You may have taken your little animal lovers to the Bronx Zoo before, but after an 18-month, $4-million renovation, the Children’s Zoo is better than ever. With new animals to see, new activities and improvements on your old favorites, here’s what makes the re-designed exhibits worth a second look (or a first!) and some tips on how to get the most out of your visit.
photo: Gretchen Kunz
New Things (And Critters) To See
The star attraction of a zoo is always the animals, and you won’t be disappointed with the furry and feathered friends here. Filling a gap left when a South American exhibit closed in the 1990s, the Children’s Zoo has a new focus on South and Central American fauna. Some added stars are Velcro the giant anteater, Calisto the Linne’s Two- toed Sloth and a mother coatimundi with her two children. The long nose and enormous, furry tail of the anteater are an unusual sight, and the coatis’ striped tails and quick-moving, flexible snouts charm children and adults alike. (For animal interaction, the goats and sheep at the petting zoo are game and playful, especially if you offer them the pellets from the vending machines.)
photo: Bronx Zoo / Julie Larsen Maher
Bringing the cute in a major way are a mother and child pudú — AKA, the world’s smallest deer — as well as the family of squirrel monkeys’ climbing and playing antics on their own private island. Neon-bright Caribbean flamingos in the water surrounding the monekys’ island show off with splashes and spread wings, so there’s something for your family to see from every angle around the feature. The whole zoo is tied together with charming new informational signs illustrated by author/artist Brendan Wenzel that make walking the trail feel like turning the page of a storybook.
photo: Gretchen Kunz
Renovated and Redesigned
Don’t worry, the classics are still here. Iconic features such as the giant, climbable turtle shells, the big tree house slide and the prairie dog tunnels where kids can pop up in clear tubes among the critters not only remain, they’re even better. Improvements include wider paths, clearer views of the prairie dogs (glass has replaced the old Plexiglass), natural accents like six-foot tall clusters of bamboo and springy new composite flooring that make the going easy for strollers and little feet.
The feel is clean and open, with benches for pit stops and interactive play spaces like a giant rope spider web and new model “fennec fox” ears that your kids can listen through. Even the zoo’s farm area has been spruced up, making it a brighter place for mini-Farmer Browns to touch and feed the friendly goats, sheep and alpacas.
photo: Gretchen Kunz
Making the Most of it and Making it Easy
For the full new zoo experience, Children’s Zoo Adventure Club tours, which include the use of binoculars or magnifying glasses, are available on the half hour, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. May 30-Nov. 1: Sat., Sun, Wed. & holidays. Make sure to check the zoo website for other activities, programs and events taking place throughout the year.
To maximize your visit, keep a few things in mind. Zoo staff say getting there early will help you avoid crowds, and if you want to start your visit at the Children’s Zoo, it’s best to enter through Gate C at Southern Blvd., where parking is also available. Single and double strollers are available for rental at $10 and $15.
The bathrooms closest to the Children’s Zoo are just to the south at the Madagascar exhibit, and the Terrace Café — where you can also find tables for boxed lunches — and a small gift shop are on the north side of the Children’s Zoo entrance. Go a bit further north, and you will find a zoo shuttle station and the large Dancing Crane Café.
Wednesdays, zoo general admission is free with the opportunity to donate, but you will have to pay an extra $5 for the Children’s Zoo and more for other premium exhibits. Total Experience tickets, which include all premium exhibits and activities, may be purchased at the gate or ahead of time at a 10% discount online at bronxzoo.com/tickets. General Admission tickets are only available at the gate.
Bronx Zoo / Julie Larsen Maher
The Bronx Zoo
2300 Southern Blvd.
Hours: Apr.3-Nov.1, 2015, Mon.-Fri, 10a.m.-5p.m., Sat., Sun. & holidays, 10a.m.-5:30p.m
Tickets: General Admission, at gate only: adults 13-64/$19.95, kids 3-12/$12.95, seniors/$17.95, kids 2 & under/free
Have you checked out the new zoo yet? Tell us what you thought of it in the comments below!