Some of my all-time favorite childhood memories took place at the Bronx Zoo. My father took me there all the time, starting at the age of three. I remember when the children’s zoo first opened; watching the sea lions swim in their beautiful art-deco pool; the monorail ride, which felt to me like we were riding through some wild, foreign land instead of through the Bronx, NY. Most of all, I remember that feeling that I was having a wonderful, special adventure with my one of my favorite people in the world, my Daddy. I was beyond excited to take my own child there, and I have to say, our recent trip to the Bronx Zoo felt as magical as my own childhood memories. We really had the best day ever.
On the morning of “Zoo Day” I was probably more excited than Owen was, although I had shown him the zoo’s website and we had talked about all of the different things we would see and do there. When we arrived, Owen had only one thing on his mind: Dinosaurs! Luckily, one of the first attractions we hit when we entered the park was the Dinosaur Safari, a new ride that includes animatronic dinosaurs that snort, growl, and “spit” at you as you ride through on the back of a truck, with a witty tour guide explaining all of the different dinos. At the end, there was a little walk through filled with more dinosaur information and artifacts. Owen was in dino-heaven.
After our dinosaur safari was over, I asked Owen what he wanted to see next. “Lions!” he exclaimed without hesitation. I was not surprised; the boy likes pretty much any animal that roars. I consulted the map, and discovered that lions were on the exact opposite side of the zoo. I decided this was actually perfect, because we could walk through the zoo and see all of the other animals along the way. Our next stop was the center zoo, where we visited the Madagascar exhibit (lemurs, geckos, and crocodiles!) and where we saw a Mama and baby sea lion sunning themselves on a rock. We sat down on a picnic bench to eat our packed lunch. Sitting on that bench, with the sun shining, eating grapes and looking at my smiling boy, I had one of those awesome moments where I was just totally there: “This is my life right now and it’s so good.”
After lunch, we continued our long walk through the zoo to get to the lions; on the way, we visited the Children’s Zoo, which includes a petting zoo, and lots of small creatures such as mice, turtles, and foxes, as well as a ginormous tree slide, which Owen slid down about 45 times. On our way out of the children’s zoo, we hit up the (unavoidable) gift shop, where I bought him a reasonably priced, chomping T-Rex toy. We happily chomped our way to Wild Asia, which was still a bit of a hike, and by the time we got there, even though he wasn’t complaining, I could tell Owen was pretty tired. In an effort to perk him up, I bought him a juice box and a chocolate ice cream cone. Now he looked as though he was having one of those, “OMG LIFE IS SO GOOD” moments, because that much sugar at once is basically unheard of in his world. However, my plan failed, because Owen fell asleep almost as soon as we got on the Wild Asia Monorail. At first I was disappointed, but then I just sat back and enjoyed looking at the elephants, wild horses, and rhinoceroses (rhinoseri?) for the rest of the ride. A moment of quiet peace for Mom? Yup, I’ll take it.
Once Owen woke up, he reminded me that we still hadn’t seen the lions, so we headed on over to Africa, which–at the Bronx Zoo, anyway–is right next door to Asia. In Africa, we trekked past antelope, a beautiful giraffe, and finally saw our lion friend, who was sleeping under a tree, almost hidden from view. “ROAAAAR!” Owen yelled as loud as he could. The lion napped on, but Owen was still thrilled. And it got even better, because right in the center of Africa was the 4D theater, which is currently showing a 14 minute feature film, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.” The website says that this movie is “geared for children ages 6 and up” but there was no way I was going to let my little dinosaur lover–who, at that point, had also never seen a movie in a theater–miss out. I can’t really describe the movie, because I didn’t watch it. I sat there for 14 minutes and watched my son’s face, which was the definition of awestruck. It was another magical moment that we’ll both never forget.
On our way back through the zoo, we visited the butterfly garden, the bears (one who decided to use the bathroom right in front of us, which was a source of much hilarity, let me tell you) and the Bug Carousel, which is an actual ride and marked his first time on a carousel, too. At that point, it was getting fairly close to closing time, so we caught the shuttle back to where we had parked, and for the first time that day, Owen asked me to carry him, which I did. It had been a long day, but he’d had so much fun, and he had behaved so well, I almost couldn’t believe it. I could not have been happier with our zoo experience. In fact, a month later, we’re still talking about all of the fun we had at the zoo that day.
If you’re looking to make some memories at the Bronx Zoo with your family this summer or fall, here are a few tips:
1) Buy your ticket online; you can save up to 15% off admissions. The zoo also offers discount admissions on Mondays and Tuesdays, and is free to the public (read: crowded!) on Wednesdays. We opted for the “Full Experience” ticket and it was well worth it; it includes admission to the zoo and all of the attractions, with the exception of the camel rides. You should also note that parking is $15.
2) Pack a lunch! The food at the zoo is fairly expensive and not anything to write home about. I put our insulated lunch box in a backpack, and we were good to go.
3) Don’t lose your map! The zoo is very nicely organized, but you’ll still need it. If you’re a planner, plan ahead using the online interactive map. We were bummed that we missed the tigers and the gorillas (as it was, we were at the zoo for nearly 5 hours!)
I hope your trip to the zoo is as special as ours was!