Places To Visit
By Melissa Minners
I love animals - all kinds of animals, not just your domesticated species, but your “wild” animals as well. As a child, I couldn’t get enough information about them, combing libraries for books on wildlife, begging my parents to buy me books on regular wildlife and endangered species. I was amazed by the amount of different species present in the United States alone, never mind the amount present all around the world.
My love of animals and my quest to learn about them has never waned. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I love zoos and aquariums. On my travels, I’ve actually managed to visit zoos in various states across America, but my favorite will always be the Bronx Zoo.
Located in Bronx, New York, just off Exit 6 of the Bronx River Parkway North, there are dozens of ways to get to the zoo. Not having a car is not a problem as mass transit will take you there, often times leaving you right in front of the many zoo entrance gates. If you do have a car, you will never have to worry about parking, as the parking lots are huge and located all over the zoo.
Over the years, the price of entering the zoo has risen slightly, but when you consider that the money goes to maintaining the thousands of animals inside, the price of entry hardly seems to matter. Upon entering and paying the fee, you are offered a map of the grounds. I sincerely suggest taking said map as the Bronx Zoo is so huge, you’re bound to get lost without one. Besides, everyone has their favorite animals they like to see and using the map is the best way of finding them.
As I said, the Bronx Zoo is a huge place, so wear some comfortable walking shoes. The paths are mostly paved, but there is a great deal of walking involved and you will have gotten your exercise by the end of the journey. Kids can ride around comfortably in strollers. In fact, the zoo actually provides strollers for parents who forget to bring one for their younger children. But be forewarned, strollers are not allowed inside any of the enclosed exhibits such as the World of Birds, the House of Reptiles, etc. You can bring the kids inside, but the strollers have to stay outside for safety reasons.
Folks who don’t like to do a great deal of walking can ride the special Zoo Shuttle. I’ve taken this ride with my parents as a kid. It’s a great way to see the entire zoo if you have small children or people who can’t walk great distances. A guide offers a running commentary on attractions as you pass them. Unfortunately, this isn’t the best way to see everything in the zoo, especially some of the more shy animals who hide behind rocks and in tall grass. For that, you have to be on foot, studying the habitat until you spot them.
The Bronx Zoo offers a great experience for children to learn, with every exhibit offering facts specific to the species inside. I think the best part of the experience for younger children may be the Children’s Zoo which offers kids opportunities to pet and feed animals like goats, sheep, rabbits, miniature horses, etc. Kids enjoy the Children’s Zoo mainly because they can get up close to the animals, often close enough to touch. They can take pictures with snakes, bunnies, etc.
Funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Bronx Zoo offers an incredible animal experience for someone like myself. I can see the usual fare such as lions, tigers, bears, elephants and more. But then, I can visit the World of Birds and see toucans and bee-eaters and other exotic birds found in locations I could only dream of traveling to. The folks at the zoo do their best to recreate the habitat these animals are used to living in to create as little stress on the animals as possible. Animals are provided all of the comforts of their own environments including branches to swing on, rocks to hide under, snacks to munch on, foliage to play or hide in. In my opinion, the Bronx Zoo staff do their very best to give each animal a sense of home.
The folks at the Bronx Zoo also make every effort to keep the zoo experience new and fresh to people who visit often by creating new attractions, moving and/or improving habitats and holding special events for its patrons. Recent new attractions include the Butterfly Garden where folks can see butterflies in flight amongst beautifully blooming flowers. The Congo Gorilla Forest offers you the opportunity to see gorillas and marmosets in their habitats, plus learn interesting things about the animals and the environment they live in. The habitat is set up to represent that of the Congo rainforest and your journey will be as if you are embarking on a wildlife safari, traveling under canopies of leaves, through sprays of mist and up to treetop lookouts. After that, you might want to try the Wild Asia Monorail, a ride that has been around since I was a teenager. The monorail is basically a one-rail train that takes you high above the zoo on a tour of its Wild Asia habitat.
Nearby the Asian Plaza is Jungle World where you can find gibbons swinging in the trees, endangered monkeys from Indonesia known as langurs hanging out in their swamp habitat, kangaroos, fly river turtles, otters, insects native to the jungle and more. The enclosed exhibit known as Madagascar allows you the opportunity to check out lemurs, crocodiles, hissing cockroaches, geckos, fossa, snakes and more in habitats designed to look like the actual locations they have come from. Check out the Siberian tigers found at Tiger Mountain. Ride a camel. Head to the Monkey House where every variety of monkey you can think of…and some you can’t…are out and about inside glass-enclosed habitats. And of course everyone’s favorite, right smack in the Zoo Center, is the Sea Lion Pool, where you can see sea lions lounging on rocks, romping around and having loads of fun in the water.
There’s just so much to do at the Bronx Zoo. And so much to learn. Coming at specific times also offers special experiences. At specific times, patrons can see the zoo’s keepers at work using a number of toys, treats and training rituals to enrich the lives of the animals they house there. The zoo also offers a variety of special experiences at different times of the year all designed to enlighten its patrons to the plight of the animals that the Wildlife Conservation Society has sworn to protect.
Of course, all this traveling is bound to make you hungry. That’s why the zoo offers a variety of snack areas located all over the zoo. Cafés offer hot dogs, burgers, pizza, candy, ice cream, and your regular fare of food and drink expected to be found at any concession stand. But now, these cafés and some of the other eateries offer something new - healthy choices such as salads, fruits, yogurts and sandwiches.
And who would experience the Bronx Zoo without wanting to take some sort of memorabilia home with them? That’s why the Bronx Zoo offers its patrons a number of shops to choose from stationed all around the zoo which offer everything from stuffed animals representing the animals you can find at the zoo, shirts, hats, rubber toys, animal collections, books, videos, mugs, glasses, and so much more. Patrons of all ages can now also get their faces painted like some of their favorite animals or purchase an airbrush tattoo at areas located next to the main Bronx Zoo Store.
Every time I visit the Bronx Zoo it’s a new, exciting and education experience that I thoroughly enjoy. I’ve even been there in the pouring rain and loved every minute of my stay. Every time I come back there’s something new and exciting to explore. My most recent trip was in the second week of July 2009 and I can’t wait to go back. So, if your looking for something fun and educational that the whole family can enjoy, look no further than the Bronx Zoo.