The Central Park zoo is the center point of many tours, due to its numerous activities and things to do there. Fun, popular, and with a rich history, it offers a lot of things to do there.
Location and backstory:
Covering 6.5 acres in the southeast corner of Central Park, the zoo is a system of four zoos and one aquarium all managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Starting out as a menagerie in 1864, it later became the first public zoo to open in New York City. The current facility was a part of a larger plan to revitalize city parks, playgrounds and zoos initialized in 1934. The Children’s Zoo was later opened thanks to a donation from a senator and his wife.
Forty-nine years after its launch it was closed for reconstruction (in 1983). The $35-million renovation program was aimed at naturalizing the environment. It’s currently housing nearly 1500 animals representing over 160 species.
Being the major tourist attraction that it is, the Central Park Zoo welcomes over a million people yearly. According to a study by the Central Park Conservancy in the early 2010s, the zoo and its surroundings were visited by over four million people yearly, however, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) cites much lower figures, only counting patrons entering with tickets.
Exhibits, attractions, and things to do in Central Park zoo:
There are three major exhibit areas – tropic, temperate, and polar. Each of them is housed in a discrete building masked by vines. They are centered around a square central garden that contains a sea lion pool.
The so-called “Tropic Zone” contains a two-story representation of a rain forest. It contains animals such as pythons, emerald tree boas, black-and-white lemurs, a large variety of birds, including toucans, emerald starlings, African pygmy goose, and more.
The western side of the garden is “Temperate” territory, landscaped by paths surrounding a lake. It’s host to animals such as white-naped cranes, snow monkeys, and – possibly the most attractive (and most recent!) exhibits – the red pandas and the snow leopards.
At the northern parts of the garden lies the “Penguins and Sea Birds” exhibit, home to macaroni penguins, king penguins, gentoo penguins, an outdoor pool with harbor seals, and an outdoor grizzly bear exhibit.
If you’re bringing along the younglings, make sure to pay a visit to the 4D theater located north of the Arsenal. It’s open year-round (though research surrounding the recent Corona closedowns is very much advised) and is said to be an immersive experience featuring both the visual drama of 3D theater, as well as special built-in sensory effects. It’s primarily geared for children aging 6 and above.
Other than the Zoo’s regular operations, WCS offers educational programs aimed at children interested in wildlife conservation. Its online wildlife schools are sure to influence the budding wildlife lover your young one may be.
As with most of New York City, the zoo is easily accessible using public transport, and namely – subway trains at Fifth Avenue – 59th Street, 68th Street – Hunter College, as well as New York City busses M1 through M5, M66, and M72.