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When we first relocated to the United States many years ago we ended up living in Westchester County, New York just north of the Bronx. Our children were young at the time and after our first visit to the Bronx Zoo, we immediately decided to start an annual family membership, which we maintained for 5-years. It was one of the best things we ever did as a family and we ended up going to the zoo many, many times and never got bored.
Move forward 15-years. Our children are now young adults and we have developed a different attitude towards zoos, now preferring to travel and see wildlife in their natural habitats. Yet during our recent trip, we were drawn back to visit the Bronx Zoo due to a mix of nostalgia and curiosity about what might have changed. Was it as good as we remembered? So, early one Saturday morning in July we parked our car in the parking lot and ventured into the Zoo.
We had arrived just as the Zoo was opening, which as we remembered is a great idea as the lines to get in were non-existent. The memories came flooding back as soon as we passed through the entrance gate, and we excitedly, without children in tow for the first time, headed for our favourite exhibits.
Over the next 3-hours or so we wandered down memory lane. It was a fabulous experience, without the worry of having to herd two young children (which was part of the fun in those days!).
The Bronx Zoo is a great place to visit as family, or without! Below are some of the highlights, in our opinion, of what to do on a visit to the Bronx Zoo.
Most of the wildlife in the Bronx Zoo is found in their own enclosures, roughly divided into regions; for example, Africa, Asia etc. Here you will be able to see zebras, giraffes, rhinoceros and lots of other animals and birds. Everything is well signposted and there are maps
The best way to get around is walking but there is some transport that you can catch to get places as this is a large area to cover.
CONGO GORILLA FOREST
One of our all-time favourite exhibits at the Bronx Zoo is the Congo Gorilla Forest. You are taken along a trail that has been set up to feel you are walking through the Congo, the first part is outside but in the summer the New York humidity will make it feel tropical – less so in the winter. You’ll get to see other animals indigenous to the Congo, such as the beautiful Okapi, Colobus Monkies with their Cruella De Ville hairdos and the Yoda eared Red River Hogs.
At the end of the trail you come to the main gorilla exhibit. In pre-Covid times you would enter into a theatre and watch a short movie on the conservation of mountain gorillas after which the curtains would drawback and you would see the gorillas in their enclosure. We always found this magical and the highlight of Bronx trip. Sadly, the theatre is closed due to the pandemic but you can still go in the spacious viewing area and watch the gorillas at play. They have a large troop and every time we have been over the year there are always juveniles and babies, which are a bit hit with visitors.
This exhibit is an absolute must on any visit to the Bronx Zoo!
One of the best exhibits at the Bronx Zoo is JungleWorld. This is an indoor exhibit, but it has large open areas that are climate controlled to maintain a ‘jungle-like’ environment. This is especially nice during the winter, coming to the ‘jungle’ to defrost when it is frigid outside!
In JungleWorld you’ll get to see plenty of exotic bird species and monkies. There are also jaguars and a particular favourite of mine, the tapir. One of the more unusual creatures on display is the gharials, a long-nosed fish-eating member of the crocodile family from India.
Madagascar! exhibit opened in 2008, just after we left New York for our West Coast adventure, so this was very new to us.
The name is a bit of a giveaway when it comes to the focus of this exhibit. Here you’ll find the unique flora and fauna of this massive African island. It is the 2nd largest island country after Indonesia and the 4th largest island in the World.
The most well-known animal species found in Madagascar are lemurs. They look like monkies a bit, but they have pointy noses and are a totally different genus. There are around 100 existing species of lemur and they are native only to the island of Madagascar.
This is another indoor exhibit with a controlled tropical climate, so will be another great place to visit in the winter months.
WILD ASIA MONORAIL
You can certainly rack up the miles walking around the Bronx Zoo so it is quite nice to have the opportunity to sit down and take the weight off your feet. One way of doing this is to take the Wild Asia Monorail. The station for this is right next to JungleWorld.
This is a circular tour that crosses the Bronx River and passes a number of enclosures with various antelope and oxen from Asia. You will get to see, hopefully, Asian elephants, Indian rhinos and tigers. The enclosures are quite large, which is good for the animals but can mean you might not get that close up experience.
The journey takes about 20-minutes. The monorail has open cars with three rows of seats. If you can get the front row, that will not always be possible. As I said the cars are open, so in the winter it will be a chilly ride.
The lines to get on the monorail can be quite long, so we recommend going there first, especially if you arrive at the zoo early. Alternatively, go later in the day nearer closing time.
Planning your visit to the Bronx Zoo
EXPRESS BUS FROM MANHATTAN
The BxM11 express bus makes stops along Madison Avenue, between 26th and 99th Streets, then travels directly to the Zoo’s Bronx River entrance (Gate B). For your return trip, pick up the bus just outside the same gate at the MTA BxM11 sign (just before the underpass). Please note, fare for an Express Bus ride is $6.75 each direction.
* In the Bronx, take Bx9 or Bx19 buses to 183rd Street and Southern Blvd, which is the location of the Zoo’s Southern Blvd pedestrian entrance (Gate C). Or take the Bx12 or Bx22 buses to Fordham Road and Southern Blvd, then walk 5 blocks south on Southern Blvd to 183rd Street.
* From Queens, you can take the Q44 to 180th Street and Boston Road. You must then walk north (take a right on Boston Road) one block to the Bronx Zoo’s Asia gate entrance (Gate A).
ADA-accessible route: #2 train to Pelham Parkway. This station has three elevators* that lead down to street level. Head west to the Zoo’s Bronx River entrance (Gate B).
|Address:||2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY|
|Telephone:||T: (205) 507-2252|
NOVEMBER 7, 2021 — APRIL 1
Adult (13 & over) $30.95
All day parking: $20
Best time to visit New York City
Fall and spring are considered by tourists and locals as the best times to visit, and you can expect pleasant temperatures to reign in the months from April to June and September until November. However, the best times of year to visit New York City for warm-weather activities are from mid-June to July and from early August to the end of September.
Other things to do whilst in New York City
1. NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDENS
Established in 1891, The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) is distinguished by the beauty of its landscape, collections, and gardens, and the scope and excellence of its programs in horticulture, education, and science. NYBG was inspired by an 1888 visit that eminent botanists Nathaniel Lord Britton and his wife, Elizabeth, took to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, near London.
Today, the 250-acre Garden—the largest in any city in the United States—is a National Historic Landmark.
2. MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MoMA)
3. 9/11 MEMORIAL MUSEUM
The 9/11 Memorial Museum invites visitors to learn about the history of the 9/11 attacks and 1993 World Trade Center bombing at the site where the Twin Towers once stood. The Museum’s dynamic blend of architecture, archaeology, and history creates an unforgettable encounter with the story of the attacks, their aftermath, and the people who experienced these events.
4. STATUE OF LIBERTY & ELLIS ISLAND
The Statue of Liberty is an iconic symbol of the United States of America. You can visit the statue on Liberty Island by ferry from Manhattan and New Jersey. On Liberty Island, there is a museum dedicated to the history of Lady Liberty.
Also, from Liberty Island, you can make the short journey across the water to Ellis Island, which was the reception centre for people emigrating to America. Today, it is a museum run by the National Park Service and an archive where visitors can trace their relatives who made the life-changing journey across the water to start new lives in the United States of America.
5. CENTRAL PARK
Central Park is one of the most recognisable parts of New York City anyone who has seen TV series or films made in New York will be familiar with many of its features. It is not just a place for visitors to the city to wander it is also a playground for New Yorkers to come and escape the concrete and brick of the city.
Where to stay in New York City
1. ELEMENT TIMES SQUARE
During our visit to New York, we stayed in the Element hotel which is in the Hells Kitchen district. For us, it was perfectly located and was only a 5-minute walk to Times Square. It was also very close to several metro stations and the main bus terminal. We were feeling a bit stingy and cautious due to the Covid-19 pandemic so we decided to walk from Penn Station to the hotel, which only took us 10-minutes, hauling our luggage.
The room was good, we had a little kitchenette and there were pots, pans, plates and silverware, so we were self-contained. We were lucky enough to be on one of the higher floors, so we had a view. It was also possible to see the Empire State building.
Breakfast is included but nothing to write home about, but there are plenty of places to eat in the area so it was not a problem for us.
2. YOTEL NEW YORK
3. FREEHAND HOTEL
Freehand is located in the former George Washington hotel, known as the home of many artists, and it has maintained its creative spirit. It has a partnership with Bard College and many artists take an active part in designing the hotel and in shaping its cultural life. Freehand features five restaurants and bars, and elegantly designed rooms with private bathrooms. The rooms sleep up to 6 people.
It is located on Lexington Avenue and in walking distance of Union Square, Midtown and Flatiron.