s not really a bad exhibit in the bunch, and your choices should be dictated by what interests your family most. Head to the African Plains for giraffes, zebras and lions; the Aquatic Bird House and Sea Bird Aviary for ever-popular penguins and flamingos, and Baboon Reserve to see Gelada Baboon in action.
Must-do Stops for Kids
The zoo does a great job of entertaining and engaging its youngest patrons. We’d add to a must-do list the recently-renovated Children’s Zoo, which provides lots of opportunity to interact with, and learn about, different creatures, and the brand new Nature Trek, an elaborate, kid-friendly version of the zoo’s new treetop adventure course for big kids and adults. Nature Trek, also provides multiple areas for free play, building with various materials and learning about animal habits.
There are two kinds of tickets to the zoo: a general admission ticket and a “Total Experience” ticket. General admission gets you access to the most of the zoo’s offerings, and you could certainly spend a whole day doing that. Note: this ticket is only available at the zoo’s front gate; you cannot buy it online. Prices are $22.95 for adults; $14.95 for kids three to 12, and $20.95 for seniors. Kids under two are free.
While the “Total Experience” tickets may sound like an upsell (and we suppose, technically it is), in our opinion, if you can swing it, it’s the way to go. This ticket grants you access to all of the additional “experiences” at the zoo, which someone in your party will inevitably want to check out; otherwise, they are $6 per person, a cost which can add up quickly. Included with this type of ticket is the Bug Carousel (exactly what it sounds like), the 4-D Theater, the Wild Asia Monorail, and the zoo shuttle, which can be a key ally and time-saver when getting around. Prices are $36.95 for adults; $26.95 for kids three to 12, and $31.95 for seniors.
As you can see, a trip to the zoo is not the cheapest outing ever, which is why, if you make two or more trips to the zoo a year, it might be worth getting a membership. For $199.95, two adults, up to four children, and one guest receive unlimited admission and attractions at not only the Bronx Zoo, but the Central Park Zoo, the Queens Zoo, and the Prospect Park Zoo. That’s a lotta zoo for your buck! (That rate is the Family Zoos Plus Membership; the regular Family Zoo Membership is $159.95 and does not include attractions or a guest admission.)
photo: Meghan Maher
Above and Beyond
If you are the adventurous type of family with older kids, you’ll want to check out Treetop Adventure, which opened in 2017. Featuring a double zipline experience, as well as a variety of rope courses of varying difficulties, the attraction is open year-round, and provides lovely views of the wooded setting in all seasons.
You can elect to do just the treetop course, just the ziplines, or both. All of Treetop Adventure is a separate admission tickets from the Bronx Zoo, with prices ranging from $24.95 to $59.95. If you’re going, it’s located at the north edge of the zoo, and there is a parking lot (with fee) at the entrance. For GPS directions use: Bronx River Parkway at Boston Road.
photo: Tammy Lo via Flcikr
For food, the Dancing Crane Cafe in the centrally-located Dancing Crane Plaza serves standard fare and has both indoor and outdoor seating. You’re also allowed to bring in picnics, which can be a good way to save money and skip the typically long lines. This area is also where you’ll find first aid, the gift shop, restrooms, and an ATM.
Strollers are allowed in the zoo, and if you suddenly desire one, they are also available to rent.
The zoo is accessible by mass transit, including the 2 train (at Pelham Parkway), the BxM11 Express Bus in Manhattan, and Metro North. Click here for detailed directions.
Note that if you are driving, parking lots can fill up, and additional parking can be found at Fordham University. Driving directions can be found here.
The Bronx Zoo
2300 Southern Boulevard
What’s your must-do at the zoo? Tell us in the comments!
Main photo: Harald C. via Yelp